Name: Ricardo Bonilla
Firm: Fish & Richardson PC
Claim to Fame: Led Bed Bath & Beyond to a win in a patent infringement lawsuit over payment processing technology and secured over $930,000 in attorneys’ fees from the plaintiff.
It didn’t take long for Ricardo Bonilla to realize his first appeals court argument was going well.
The Fish & Richardson PC principal was in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to defend a district court order that Inventor Holdings LLC reimburse Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. more than $930,000 in attorneys’ fees after the retailer beat a patent lawsuit over payment processing technology.
Less than halfway into Bonilla’s allotted 15 minutes, Judge Kara Stoll had a question: Could the court find this appeal is frivolous and award fees for that too?
“As soon as she asked me that question I knew, ‘OK I need to sit down soon because this is going fine,’” Bonilla said.
The Federal Circuit affirmed Bed Bath & Beyond’s award in December 2017, saying there were “obvious issues” with the patent that Inventor Holdings should have recognized after the U.S. Supreme Court said abstract ideas implemented on a generic computer aren’t eligible for patent protection.
The precedential opinion put the rest of the country on notice that someone can sue over patent claims that are so weak under patent eligibility law that it can result in fee shifting.
Bonilla’s practice has kept busy. The litigator is active in the district court and at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office tribunal. Over the last several years, he and his team have been among the most active in the country handling cases on the patent defense side.
Bonilla also has argued other cases at the Federal Circuit, including one for Buyseasons Inc. in 2018 that came in the midst of his three-month stint with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office as part of the “Lawyers on Loan” program, a partnership between that DA’s office and various law firms in the area.
Right now, Bonilla has more than 40 active cases.
“I have a really hard time saying no,” said Bonilla, who was elevated to principal at Fish & Richardson earlier this year. “I’m always concerned that I’m going to miss out on a really great opportunity if I don’t take that chance.”
Taking that chance is how Bonilla ended up guiding the Bed Bath & Beyond case from start to finish. It’s also how he second-chaired a trial as a first-year associate and helped win a $2 million jury verdict.
David Conrad, a Fish & Richardson principal who has worked closely with Bonilla over the years, said Bonilla is the type of lawyer that can handle whatever is thrown in his direction.
“He was always super well organized and you never had any doubt that whatever it was he was going to figure it out, get it under control, and get it done,” Conrad said.
Bonilla’s place in a major law firm wasn’t a given. During his first year of law school at Texas Tech University, Bonilla sent 77 applications for summer internship positions. He received 76 rejection letters in response. But there was one “maybe.”
Fish & Richardson suggested Bonilla, a native of the Dominican Republic and a first-generation college student, apply for the firm’s “Diversity Fellows” program. He was one of four students selected from more than 280.
Today, Bonilla leads the Fish’s Next Gen initiative, a program focused on providing opportunities for the next generation of lawyers. He also co-chairs Fish & Richardson’s Latino Affinity Group and the Lawyers Promoting Diversity Committee for the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers.
“If it weren’t for programs that existed like these, I wouldn’t be where I am,” Bonilla said.