Photo of Kara E.F. Cenar

Kara E.F. Cenar


Kara Cenar takes lead trial and litigation roles in important and complex intellectual property matters for domestic and international companies of all sizes, as well as individuals. She handles the enforcement of IP rights and the defense of alleged violations of the IP rights of others.


  • Illinois
  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois - Trial Bar
  • U.S. District Court, Western District of Michigan
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Federal Claims


J.D., Loyola University Chicago School of Law, 1988

B.A., Loyola University – Chicago, 1985

Women in Law Honoree Badge



Kara Cenar takes lead trial and litigation roles in important and complex intellectual property matters for domestic and international companies of all sizes, as well as individuals. She handles the enforcement of intellectual property rights and the defense of alleged violations of the intellectual property rights of others. In her over 30 years as a trial lawyer, Kara has focused entirely on intellectual property cases. Her experience includes jury and bench trials, preliminary injunction hearings, hearings on emergency temporary restraining orders, seizure and impoundment orders and Section 337 claims before the International Trade Commission. She formulates litigation strategy for pre-trial litigation, discovery and pre-trial motions and leads the trial strategies. Kara is the leader of the Intellectual Property Practice group. 


In 2019, Kara successfully led a multimillion-dollar copyright infringement jury trial to verdict and obtained a $20.7 million judgment involving some of the gaming industry’s top casino slot games (artwork and graphics for video reel casino slot machine games), including social, mobile, online and CD/DVD casino game distribution (Sprite Sheets and Swf files). In other years, Kara also has successfully defended other high-profile multimillion-dollar copyright matters involving prominent hit musical works (musical composition, musical compilation and sampling claims), and digital music, leading to defense summary judgments. Kara’s copyright infringement work further includes literary works (books and educational materials), sculptural arts for well-known plush toys, software, CAD and digital technical and engineering drawings, and casino slot games (artwork and graphics, game features, math and software).

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)

In 2019, Kara successfully led a jury trial to verdict and a $1.7 million judgment for statutory damages involving 696 violations for 1202(a) claims of providing and distributing false Copyright Management Information (CMI), and 1202(b)(1) claims involving removal and alteration of Copyright Management Information (CMI), 1202(b)(2) claims involving distributing CMI when CMI has been removed, and 1202(b)(3) claims involving distributing and performing works and copies of works when CMI has been removed. Kara has also led litigation DMCA matters involving CAD and digital technical and engineering drawings.

Trade Secrets

The protection of trade secrets is a vital intellectual property tool for every company. Kara has been involved in complex trade secret cases, including:

  • Trade secret technology for stators and manufacturing processes for stators in the hybrid automotive industry.
  • Trade secret chemical formulas for flavors and fragrances for the food industry.
  • Trade secret chemical formulas for defoamers for the paint industry.
  • Trade secret customer lists for the tool industry.
  • Trade secret pricing and customer information for the propane industry.

Patent Infringement

Kara has handled major, complex jury and bench trials, ITC proceedings and litigation involving patents covering medical and surgical devices, medical simulation devices, dental instruments, Internet, computer and software technology, telecommunications, cellphone technology, gift and debit card technology, automotive parts and replacement parts, and electronic and mechanical devices.

Design Patent Infringement

In the area of design patent infringement litigation, Kara has been involved in litigation and ITC proceedings concerning the automotive after-market parts, consumer products and power tool industries.

Trademarks and Trade Dress

Kara has vast experience in the enforcement and defense of trademarks and trade dress. Her experience has been in a variety of industries and includes representation of famous and distinguished brands.


Kara combines decades of counseling, trial and litigation experience with practical business applications to assist clients in matters involving technology, patents, design patents, trade secrets, copyrights, trade dress and trademarks. Kara’s practice also involves counseling and assisting individuals and businesses with intellectual property rights, business issues, and litigation including international businesses in this industry seeking to do business in the United States.

