Michael R. Ward

Partner | San Francisco • Boston

mward@mofo.com | (415) 268-6237(617) 648-4650 mward@mofo.com
(415) 268-6237
(617) 648-4650

Michael R. Ward is global head of the firm’s Life Sciences Practice Group, head of the firm’s Patent Practice Group, co-chair of the firm’s Intellectual Property Practice Group and co-chair of our global AgTech + Food Industry practice.

Dr. Ward is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading agriculture IP lawyers. As the founder and head of the firm’s Plant Intellectual Property Group, Dr. Ward manages a wide range of intellectual property issues related to plants and plant products. In the plant IP arena, Dr. Ward was recognized as one of the Top 50 Intellectual Property Trailblazers & Pioneers by the National Law Journal in 2014 and as an Innovator by The Recorder in its inaugural Innovators awards. He was also recognized in the “Lawyers to the Innovators” section of the 2013 edition of the Financial Times U.S. Innovative Lawyers report. LMG Life Sciences 2019 recognized Dr. Ward as a Life Sciences Star. In 2020, Dr. Ward was named San Francisco Biotechnology and Life Sciences Practice Lawyer of the Year by Best Lawyers in America.

The Plant Intellectual Property Group encompasses a unique combination of legal expertise regarding patent, licensing, trademark, and litigation related to plants. The group has extensive experience in preparing and obtaining plant and utility patents for plants, Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Certificates, and Plant Breeders Rights (PBRs). The Plant Intellectual Property Group also advises and counsels clients regarding trademarks and plant variety names, drafts and negotiates licensing agreements related to plant intellectual property, and counsels clients regarding litigating plant intellectual property cases in state court, federal court, and the International Trade Commission.

Dr. Ward has managed numerous intellectual property diligences for venture capitalists seeking to invest in early and mid-stage companies, underwriters involved in IPOs, and companies seeking to acquire or merge with other companies. Dr. Ward’s IP diligence work includes assessment of the strength and weakness of patent portfolios, evaluation of freedom to operate issues, and strategic recommendations for maximizing value of patent portfolios going forward.

Dr. Ward works closely with a number of clients to develop and manage their patent portfolios. Dr. Ward helps clients to identify, monitor, and assess the infringement risks of third-party patents. He also assists clients in preparing both offensive and defensive patent portfolios, with a particular emphasis on drafting patent applications that will be utilized in licensing and in litigation efforts. Representative clients include the University of California, Berkeley, the University of California, Davis, the California Table Grape Commission, Micromidas, Enza Zaden, Driscoll's, Rootility, Terviva, Two Blades, and Dole Fresh Foods.

Dr. Ward assists Morrison & Foerster’s IP Litigation Group with various litigation matters including patent interferences to determine the first-to-invent and patent re-examination work. Dr. Ward also actively participates in both mediation and arbitration proceedings on behalf of clients in the life sciences area.

Dr. Ward is a member of the steering committee of the firm’s Clean Technology Practice. In this capacity, Dr. Ward assists in coordinating much of the firm’s clean technology patent work. Such work includes IP diligence and strategic patent counseling for clean technology companies and investors.

Dr. Ward holds a Ph.D. in plant physiology (biochemistry) and an M.S. in agronomy from the University of California, Davis, a B.S. in biology from the University of California, Berkeley, and a J.D. from Golden Gate University School of Law. He was a post-doctoral fellow in plant molecular biology at the Harvard Medical School and the Department of Molecular Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he worked on the Arabidopsis genome project.

Dr. Ward is a frequent lecturer and speaker. Among numerous speaking engagements, Dr. Ward is the IP instructor at the UC Davis Licensing Academy.

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