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Courtland Merrill
Courtland Merrill

Breaking the Ice: IP work lights up litigator’s practice

Name: Courtland Merrill

Title: Partner, Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr

Education: B.S. Arizona State University, political science; J.D., University of North Dakota School of Law

Courtland Merrill, who recently joined Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr’s Minneapolis office, has helped handle patent infringement cases involving products ranging from circuit board tester plates to holiday outdoor light projectors and the flameless candles originally used at Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion.

Merrill brings more than 20 years of experience litigating claims involving patent enforcement and intellectual property rights as well as commercial disputes to Saul Ewing. He previously was with Anthony Ostlund Baer & Louwagie.

Merrill spent several years working on behalf of Minnesota-based Luminara Worldwide to enforce its intellectual property rights against a Chinese manufacturer for theft of trade secrets and infringement of patents related to artificial flame technology licensed from Disney.

“Behind every one of these inventions, there’s somebody out there who kind of broke the norm and tried something different and came up with something new,” Merrill said of his affinity for intellectual property and IP litigation cases. “They’re great stories and the people you meet are cool.”

Q: Best way to start a conversation with you?

A: Ask me about my two dogs, which are two pugs, Coco and Josie. That will lead to all sorts of other conversations.

Q: Why did you go to law school?

A: The desire to go to law school started in eighth grade at Hughes Junior High School in Bismarck, North Dakota, when it seemed like a lot of friends were getting into trouble primarily related to skateboarding. It made me think that there was a need for a need for legal advice for my friends, and that led me to go to law school. I switched my career dreams of being a Concorde pilot to becoming a lawyer.

Q: What books are you reading?

A: I’m rereading “Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid” by Jimmy Carter. The other one I’m reading is “The Heart of Everything That Is,” the story of Red Cloud.

Q: What’s your pet peeve?

A: Judges and lawyers pushing for Zoom jury trials. I know it’s faster, it’s cheaper, it’s more efficient. But juries should hear cases in person.

Q: Best part of your work?

A: Meeting incredible people, inventors and business people who overcome problems that others couldn’t solve.

Q: Least favorite?

A: Timesheets and all the tedious administrative work that has to happen.

Q: Favorite activity away from work?

A: I enjoy watching my 14-year-old son like hockey. My wife, my parents and I watch him frequently. I enjoy traveling. I’ve been to Malaysia, Turkey, Brazil. I enjoy experiencing different cultures, foods, customs.

Q: Where would you take someone visiting your hometown?

A: I grew up in Bismarck. I would take them to Big Boy on Main Street to get a pizza burger “flying” style with fries, gravy and a purple cow. Then I would take them along the Missouri River that cuts right through Bismarck, show them the river bottom lands, maybe historical Fort (Abraham) Lincoln and the Mandan Indian village.

Q: Legal figure you most admire?

A: Judge Pauline Newman, a circuit judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. She’s still on the bench, 93 years young and she is wicked smart. I appeared before her in late summer 2019. She came out firing the important questions. She’s also known as the “great dissenter” because she’s dissented and she supported inventor rights and the value of the American patent system.

Q: Misconception that others have about your work as an attorney?

A: People that aren’t lawyers or in a different field even than litigation, they don’t understand how much time it takes to make a great case, to put it together to make it compelling, to write a great brief.

Q: Favorite novel, movie or TV show about lawyers?

A: I love “My Cousin Vinny” and in particular, Marisa Tomei’s direct testimony on the expert witness stand, about her opinion on Positraction. That’s probably one of the greatest opinions in that it’s 100 percent, I think, correct on how you do an expert opinion, the way he qualifies her.


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