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Up & Coming Honorees: Aaron E. Hankel, 36

Partner, Shook, Hardy & Bacon, Kansas City

aaron-hankelPractice Area: Intellectual property litigation

Law School: Washington University

 Aaron Hankel’s role as an attorney often pushes him into the role of educator in front of a jury.

Hankel’s intellectual property litigation on behalf of technology companies often involves such topics as fiber optics and light frequency. However, Hankel is known for his ability to break down complicated scientific and technical information in a way that’s relatable to jurors.

Recently, Hankel led representation of Sprint in a marathon of five cases against Comcast that involved a total of nearly 40 patents. The effort involved hundreds of fact and expert depositions, as well as numerous Markman and summary-judgment proceedings. In the end, Hankel won summary judgment that Comcast’s VoIP services had infringed on Sprint’s patented technologies, and Comcast quickly stipulated to infringement on the other patents. The final settlement resulted in a payment to Sprint exceeding a quarter of a billion dollars.

In March, he also represented Sprint in a patent-infringement trial against Time Warner Cable. That case yielded a $139.8 million jury verdict for his client, the largest-ever patent verdict awarded in Kansas.

What inspired you to get involved in the legal profession?

I do not know if I have a good answer for this, since it probably involves a level of psychology that I am unqualified to discuss.

I know I decided on patent law based on the confluence of two random events in high school.

The first was reading an article about pharmaceutical companies having to battle with knock-offs in underdeveloped areas, along with the complicated legal and ethical questions associated with those issues. A few days later, the new episode of The West Wing tackled those same exact issues (“The pills cost 4 cents a unit to make.” “You know that’s not true. The second pill cost 4 cents. The first pill cost them $400 million.”) I was hooked. So I settled on Chemical Engineering as my path into patent law.

Digging deeper, I suspect the real answer to this question is Tom Cruise. Lt. Daniel Kaffee made it look so easy and fun. A favorite for 25+ years — I still have to watch “A Few Good Men” every time it comes on.

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