Morgan Chu

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Morgan Chu
Born (1950-12-27) December 27, 1950 (age 66)
Nationality American
Alma mater Harvard Law School
Occupation Patent lawyer
Employer Irell & Manella

Morgan Chu (born December 27, 1950[1]), an intellectual property attorney, is one of the first Asian Americans to lead a major U.S. law firm.[2] Chu's professional accolades recognize him as one of the nation’s most influential lawyers and most successful trial attorneys.[3]

A high school dropout, Chu went on to earn advanced degrees from Harvard, Yale and UCLA. In 2007, UCLA awarded Chu the UCLA Medal, the university’s highest accolade for exceptional achievement, citing Chu’s "groundbreaking approach to intellectual property" and honoring him as a founder of the Asian American Studies Center.[4]

Chu was named The Outstanding Intellectual Property Lawyer in the United States in the first Chambers Award for Excellence, 2006. Chambers has described Chu as "beyond doubt the most gifted trial lawyer in the USA."[5]

Chu served as the co-managing partner of the firm Irell & Manella LLP from 1997–2003, and has been a member of its governing board, the Executive Committee, since 1985. In June 2009, Harvard alumni elected Chu to a six-year term as a member of the Harvard Board of Overseers.[6]


Chu’s Chinese name (Traditional Chinese: 朱欽文; Simplified Chinese: 朱钦文; Pinyin: Zhū Qīn-Wén) means to be respectful of education and culture and his family is one of scholars. His father, Ju-Chin Chu, left China in 1943 to study chemical engineering, earning a doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and he later taught at Washington University in St. Louis and at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. Chu's mother Ching Chen Li, also left China during World War II to study economics at MIT. His parents married in 1945 and began a family.[7] Chu is the youngest of three brothers. His oldest brother, Gilbert Chu, holds an M.D. and a Ph.D, and is a professor of biochemistry and medicine at Stanford University.[8] The middle brother, Steven Chu, was a professor of physics at Stanford and later a professor of physics and molecular and cellular biology at University of California, Berkeley, and the director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Steven Chu was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1997 and was President Obama's Secretary of Energy from January 21, 2009 to April 22, 2013.


Chu dropped out of high school and left home, but by age 25, he had five university degrees. Although he never received a high school diploma, he gained admittance to UCLA, where he earned a B.A. (1971), M.A. (1972) and Ph.D. (1973). Chu then received a Master of Studies in Law from Yale Law School (1974) and a Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School (1976) [9]

In high school, Chu once got every question wrong on a 100 question True-False test

Legal career[edit]

Following his law school graduation, Chu served as a law clerk for Hon. Charles M. Merrill, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (1976–1977). In 1977, Chu went to work as an associate at the Los Angeles law firm of Irell & Manella. Chu was elevated to partner in 1982, and became the firm’s co-managing partner in 1997, serving two terms until 2003. Chu is known for his many high-profile trials involving technology[10] including:

  • In 2002, Chu won a $500 million jury verdict for City of Hope against Genentech. Punitive damages were later reversed by the California Supreme Court, but the compensatory damages represent the largest judgment ever affirmed on appeal in California. The defendant ultimately paid a judgment of over $480 million including interest.
  • Chu won a $120 million jury verdict for Stac Electronics against Microsoft.[11] The trial court entered a worldwide injunction against Microsoft’s flagship product, the MS-DOS operating system, and then the case settled.[12]
  • Chu was co-counsel for the plaintiff in Texas Instruments v. Samsung, which resulted in a settlement for the plaintiff of more than $1 billion.[13]
  • In 2006 in Immersion v. Sony, Chu won a $82 million jury verdict and injunction that led to a final resolution of over $150 million being paid by Sony.
  • Chu secured in TiVo v. EchoStar, a $74 million jury verdict and permanent injunction, which were upheld on appeal. $105 million has been paid on the final judgment including post-verdict damages.
  • In 2005 Chu was recognized for one of the “Top Ten Defense Verdicts,” for Ultratech Stepper Inc. v. ASML, in which the jury unanimously found plaintiff’s patent invalid.
  • Chu successfully defended Candle Corporation in the first trial in the U.S. involving a software patent. The jury unanimously found the plaintiff’s patent invalid.[14]

Public service[edit]

When Chu was still an undergraduate at UCLA, he co-founded UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center.[15] He has previously served on the Board of Governors of the University of California, Los Angeles Foundation. Mr. Chu also has been an Adjunct Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law and has served as a judge pro tem.

