This past weekend, I learned, with great sadness, of the passing of a luminary in our industry, Q. Todd Dickinson. Todd had an extraordinarily distinguished career in the intellectual property arena that spanned from senior in-house roles, to private practice, to leadership of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. His death on May 3, 2020, at the young age of 67, is a great loss to all of us, and he shall be missed immensely.
When I began my intellectual property career as a law clerk in the late 1990s, Todd was already serving as Director of the USPTO, a role to which he had recently been appointed by President Clinton. I had the pleasure of first meeting Todd a few years later, after he had completed his appointment and transitioned back to private practice, when he was an active member of the International Trademark Association and, particularly, its fledgling, unofficial but very lively LGBT affinity group, dubbed “GLINTA.” As a young LGBT attorney myself, I found Todd to be highly inspirational - someone in my own diversity arena who had found tremendous success in everything he touched: chief IP counsel roles in large global corporations; the most senior government IP professional in the United States; and law firm partner. Despite his extremely prominent profile, he remained incredibly accessible, the rare person who could switch seamlessly from rigorous case law analysis to warm social engagement. He radiated joy when talking about his work and the entire IP field, and easily brought all around him in to share that joy.
Over the years, I got to know Todd better through our assorted trademark industry activities. He was a big part of my growing engagement with GLINTA, which itself has ultimately grown to hundreds of members who are LGBTQ+-identifying trademark professionals, and for which I have served as a primary organizer for the past several years. He encouraged me to get more involved with the LGBT Bar and particularly their Lavender Law conference, at which I have chaired an annual IP Law Institute, a mini-conference of several panels on cutting-edge IP issues, for many years now. Todd was always at the top of my list of invited speakers and could contribute knowledgeably on any panel, whether in the patent, trademark, or other IP arena. When his schedule did not permit speaking, he always made a point of stopping by the Institute and supporting the event, taking time to connect with our attendees, who ranged from law students to senior industry professionals. I imagine that Todd was just as inspiring to our LGBTQ+ attendees as he had been to me at the outset of my career.
I am certain many of you will have your own memories of Todd, whether as a teacher, mentor or friend. Those of us who knew him well are extremely lucky, and our industry will benefit from his legacy for decades to come.
Brian J. Winterfeldt
Founder & Principal
Winterfeldt IP Group, PLLC
If you would like to share your own remembrances of Todd Dickinson, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or +1 202 903 4422.