Top Lawyers Q&A: David Kerr, Partner with Berg Hill Greenleaf Ruscitti LLP
1. How do you remain personally well-informed on intellectual-property issues, especially in the constantly changing world of technology?
Technology will always advance faster than the law unfortunately. As a result, my clients are my best resource for where the law is headed, and what new issues will affect businesses in the near and long-term. On a weekly, or even daily basis a client will reach out with a new problem that neither of us have ever encountered. So, I stay best informed simply by trying to be creative and find solutions to my client’s problems on a daily basis.
2. What are the biggest issues that business owners face in terms of protecting their intellectual property?
Without a doubt the biggest issue is cost, both in obtaining intellectual property protection, but more importantly enforcing that intellectual property. Most early-stage biotechnology companies require years of research and development before they can launch a commercial product. During this pre-revenue phase nearly all of my clients are dependent on inventors or debt financing to operate. Very few small, or even medium-sized technology companies have the resources or investor support to pursue or defend expensive IP litigation.
3. In addition to law, you have a background in molecular biology. How does that experience inform your practice of law?
No amount of education can prepare you for the types and complexity of technologies you encounter as a patent attorney. Often, you might have only a few days to learn and understand an invention that represents someone’s life work. It can be daunting to say the least. Having a scientific background certainly helps provide a foundation and vocabulary for understanding basic scientific principles. More importantly, it helps provide a framework for learning. While each new technology is different, my scientific training gives me the confidence that, no matter how complex, I can learn and understand the invention on a deep level. It also provides resources to know where to find and learn new subject matter that may be entirely new to me. Ultimately, each new patent is like going back to school to learn a new subject, and like with anything in life, training and practice gives you the confidence to take on any subject.
4. You have been recognized by the Colorado Bar Association for your pro bono work. Why is that important to you?
All too often, well financed companies and individuals abuse intellectual property laws to shut down legitimate competition and force people to give up their first amendment rights under the threat of ruinously expensive litigation. This is antithetical to the spirit of intellectual property, which is meant to foster and protect creativity, promote technological advancement, and protect our rights to criticize and parody the powerful. These are ideals I am passionate about, and I do not like to see them abused to the detriment of others. I guess you can say I don’t like bullies, and if there is anything I can do to level the playing field, I feel an obligation to help.
5. If you were not a lawyer, what would you be doing?
Definitely teaching. My father was a university professor, and my mother was a dance teacher, so teaching has always been a part of our family tradition. I enjoy teaching so much, while I was in graduate school I volunteered to take on additional classes. I still jump at the chance to give presentations or seminars on IP-related topics.
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