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Patrick Finn
Patrick Finn

Breaking the Ice: IP ‘family’ grows with virus-related patent

Name: Patrick Finn

Title: Managing principal, Twin Cities office of Fish & Richardson

Education: B.S., biology, Pennsylvania State University; Ph.D., microbiology and immunology, University of California, Los Angeles; J.D., William Mitchell College of Law.

Patrick Finn, managing principal of Fish & Richardson’s Twin Cities office, says so much time and effort goes into obtaining patents that “you kind of see all of them as your children.”

That family just grew with a patent Finn helped the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine obtain for a small antibody that he said neutralizes the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. The application was filed in the spring and the patent issued on Nov. 3, Finn said.

“The idea would be that if there’s any virus floating around, a person’s in the middle of an infection, the virus was in the lungs and in the tissues, that these small antibodies would be able to get into those tissues because they’re smaller than normal antibodies and that they would bind to the virus and would then prevent it from doing another round of infection,” Finn said.

Describing himself as a “scientist at heart,” Finn earned a doctorate in microbiology and immunology. He then worked full time learning patent law and writing patent applications at Fish & Richardson while taking law classes at night for four years at William Mitchell College of Law.

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

A: No icebreaker is need. But I do love to discuss travel, learning about where other folks have visited and what they recommend as must-sees.

Q: Why did you study law and pursue it as a career?

A: I started as a biomedical research scientist and then completed law school so I could help scientists protect their discoveries as a patent attorney.

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

A: I like to read the newest scientific research journals online, then for true relaxation, various outdoor fishing magazines.

Q: What’s a pet peeve of yours?

A: My biggest pet peeve is bad grammar, especially run-on sentences.

Q: What do you like best about your work?

A: I love working directly with top scientists from around the world to hear about their newest discoveries and then devising the global IP strategy to protect those discoveries.

Q: What do you least like about it?

A: Keeping track of all my billable time.

Q: What do you like doing away from work?

A: Travel, exploring cultures, new foods. I usually try to coordinate that with new fishing opportunities, deep-sea stuff, inshore stuff, whatever a place has to offer.

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

A: When folks say they want to come here, I say we have some great local restaurants. I just say do you prefer seafood or steak and we go from there.

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

A: My mentor, who is now retired, Mark Ellinger. He was a brilliant attorney who trained a lot of great patent attorneys. He was a tenured professor for quite awhile and then went to Harvard Law School, became a patent attorney and was a principal and office managing principal at Fish & Richardson.

Q: What’s a misconception people have about working as an attorney?

A: One misconception is that we deal with the same legal issues all day long. But as a patent attorney that’s not entirely true. A large portion of my day involves learning about and discussing scientific findings and potential breakthrough medical treatments. So it’s not just about the law. It’s about the science and how to apply the law to that science.

Q: What’s your favorite depiction of the law or the legal profession in popular culture?

A: “Dark Waters.” It involved chemical science and environmental law — not my area but I did really enjoy that movie. I grew up in western Pennsylvania; that’s in the West Virginia area and Ohio [film settings], so it adds special meaning from that perspective too.

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