She helps businesses identify the intellectual property that needs protection and assists with matters including:

  • Trademark clearance opinions and searches.
  • Counseling and monitoring to confirm that intellectual property rights are used properly and effectively.
  • Negotiating and drafting licenses, agreements and transactions related to the rights obtained, domestically and internationally.
  • Creating enforcement programs and procedures that promote effective use of the intellectual property and policing against improper use of the intellectual property rights by others.
  • Providing opinions and establishing policies and procedures for individuals and companies to avoid conflict with the intellectual property rights of others.
  • Pursue or defend IP-based litigation claims and defenses (patent, trademark, copyright, DMCA and trade secrets) as well as business and contract-based litigation claims for this industry.

Professional Affiliations

  • Intellectual Property Institute, founding charter member, 2013-present
  • Chicago Women in Intellectual Property (ChiWIP), founding member, 2015-present
  • Litigation Counsel of America, senior fellow, 2007-present
  • American Bar Foundation, Fellow, 2019-present
  • Chicago Bar Association
  • Illinois State Bar Association
  • Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Board of Directors, 2005-2006
  • National Association of Women Business Owners, National Board of Directors, June 2009-May 2011
  • National Association of Women Business Owners, Chicago Chapter President, 2005-2006; president-elect, 2004-2005; Advisory Board, 2003-2007; Board of Directors, 2003-2007; special advisor to the president, 2007-2008

Community/Civic Activities

  • Boardroom Bound, Charter Lifetime Friend, 2005-2010

Honors & Awards

Honors & Awards

  • The Best Lawyers in America, Trademark Law, 2021-2024, Litigation - Intellectual Property, 2022-2024
  • Leading Creative Arts Lawyers by Leader Lawyers for Chicago, 2023
  • Leading Women Lawyers by Leading Lawyers, 2023
  • Illinois Leading Lawyers, 2020-2022
  • Illinois Super Lawyers, Intellectual Property Litigation, 2005 - 2007, 2009 - 2010, 2013 – 2020
  • Salute! Women in Law Award, Chicago Lawyer and Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, 2020
  • Top Suburban Business Lawyers, 2020
  • Crain's Notable Women in Law, 2020
  • Chicago High Achievers, Advancement Award for Advancement of Diversity, 2009
  • Small Business Administration, Illinois Office, Champion of the Year for Women in Business, 2006
  • Small Business Administration, Regional, Champion of the Year for Women in Business, 2006


Representative Matters

Copyright and Digital Millennium Copyright Act 

  • $16.1 million jury verdict and $20.7 million judgment for case involving copyright for artwork and graphics for video reel casino slot machine games, in the social, mobile, online and home computer gaming industries. Final judgment
  • $1.7 million statutory damages award under the DMCA after jury finding of 696 DMCA violations for providing and distributing false copyright management information and for removal of copyright management information.
  • Litigation involving copyright and other IP rights for video reel casino slot machine games, for land-based casino slot machine games and slot machine games in the social, mobile and online industries.
  • Litigation involving claims for the taking, distribution, misuse of CAD drawings and other digital and technical engineering based drawings as well as the removal and replacement of Copyright Management Information from such drawings in an international manufacturing and collaborative relationship context. 
  • Successful defeat of an ex parte application for a temporary restraining order and later request for preliminary injunction in a highly publicized alleged music copyright infringement and sampling case pending in the Central District of California.
  • Obtained summary judgment findings of no infringement based upon a finding of no substantial similarity as a matter of law in a music copyright composition claim pending in the Central District of California.
  • Obtained dismissal of a music copyright case based upon despoliation of evidence.
  • Defeated a request for preliminary injunction and then obtained a summary judgment finding of no substantial similarity in a highly publicized alleged music copyright infringement case filed first in the Northern District of Illinois and later in the Central District of California.
  • Obtained an award of about $2.5 million in attorneys’ fees against a plaintiff that brought a copyright claim shown to be without basis and in which the plaintiff was found to have destroyed evidence.
  • Obtained dismissal of a lawsuit and settlement of a claim of copyright infringement against a book author and publisher in the District of Georgia.

