Robert Penchina, an intellectual property and copyright litigator known as much for his warmth and wit as his inquisitive nature and ability to connect with people, died peacefully on August 11, 2020 at his home in Cortlandt Manor, New York. He was 64.

Bob was a devoted husband and father. He and his wife, Cindy, met as teenagers, married young, and happily raised two children, Justin and Jillian.

Bob also loved his work and was beloved, in return, by his clients and colleagues. He did not follow the typical path to a career in law. After high school, he worked as a salesman for a number of years before enrolling at Queens College. Following a brief foray in the textile business in North Carolina, he returned to his native New York to attend New York University School of Law, where he served on the law review and took home awards for his writing. A clerkship followed with the Honorable Frank X. Altimari of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Bob quickly rose in prominence as a litigator—spending more than a decade at Rogers & Wells and then Clifford Chance after the firms merged. In 2004, he joined the newly opened New York office of renowned First Amendment boutique firm Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, which merged with Ballard Spahr in 2017.

An agile thinker with the ability to pore over detail and extract the facts most relevant to a legal argument, Bob took a scholarly approach to building a case and was a commanding figure at trial. 

His work—on behalf of clients ranging from The New York Times, NBC Universal, A&E, and GE to global retailers and fashion houses—centered on copyright infringement and licensing. His cases often made headlines, such as the time he led the successful defense of Gawker in a copyright infringement suit brought by the director Quentin Tarantino over the leaked screenplay for the film The Hateful Eight.

“He was incredibly passionate about copyright law and devoted himself to knowing as much about it as anyone else,” said Lee Levine, a colleague for many years. “He was a master.”

Bob was born in Queens and loved the bustle of the city, but also the serenity of his farm in Upstate New York, where he spent most weekends. A neighboring farmer tended the land, and Bob was happy simply to hike the property with his family, talking and listening to the birds. An avid birder, he kept several macaws.

Bob loved the ponies, too. After legal work in the industry piqued his interest, he invested in shares of several racehorses and loved attending the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. He was proud to say he broke even in the investment, but money was never the ultimate goal. He loved the thrill of the race, the beauty of the horses, and sharing that experience with others, serving on the Board of Breeders’ Cup Properties and the New York Therapeutic Riding Center.

“Bob represented TVG, the horse racing channel, for many, many years and he was never happier than when he was doing that,” Lee Levine said.

Lisa Appel, his Legal Administrative Assistant for nearly 30 years, said of him: “Bob was a quiet person, a gentle giant. But he was so quick and so smart. When he spoke, his comments were so relevant to the conversation, so insightful, and so funny. He listened, he made time for everybody, no matter how busy he was. He cared about people.”

At a graveside service on August 12 that was shown on Zoom, Bob was described in a variety of ways by those close to him: “mythical figure and scholar”; “modest to the end”; “tequila aficionado”; “a big sweetheart to everyone”; and “premier copyright lawyer of his generation.”

Donations in Bob’s memory can be made to the following organizations:

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

https://www.birds.cornell.edu/home

Old Friends at Cabin Creek

https://oldfriendsatcabincreek.com/onetime-donation

The Gabriel Foundation

https://thegabrielfoundation.org