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Kyle T. Peterson is a partner at Patterson Thuente specializing in patent and trademark law. (Staff photo: Bill Klotz)
Kyle T. Peterson is a partner at Patterson Thuente specializing in patent and trademark law. (Staff photo: Bill Klotz)

Breaking the Ice: Patent attorney balances law, farm pursuits

Name: Kyle T. Peterson

Title: Partner, Patterson Thuente, Minneapolis

Education: B.S., manufacturing systems engineering; MBA, finance, University of St. Thomas; J.D., Mitchell Hamline School of Law

Growing up on a family farm in the Chisago Lakes area, attorney Kyle T. Peterson vowed he someday would have an air-conditioned office with a view.

Now that Peterson, a partner at Patterson Thuente specializing in patent and trademark law, has an office in the IDS Center, he occasionally wishes he were out at the farm and his family’s Winehaven estate winery.

“Sometimes I like the solitude of the grapes,” Peterson said. “But honestly sometimes I appreciate the challenges and rewards that the legal profession offers as well.”

Peterson’s interest in science and technology led him to get an engineering degree. After working in industry for a few years, he went to law school at night to pursue a career in intellectual property law.

He used his legal expertise to patent two cold-hardy red grapes he and his father developed, the dry Nokomis and the sweeter Chisago.

Q. What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A. I like learning what people are passionate about, whether cars, politics, whatever people are doing.

Q. What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?

A. “The Operator,” by Robert O’Neill, a Navy SEAL involved in the bin Laden raid. It’s an amazing glimpse into what those folks deal with on a day-to-day basis.

Q. What is a pet peeve of yours?

A. People who don’t cover their mouths when they cough.

Q. What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of being an attorney?

A. I feel fortunate to deal with scientifically minded people that are creating new things, trying to make the world a better place. In a small way I feel I’m helping their cause … by helping them protect their ideas and inventions.

Q. What’s a favorite activity outside your job?

A. I’ve got a couple of young children and they’re my life. Getting to watch them at soccer practice or any of their activities is the best thing in the world for me.

Q. If someone visits you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do?

A. I grew up in the Chisago Lakes area and still live there. There’s amazing arts culture, the Swedish heritage, parks, trails, a whole bunch of lakes that are wonderful for fishing, water skiing and other activities. The St. Croix River is one of most beautiful areas in the state. To be honest, I’d have a tough time deciding where to bring them.

Q. Is there an attorney or judge, past or present, whom you admire most—and why?

A. Learned Hand, he lived at beginning of the century and died in early 1960s. He was a U.S. District Court judge for the Southern District in New York and later became a U.S. Court of Appeals judge. A big part of what we do as lawyers is try to convey ideas in relatively easy-to- understand ways. He was one of the models for doing exactly that.

Q. What’s a misconception people have about working as an attorney or judge?

A. People who don’t have lawyers or judges in the family sometimes I feel like their model is what they see in movies — people being strong-willed, heavy-handed, sometimes mean to get what they want. In real-world law I believe that to be effective you’ve got to do exactly the opposite. You’ve got to cooperate, collaborate, work with people, try to find common ground and to be most effective.

Q. Where do you like to eat lunch?

A. I love Italian. Working downtown you really can’t beat Sorrento Cucina in the skyway. I love family businesses. These folks work super hard and do a fantastic job.

Q. What if any is your favorite depiction of the law, the legal professional in popular culture?

A. George Clooney’s portrayal of a lawyer in the movie “Michael Clayton.” He describes himself as a fixer or a garbage man in terms of people bringing him their problems to fix. That made me laugh and some days I kind of feel like that.

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