Zela Claiborne

Zela ''Zee'' G. Claiborne, Esq.

Case Manager
Kathleen Hanley
T: 415-774-2617
F: 415-982-5287
Two Embarcadero Center, Suite 1500, San Francisco, CA 94111


Zee Claiborne has served as a mediator and arbitrator in many intellectual property cases including copyright, patent, trade secrets, trademarks, and licensing. Ms. Claiborne is experienced in working with high tech companies, including start-ups. She has mediated and arbitrated cases involving the intellectual property interests of companies domestically and overseas.

Ms. Claiborne has successfully mediated cases involving software development, electronics, and medical devices, in large part due to her commitment to the development of workable solutions that ensure continued relationships between parties.


Representative Matters

 Patents, Licensing

  • Arbitration of claim arising out of an incubator relationship with patent-holders for development of a sensor used in medical and other scientific applications; allegations include failure to prepare prototypes and ready the invention for commercialization  (sole arbitrator)  
  • Mediated resolution of a dispute between joint venture partners from the U.S. and India regarding the development and commercialization of a global M & A database related to the oil and gas industries
  •  Arbitration of claims by large school district arising out of a licensing and services agreement for complex software developed to centralize educational records and track all students and programs (tripartite)
  • Claims of infringement by patent holder against major automobile manufacturer arising out of patents for a three-valve engine design
  • Mediated patent infringement case regarding claim by a U.S. company against a semiconductor manufacturer in Taiwan involving a technique for optimizing the operation of core logic chipsets
  • Claims of breach of licensing agreement involving financial services software used by major banks
  • Multi-million dollar claims of infringement of 8 patents related to pay-for-performance advertising between two of the leading web based companies
  • Dispute between one of the world’s largest semiconductor companies based in Switzerland and a California manufacturer of hard drives. The dispute, involving impending infringement allegations over shared intellectual property, arose from a Master Development Agreement and a series of Product Supply Agreements.
  • Arbitrator for claims for monetary damages and injunctive relief arising out of a licensing agreement for computerized software for dialysis treatment and management (tripartite)
  • Arbitrated a dispute over a licensing agreement for a patent on a medical device
  • Chair of an arbitration panel for a dispute involving licensing claims to patents for cardiac stents, whose rights were valued at approximately $4 billion
  • Mediated a dispute between Canadian and U.S. companies arising out of an international marketing agreement providing a license to manufacture and distribute certain recreational installations
  • Mediated a dispute involving a software development and licensing agreement
  • Mediated a dispute over amount of royalties to be paid to the digital division of a leading greeting card company on software products
  • Mediated a legal malpractice claim by a start-up company against counsel for an alleged failure to protect worldwide patents for a data communication system

Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets

  • Mediated resolution of dispute arising out of the termination of employment of an executive. Claims included misappropriation of trade secrets and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage between competing providers of smartphone applications for mobile security and safety services sold to various carrier networks.
  • Trademark infringement dispute between a publisher of video games and an international designer/manufacturer of military helicopters
  • Mediated to resolution a dispute between companies in the US and China involving claims of copyright infringement and misappropriation of trade secrets arising out of alleged unauthorized use of a software system used to manage government subsidies
  • Mediated case involving software piracy claims, alleging copyright and trademark infringement, brought by well-known international software company against a distributer
  • Arbitrated claims of misappropriation of trade secrets, trademark infringement, and breach of contract arising out of licensing agreement between two non-profits serving the developmentally disabled (sole arbitrator)
  • Arbitrator for claims by a company representing a well-known artist against an art dealer for trademark infringement
  • Sole arbitrator for case involving multi-million dollar claims for breach of a Strategic Alliance Agreement and misappropriation of trade secrets between a Fortune 500 manufacturer/distributor of commercial building automation systems and a provider of wireless distribution systems


