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Robert W. Unikel

Robert W. Unikel

Intellectual Property Department

T: +1 312 583 2340
F: +1 312 583 2360

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  • Northwestern University School of Law
    JD, cum laude, 1993, Recipient, Lowden-Wigmore Prize for Legal Scholarship; Finalist, Julius H. Miner Moot Court Competition; Northwestern University Law Review, Note and Comment Editor
  • Dartmouth College
    AB, cum laude, 1990

Bar Admission(s)

  • Illinois, 1993
  • US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (Trial Bar)
  • US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
  • Northern District of California
  • Southern District of California
  • District of Delaware
  • Southern District of Indiana
  • Eastern District of Michigan
  • Eastern District of Missouri
  • Southern District of New York
  • Middle District of North Carolina
  • Eastern District of Texas
  • Eastern District of Virginia
  • Western District of Wisconsin

Rob Unikel is a partner in the Intellectual Property Department with a diverse practice that includes litigating patent, trade secrets and trademark cases in a variety of industries, including digital media distribution, consumer products and brands, financial products and services, auto parts, and medical devices.  Rob is ranked and recommended as an Intellectual Property practitioner in Chambers USA 2016, which notes that Rob “does a marvelous job in managing the issues in a case and is effective in depositions,” and that “he is thoughtful and well prepared and delivers his argument to the court with poise and skill.”  One particularly impressed client reported to Chambers USA: “I feel like he’s memorized all of the patents involved, memorized the prosecution history and knows the case inside-out.”  Chambers USA 2015 noted that peers praise Rob as “really tactically bright" with "very strong litigation instincts, a really good, engaging personality, and very good poise."  And, Chambers USA 2014 noted that Rob is an ‘innovative, tenacious, organized and persuasive’ litigator.”  Rob also is recognized as an “IP Star” by Managing IP Handbook, and is included in the U.S. News listing of Best Lawyers – Intellectual Property Litigation.

Rob’s extensive experience includes trying patent and trade secret cases involving such varied products as a digital distribution platform for mobile “apps,” a digital media store, thin film transistors, LCD panels, vascular stents, compiling computer software, auto parts, office products, baby strollers, minicell vaccines, anti-aging cosmetics and casement window operators, and such diverse business methods as a method for tracking promotional mailings, a method for implementing consumer rewards programs, a method for configuring products through an electronic interface, and a method for automatically executing securities and derivatives trades. Additionally, Rob has unique experience in successfully defending against claims of false patent marking under 35 U.S.C. §292. He has managed disputes involving various well-known trademarks and has litigated numerous trade dress matters implicating product and packaging designs and non-traditional source indicators (including color and scent). Rob has handled appeals to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals and to the United States Supreme Court. Further, he regularly counsels businesses and individuals on intellectual property development, protection, and licensing strategies. 

In addition to speaking frequently on issues relating to intellectual property litigation, Rob is the author of “Protecting Inventors, Not Fortune-Tellers: The Availability of Patent Protection for After-Developed Technologies,” 84 American Intellectual Property Law Association Quarterly Journal 81; “Better by Design: The Availability of Trade Dress Protection for Product Design and the Demise of Aesthetic Functionality,” 85 Trademark Reporter 312; and “Bridging the Trade Secret Gap: Protecting Confidential Information Not Rising to the Level of ‘Trade Secrets,’” 29 Loyola University of Chicago Law Journal 841, each of which has been cited extensively by courts and commentators. Rob is also a member of the prestigious Sedona Conference’s Working Group 10 on Patent Litigation Best Practices (WG10). WG10 develops best practices and recommendations for patent litigation case management in the post-America Invents Act environment.

Representative Matters

  • Google, Inc. and Motorola Mobility in various patent infringement/invalidity cases in the Eastern District of Texas, Northern District of California and Northern District of Illinois. In September 2015, on behalf of Google and its Android partners, Rob obtained an Eastern District of Texas jury verdict of non-infringement of five patents relating to digital rights management technology. The plaintiff in that case sought more than US$500 million in damages from Google and its Android partners.
  • Robert Bosch LLC in multiple trade secret misappropriation cases in the Northern District of Illinois and the Eastern District of Michigan relating to aftermarket brake products and electrical connectors.
  • SourceLink LLC in connection with patent infringement/invalidity action relating to claimed systems and methods for mail tracking using barcode scanning.
  • Wolverine Trading LLC and Wolverine Execution Systems LLC in patent infringement/invalidity actions relating to claimed methods for automatically executing securities and derivatives trades.
  • Solo Cup Co. in successful defense of precedent-setting qui tam action for alleged false patent marking of products under 35 U.S.C. §292.
  • OptionsXpress Holdings, Inc. in an infringement/invalidity action relating to patents claiming various electronic trading systems and methods.
  • OptionMonster Holdings, Inc. in a trade secret misappropriation and breach of contract action relating to development of electronic retail trading platforms.
  • Avery Dennison Corp. in patent infringement/invalidity actions relating to self-adhesive label assemblies.
  • Foley & Lardner LLP against allegations that it acted negligently and in breach of a fiduciary duty by missing an international filing deadline for a patent application claiming certain medical uses of minicell technology.
  • Chi Mei Optoelectronics Corp. in a patent infringement/invalidity matter involving thin-film transistor and LCD panel technology.
  • Tristrata Technologies, Inc. in a patent infringement/invalidity case involving use of alphahydroxy acids in anti-aging skin products.
  • VLIW, LLC in a trade secret misappropriation case involving proprietary computer compiler software and related technology.
  • Rewards Networks, Inc. in a patent infringement/invalidity case involving methods for structuring and implementing consumer loyalty/rewards programs.
  • Cook, Inc. in patent infringement/invalidity cases involving stent and stent-graft technology and embolization coils.
  • Ashland Products, Inc. in a patent infringement/invalidity and inequitable conduct case involving casement window hardware.
  • S. Surgical Corp. in precedent-setting patent infringement/invalidity case involving trocar technology.


  • Adjunct Professor of Law, Northwestern University School of Law (Trial Advocacy)


  • George M. Marovich, US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (1995–1996)