A Brief History of CPH

The origins of Christie, Parker & Hale began in 1942 under the auspices of a mining engineer and an electrical engineer who both studied law.

James B. Christie was a mining engineer before he attended Fordham Law School in New York City. Christie had a degree in mining engineering from the University of California. He worked for the Anaconda Copper Corporation where he prospected for copper mines and operated them in Chile for about six years. In the early 1930s, Christie moved to New York City where he clerked for a prominent patent law firm, attended Fordham Law, and earned a law degree.

During his tenure in New York City, Christie met Gordon Angus, a fellow patent lawyer with training in electrical engineering.  They joined forces when United Geophysical Corporation presented an opportunity. Based in Pasadena, the company wanted its patent work done by a local law firm. United Geophysical was a prominent exploration company headed by Herbert Hoover, Jr., son of a former President of the United States. The opportunity was invaluable. Consequently, the attorneys moved to Pasadena and formed the partnership of Christie & Angus.

In 1946, Robert L. Parker joined Christie & Angus as a law clerk while he attended Loyola University’s law school. Parker’s background was a good fit for the firm. He was an alumnus of Occidental College with a degree in chemistry in addition to several years of experience at Union Oil. In 1949, the United States suffered a recession. Christie & Angus dissolved because the partners disagreed on management philosophy regarding how to address the slump in the firm’s business.  Christie and Parker practiced law under the banner of The Law Offices of James B. Christie, but that name would change in a few years.

In 1950, C. Russell Hale joined the firm.  Hale was an alumnus of Stanford University with a degree in electrical engineering and, like Christie, an alumnus of Fordham University Law School. Hale was working for United Geophysical and prospecting in Brazil when he met Jim Christie, who was in Brazil on assignment for the company.  Later, when Hale returned to United Geophysical’s Pasadena headquarters, he met Christie’s secretary, Clementine Moore.  They formed a partnership of a different kind – they got married. Christie often joked that he had to form a law partnership with Russell because of the “family” relationship.  In 1954, the law firm changed its name to Christie, Parker & Hale.

United Geophysical was a cornerstone client during the firm’s early years. Seismic exploration formed a major part of United Geophysical’s business.  It required measurement of vibrations generated in the earth by setting off explosive charges. Such measurements required geophones to convert mechanical vibrations into small electrical signals. Sensitive galvanometers amplified these signals, which were then recorded with precise timing to provide reliable data for calculating the subsurface formations, which might contain oil or gas.
The need for reliable galvanometers and affordable recording equipment led to the formation of Consolidated Engineering Corporation in the early 1940s.  Philip Fogg, Professor of Economics at California Institute of Technology, joined with Christie and Hoover to help create the structure for Consolidated Engineering.  The company grew rapidly by developing new products – photographic recording oscillographs, mass spectrometers, geophysical prospecting instruments, aircraft and aerospace instruments.

Christie, Parker & Hale grew with this client, which eventually changed its name to Consolidated Electrodynamics Corporation and, later, to CEC.  CEC conducted groundbreaking research with transducers, analog-to-digital converters, and vacuum-tube digital computers.  The digital computer component of CEC’s business triggered a spin-off called Electro-Data, a company later acquired by Burroughs Corporation.  CEC also spun off Unitek Corporation, a developer of orthodontic appliances and precision welding equipment.  Bristol-Myers bought Unitek and later sold it to 3M.  Eventually, Bell & Howell purchased CEC.

Parker’s connection to Union Oil led to the firm’s patent work concerning pioneering technology for off-shore drilling from floating vessels and stationary platforms developed by a consortium – the CUSS Group.  CUSS was an acronym of the partners: Continental Oil Company, Union Oil Company, Superior Oil Company, and Shell Oil Company.  The off-shore drilling technology developed by CUSS led to the formation of Global Marine Drilling Corporation, a company that currently operates across the globe to provide off-shore drilling expertise for exploration required by major oil companies.

In 1959, Jim Christie died of cancer at the relatively young age of 55.  Christie’s contribution to the firm’s success was immeasurable.  One of Christie’s well-known cases in the patent community was an infringement action brought by Holly Heater Corporation against Coleman Company, manufacturer of Coleman lanterns. Holly Heater, a relatively small company based in Pasadena, developed an improved wall heater that provided greater safety and efficiency than previous heaters of the same type. Bob Parker obtained the patent for Holly Heater, and Jim Christie successfully prosecuted the infringement.  Years of litigation resulted in an exceptionally large damage award to Holly Heater.  Because of Christie’s failing health, Russell Hale successfully defended the judgment on appeal.

Hale also successfully argued an important case – Lear v. Adkins – before the United States Supreme Court. Hale persuaded the Court to overturn a longstanding rule of law concerning licensee estoppel to give the firm’s client, Lear, an important legal, economic, and reputational victory in 1969.

After Jim Christie’s untimely death, Bob Parker and Russell Hale managed the firm through steady growth.  Parker died in 1980 and Hale retired in 1986.  Meanwhile, the firm continued to grow to the present size of more than 50 lawyers.  In keeping with the traditions, standards, and reputation fostered by Jim Christie, the firm’s patent lawyers hold degrees in some field of science or engineering, including advanced degrees in biotechnology, computer science, electronics, mechanics, material sciences, chemistry, and medical technology.  The firm continues to grow by cultivating the next generation of intellectual property attorneys to safeguard the rights of intellectual property owners.  Selecting, mentoring, and investing in the next generation demonstrates the firm’s commitment to the future of intellectual property law.

Additionally, the teamwork that the firm’s original name partners demonstrated in the landmark Holly Heater case is emblematic of the firm’s philosophy that our attorneys complement each other in the best interests of our clients.