Patent and Complex Trade Secret

  • Successful enforcement of trade secret rights on behalf of a manufacturing supplier to the automotive industry and hybrid automotive industry, resulting in a $32 million payment in settlement and a dismissal with prejudice of all claims against the client.
  • Successful defense of a patent infringement case involving medical simulation devices, four patents and multiple international defendants, including obtaining a transfer out of the Eastern District of Texas.
  • $17+ million jury verdict and permanent injunction, plus an ongoing royalty payment during a transition period in patent infringement litigation involving four touch-screen user-interface patents for hemodialysis machines and related disposable products in the Northern District of California.
  • Judgment of non-infringement (affirmed by Federal Circuit) in patent infringement bench trial litigation in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania involving methods of making inserts and transducer activated tools for ultrasonically activated tooth-cleaning tools.
  • Defense of retailers against industry-wide assertion of claims of patent infringement involving gift card technology in the Northern District of Illinois.
  • Defense of allegation of patent infringement of internet cookie technology and internet standards, including the impact of such royalty-free arrangements on a reasonable royalty analysis.
  • Successful defense of litigation brought by non-practicing entities.


  • Enforcement of a brand owned by a small business against a large international upcoming brand. The case included complex issues of common law, federal and state trademark ownership rights and their geographic scope, progressive encroachment, licensee estoppel defense, disgorgement of profits in reverse confusion cases, willfulness, invalidity of federal registrations including issues of registrations being found void ab initio, and issues relating to fraud on the trademark office post-In re Bose.
  • Successful defense of request for entry of an emergency temporary restraining order involving claims of alleged counterfeiting against a retailer.
  • Obtaining a product design change and change of trade show materials related to an ultrasonic dental scaler instrument after filing an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order before the District Court in the Northern District of Illinois.
  • Permanent injunction and consent judgment enjoining false advertising, trademark infringement, product misbranding and false patent marking for clothing in the District Court in the Northern District of Illinois.
  • Mediation before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in a stolen furniture design case.
  • Permanent injunction and consent judgments of trademark infringement in complex multi-defendant federal, state and common law trademark infringement action before the District of New Jersey.


  • Numerous negotiated settlements and resolution of patent, trademark, copyright, DMCA, trade secret and litigation matters pending in federal and state courts nationwide.
  • Developed and implemented strategies to avoid litigation and to enforce intellectual property without litigation.

News & Insights


Seminars & Speaking Engagements

  • Moderator, "The Courts Beyond COVID & A Conversation With The Judiciary About IP Issues"
    IPLAC Annual IP Symposium, November 3, 2022
  • Intellectual Property Law Association of Chicago, April 1, 2022
  • "Medical Device Workshop"
    American Intellectual Property Law Association Design Rights Bootcamp, Chicago, IL, August 6, 2019
  • “Patent Litigation – Views from the Bench” moderator
    Practicing Law Institute Patent Litigation 2018 Seminar, October 2018
  • Chicago-Kent Intellectual Property Law Society, April 4, 2017
  • “The Interplay Between the Defend Trade Secrets Act and State Law” webinar
    Federal Circuit Bar Association, November 3, 2016
  • “Patent Litigation – Views from the Bench” moderator
    Practicing Law Institute Patent Litigation 2016 Seminar, October 14, 2016
  • "3D Printing and Representation of Clients where Traditional Legal Principles Meet Emerging Disruptive Technology"
    Chicago Women in IP Think Tank and Intellectual Property Institute, Park City, Utah, 2016
  • Faculty, Advanced Trial Advocacy for Intellectual Property Cases, Kent College of Law, Chicago, Illinois
    2010, 2013-2017
  • “Intellectual Property Strategies During the Storm of Patent Reform”
    Association of Corporate Counsel, St. Louis, September 2015
  • “Alternative Fee Arrangements in Patent Cases” and “Profitability and Margin Analysis”
    Intellectual Property Institute, Key Largo, Florida, January 2015
  • “Joint Defense and Indemnification [Getting Along with Others]"
    Patent Litigation 2014, Practicing Law Institute, Chicago, Illinois, October 2014
  • “Use of Courtroom Technology"
    Intellectual Property Institute, Los Angeles, California, May 2014
  • “Anatomy of a Music Copyright Infringement Lawsuit”
    Chicago Bar Association, Media & Entertainment Law Committee, Chicago, Illinois, March 2014
  • Faculty, Practicing Law Institute, “Contemporary Issues in Calculating Reasonable Royalty for Patent Damages”
    November 2010
  • Faculty, Practicing Law Institute "Current Trends for Selecting Expert Witness for Patent Litigation"
    October 2009

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