Sean Gates

Called a “real trial lawyer,” Sean Gates is a nationally recognized antitrust and commercial litigator.  A former government enforcer, Sean has won trials involving a range of issues—such as equity compensation, fraudulent conveyances, and patent infringement damages.  But he has particular expertise in antitrust; he is one of the select few lawyers nationwide who has tried multiple antitrust cases.

Sean’s knack for winning has been recognized by peers and clients. In Chambers USA, he has been described as a “talented litigator” and “splendid antitrust lawyer” with an “excellent attention to detail,” “who efficiently manages discovery with an eye toward summary judgment and trial.”  He was named a “Lawyer of the Year” for antitrust litigation by Best Lawyers and an “Attorney of the Year” by California Lawyer.  He is designated a Litigation Star by Benchmark Litigation for commercial and antitrust litigation, ranked among the Southern California Super Lawyers for antitrust litigation, and recommended in Who’s Who Legal: Competition.

Sean’s expertise in substantive antitrust law has also been recognized.  He has written for the leading antitrust publication, the Antitrust Law Journal, presented before the Federal Trade Commission, edited treatises on the intersection of antitrust, intellectual property, and standard setting, and is a contributing author to the Antitrust Adviser.  He has also served in the leadership of the ABA Section of Antitrust Law for over 20 years, including as a member of the governing Council.

Prior to forming Illovsky Gates & Calia, Sean was a partner at Morrison & Foerster LLP and founded an antitrust litigation boutique.  Sean also served as a Deputy Assistant Director at the Federal Trade Commission, leading enforcement actions challenging anticompetitive conduct, where he received the Distinguished Service Award.

Representative Client Matters


  • Beckman Coulter v. Quidel Corp.: Lead counsel for diagnostic healthcare product manufacturer in antitrust challenge to exclusive dealing agreement.  Won precedent-setting decision on a writ of mandate to the California Court of Appeal and successfully defended the decision at the California Supreme Court.
  • Realcomp II Ltd.: Lead trial counsel for the FTC in challenge to rules set by a real estate broker joint venture. Won a unanimous Commission decision, which was upheld by the Sixth Circuit.
  • 1-800 Contacts, Inc.: Trial counsel for the respondent in a five-week antitrust trial challenging settlements of trademark litigation, which led to a precedent-setting victory at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Union Oil Company of California: Trial counsel for the FTC in a 43-day monopolization trial involving patents covering reformulated gasoline. Obtained complete relief through a consent decree.
  • Rambus Inc.: Trial counsel for respondent in a 54-day trial of monopolization claims involving patents and standard setting. Obtained dismissal of all claims.  Win was upheld by the D.C. Court of Appeals. 
  • AFMS LLC v. UPS and FedEx: Defended transportation company against antitrust claims involving alleged refusal to deal. Won exclusion of plaintiff’s economic expert and obtained summary judgment.  Win was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Nikon Metrology v. Faro: Lead counsel for antitrust issues in patent infringement case involving antitrust counterclaims. Won summary judgment dismissing antitrust claims.
  • Vizio v. Funai: Lead antitrust counsel in case involving alleged monopolization through standard-essential patents. Won dismissal of monopolization claims.

   Contract and Equity Compensation Disputes

  • Zilincik v. Tesla Motors: Lead trial counsel for defendant in a six-week breach of contract trial involving employee stock options. Won judgments against 29 of 47 plaintiffs and cut damages to 2% of the demand. Won twice at the California Court of Appeal, resulting in a total victory for the client.
  • Equity Compensation Arbitration:  Lead counsel for the employer in a $60 million equity compensation dispute.  Obtained complete victory after a full-blown arbitration hearing.
  • Platt v. Tesla, Inc.:  Lead counsel defending auto manufacturer in class action regarding equity compensation issues.  Forced named plaintiff into arbitration and obtained dismissal of class claims.

   Trade Secrets and Unfair Competition

  • Tesla, Inc. v. Rivian Automotive: Counsel for the plaintiff in a trade secrets case against competitor and former employees.  Ongoing.
  • Tesla, Inc. v. Yatskov: Took over as lead counsel for auto manufacturer in this trade secrets case. Won motion to compel arbitration, forced admission of wrongdoing, and obtained monetary payment from a former employee.
  • American Reprographics Co. v. Crisp Enterprises: Co-lead trial counsel for plaintiff in 3-week trade secrets case. Settled on appeal.

    Constitutional Law

  • Scardina v. Masterpiece Cakeshop and Jack Phillips: Lead trial counsel for defendants in widely publicized free speech and religious freedom case.
  • Reed v. LAUSD: Co-lead trial counsel in landmark challenge to teacher layoffs in school district.  Won contested consent decree after a full evidentiary hearing.

  Class Action Litigation

  • Shenkman v. Tesla, Inc.: Lead counsel defending auto manufacturer in class action challenging policies regarding Supercharging. Ongoing.
  • Son v. Tesla, Inc.: Co-lead counsel defending auto manufacturer in class action alleging sudden unintended acceleration. Obtained dismissal of all class claims.
  • Wiseman v. Tesla, Inc.: Co-lead counsel defending auto manufacturer in class action regarding regenerative braking. Obtained dismissal.
  • Sheikh v. Tesla, Inc.: Co-lead counsel defending auto manufacturer in class action regarding Enhanced Autopilot features. Obtained class-wide settlement.


University of California, Hastings College of the Law (J.D., summa cum laude, 1996)

University of California, Berkeley (B.S., 1989)


Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Law Clerk to Judges Clifford Wallace and Pamela Rymer (1998-99)