  • Settled dispute arising out of an Asset Purchase Agreement involving the purchase of IP for high performance computing storage
  • Dispute arising out of a Stock Purchase Agreement involving the sale of a business that tests integrated circuits and other electronic components for use in high profile applications such as aircraft navigation and braking systems, nuclear control rod systems, and military equipment; allegations against the seller included a failure to disclose defects in the testing software (sole arbitrator)
  • Claim of corporate “freeze out” and demand for ownership of IP and stock by two former officers and directors against a start-up company developing cutting edge technology for the purification of water and other liquids
  • Mediated a $15 million claim by creditors against Asian and U.S. entities over investments in a wafer fabrication plant in Silicon Valley
  • Mediated breach of contract dispute between a manufacturer and distributor of electronics
  • Mediated claims regarding the lease of equipment used by manufacturers of integrated circuits in the U.S. and Taiwan
  • Mediated international cases over pricing and breach of contract disputes involving tech companies based in overseas markets such as Israel
  • Mediated resolution of contract dispute between the developer of messaging technology and provider of software development for communications, security, and network management
  • Sole arbitrator for a dispute between a designer and manufacturer of semiconductors against a Hong Kong distributor over claims for payments due for products ordered for the Chinese market
  • Honors
    • Recognized as a leading practitioner, Mediation, Who's Who Legal: California, 2014-2019
    • Recognized as a "Best Lawyers, Alternative Dispute Resolution Category," Best Lawyers in America, 2008-2020
    • Recognized as a "Super Lawyer in Mediation and Arbitration," San Francisco Magazine, 2005-Present
  • Memberships
    • Member, Northern California International Arbitration Club (NCIAC)
    • Chair, ABA Arbitration Institute, Los Angeles, 2011, Philadelphia, 2012, and Washington, D.C., 2014
    • Member, Executive Advisory Committee of CPR: International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution
    • Member, National Panel of Distinguished Neutrals, CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution
    • Member, Mediation Panel, US District Court, Northern District
    • Member, American Bar Association, Forum on the Construction Industry (Governing Committee, 1996-1999), Litigation Section, and Dispute Resolution Section; Association of Business Trial Lawyers (ABTL Report, Editorial Board, 1991-2001); California Bar Association; San Francisco Bar Association; California Dispute Resolution Counsel
    • Former Member, American Arbitration Association Board of Directors, National (AAA) and International (ICDR) Rosters of Mediators and Arbitrators for large and complex cases
  • Professional Activities
    • Judge pro tem, San Francisco Superior Court
    • Speaker on a variety of ADR topics before professional organizations including the American Bar Association (Dispute Resolution Section, Forum on the Construction Industry, Litigation Section), CPR Institute, International Centre for Dispute Resolution, Intellectual Property Owners, Patent Law Institute, American College of Construction Lawyers, the ICC, the AAA, Canadian Bar Association, New York Bar Association, Oregon State Bar, Bar Association of San Francisco, California Judges Association, National Conference on Financial Management, Construction Industry Institute, ALI-ABA ("Top Ten Cost Effective Ways to Resolve Construction Disputes" webcast), College of Commercial Arbitrators, International Arbitrators Club, California Women Lawyers, and others
    • "The Experience Curve," ADR Profile, Daily Journal, April 3, 2015
    • Panelist, International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR) and CPR China Panel; International Chamber of Commerce; and DPR Hawaii
    • Fellow, College of Commercial Arbitrators (Board of Directors); Fellow, American College of Construction Lawyers
    • Faculty, ABA Arbitration Institute, San Francisco, 2009 and Washington DC, 2010
    • IMI Certified Mediator
  • Full-time mediator and arbitrator, 1998-present
  • Partner/Associate, Bronson, Bronson & McKinnon LLP, San Francisco, 1982-1998
  • J.D., University of California, Berkeley School of Law (formerly Boalt Hall School of Law), 1982
  • M.A., University of Texas, Austin
  • B.A., Beloit College, Wisconsin

Counsel Comments

    • “Her greatest strength is taking a volatile situation and making it work. At the end of the mediation when the parties settle and have to work together again, there is nobody I’d rather have.”

      - Prominent Attorney
    • "[Zee] quickly grasps the legal, financial and real world aspects of the dispute. She is able to close the deal."

      -In-House Counsel, Bay Area Tech Firm
    • "Zee put in extra effort to get our matter settled. She really did a masterful job at assessing the facts, the issues, and most importantly, the personalities."

      -Senior Partner, Top Bay Area Law Firm
    • “Zee has a substantial number of qualities that one would expect of a mediator with her experience… Zee’s greatest strength, and the primary reason I continue to work with her and refer partners and colleagues to her, is her ability to mediate difficult, sometimes acrimonious cases in situations where the parties need to continue to work together postlitigation/settlement. Zee is the most skilled mediator I have ever seen in such cases…Where opposing parties need to work together going forward…her skill and deft touch is unmatched in my experience.”
    • “Let me thank [Zee] for [her] work, patience and understanding in this case…[Her] thoughtful rulings were, from my perspective, instrumental in bringing this matter to a proper conclusion.”
    • "Zee Claiborne is an excellent mediator…She is very smart, has good people skills, and is able to move people to more reasonable and realistic positions. She quickly grasps the legal, financial and real world aspects of the dispute. She is able to close the deal. I think very highly of her and would use her again as mediator.”
    • “Her greatest strength is taking a volatile situation and making it work. At the end of the mediation when the parties settle and have to work together again, there is nobody I’d rather have.”
    • “I enjoyed working with [Zee] and truly appreciated [her] ability to quickly understand the issues at the heart of the dispute and for [her] dedication to getting a deal done. In addition, I commend [Zee] for [her] ability to keep an open mind by listening to the issues of concern, and willingness to engage in open and frank exchanges regarding our positions on the issues. Should we find ourselves in need of mediation services, [Zee] will be at the top of the list.”
    • “A big thank you [to Zee] for the extra effort to get our matter settled yesterday. It was fun to see [her] in action and I am duly impressed (and will spread the word accordingly)! [She] really did a masterful job at assessing the facts, the issues, and most importantly, the personalities.”




This page is for general information purposes.  JAMS makes no representations or warranties regarding its accuracy or completeness.  Interested persons should conduct their own research regarding information on this website before deciding to use JAMS, including investigation and research of JAMS neutrals. See More

Claiborne_Zela_Intellectual Property_1027