At Harvard Law School, Chu was an editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, a leading legal journal founded to promote personal freedoms and human dignities.

Since law school, Chu has been a frequent lecturer and teacher.[16][17][18] He participated in symposia at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and he was the Traphagen Distinguished Speaker at Harvard in 2003. Chu served as an adjunct professor at UCLA Law School from 1978 to 1981. He has lectured or delivered papers at Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, Georgetown, Northwestern, California Institute of Technology, UCLA, University of Southern California, among other venues.

Chu was Founding Chair of U.S.C. Law School’s Intellectual Property Law Institute (2004–06), and has served on its Executive Committee since 2004.[19]

Chu serves on the Board and Executive Committee of Public Counsel, the largest pro bono public interest law firm in the world.[20] In one of his pro bono cases, Chu spent six years securing the reversal of a conviction of a death row inmate, the first reversal upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court of a conviction and death penalty in the 20 years since California had reinstated the death penalty.[21]

Chu and his wife Helen have endowed student scholarships at Harvard and UCLA, as well as the Irell & Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences (IMGSBS) at City of Hope. Today, the IMGSBS is among a handful of graduate schools that recruit foreign Chinese national scholars as postdoctoral fellows and graduate students, technical staff, and faculty. Many of the NIH- and/or CIRM-funded research groups at IMGSBS are staffed entirely by Chinese nationals.

Awards And honors[edit]

Chu has received numerous awards and honors as one of the top attorneys in the United States, as well as for his contributions to higher education and the community.[22] They include:

  • Honorary Doctorate, Graduate School of Biological Sciences, City of Hope.[23]
  • UCLA Medal (June 2007). The Medal is the highest accolade for exceptional achievement that the University of California, Los Angeles may bestow upon an individual, which was awarded for “a groundbreaking approach to intellectual property and . . . as a founder of the Asian American Studies Center.”[24]
  • Top Intellectual Property Lawyer in the United States in the first Chambers Award for Excellence, 2006. Chambers has described Mr. Chu as “beyond doubt the most gifted trial lawyer in the USA,” who “delivers staggering results for clients” while “he treats everybody with respect.”
  • Distinguished Advocate (2006). The Edward A. Heafey Jr. Center for Trial and Appellate Advocacy at Santa Clara University School of Law each year selects one outstanding trial or appellate lawyer to visit the law school as a “Distinguished Advocate.”[25]
  • PACE-Setter Award (2004). The PACE-Setter Award is presented annually for outstanding accomplishment and meaningful endeavors to “trailblazers” as “a demonstration of PACE’s (Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment) belief that humanity knows no color.”
  • Learned Hand Award (2003), awarded by the American Jewish Committee for “an outstanding leader . . . who has played a significant role in the betterment of the community and whose efforts in building bridges of mutual respect and understanding have promoted the cause of human rights.[26]
  • “Top Ten Trial Lawyers” in the nation, National Law Journal (describing Mr. Chu as “Giant killer,” who says “Remember to smell the flowers along the way. Wear a bow tie. It’s easier to smell the flowers.”)
  • “100 Most Influential Lawyers in America” by the National Law Journal since 1994 (describing Mr. Chu as “an innovator, with a penchant for reversing trends” along with “extensive pro bono work.”)
  • “Number One Super Lawyer in Southern California,” receiving highest vote total in a poll of 65,000 lawyers, by Los Angeles Magazine, 2004 (describing Mr. Chu as relishing the thrill of “the quixotic challenge of an impossible case.”)
  • “Best Intellectual Property Lawyer” in the nation and one of “12 Superstars” in all practice areas based on a 2001 survey of company directors, law school deans, and lawyers by Corporate Board Member.
  • “Top 100 Most Influential Lawyers in California” by the Daily Journal every year since inception in 1993 (describing Mr. Chu as “brilliant, innovative, indefatigable, and unflappable. The kind of guy you can imagine performing his own appendectomy.”)
  • At the age of 16, Chu and six others set the world’s record for traveling through every New York subway station in the shortest time on one fare, 22 hours 11½ minutes. The record was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for many years.


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  19. ^ "Program Agenda". USC Law. Archived from the original on August 17, 2007. Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
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  21. ^ "SPECIAL REPORT: WHO'S WHO IN L.A. LAW". Los Angeles Business Journal. August 20, 2007. Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
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  26. ^ "MORGAN CHU RECEIVES LEARNED HAND AWARD". 2003 Archives. NAPABA. Retrieved 2009-03-08.