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Brian Batzli
Intellectual property law no longer is a “sleepy little backwater,” says Brian Batzli, the new president of the American Intellectual Property Law Association. (Submitted photo)

Breaking the Ice: Association president seeks patent law clarity

As the new president of the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA), Brian Batzli, a partner in Merchant & Gould’s Minneapolis office, is working to help clarify what is patent eligible and who can challenge patents.

Batzli, Merchant & Gould’s chairman emeritus, is setting the direction for an organization with 7,000 members in private and corporate practice, government service and the academic community.

Intellectual property law no longer is a “sleepy little backwater,” Batzli said. “We are now central to U.S. innovation and a dynamic area of the law.”

AILPA is focusing on an America Invents Act provision that Batzli said created a new method to challenge granted patents, leading to questions of whether some companies making such challenges have standing to do so. AILPA also is asking Congress to clarify what subject matter is patent eligible.

Batzli was elected Merchant & Gould’s managing director, CEO and chairman in 2010 and completed his term in those roles in 2018.

Name: Brian Batzli

Title: Partner, Merchant & Gould’s Minneapolis office; chairman emeritus, Merchant & Gould

Education: B.S., Electrical Engineering, University of Minnesota; J.D., William Mitchell College of Law

Q: Best way to start a conversation with you?

A: I consider myself an extrovert. It’s pretty easy to talk to me. I may talk to you first.

Q: Why did you go to law school?

A: I was a design engineer for about six months and realized that it was interesting and challenging but wasn’t what I wanted to do for my career. I took my dad fishing and he said, why don’t you think about getting an MBA or a law degree. He had gone to William Mitchell. He didn’t get a J.D. but he attended for a year or two prior to his electrical construction career. I took the LSAT and decided that I guess I’ll go to law school. The law intrigued me and getting the OK from my dad, I said that’s what I’ve got to do.

Q: What books are you reading?

A: I just finished “Moby Dick.” I thought I should read that after using some lines from it that I had heard over the years. I’m perusing Paul McCartney’s “The Lyrics” volumes and those are just fascinating.

Q: What’s your pet peeve?

A: The state of civil discourse, or being civil with one another. We need to do better. Be kind and be more generous with each other, even if we don’t agree with other people’s views.

Q: Best part of your work?

A: My clients. I’ve got great people to work with and great clients.

Q: Least favorite?

A: I was very active in the Minnesota Inventors Congress when it was around. I would give talks to folks just starting out with a new idea or project and the hardest thing is sometimes telling someone that I don’t think their idea is patentable or they’re going to have a really hard time protecting it. The requirement to be honest with them about that is hard.

Q: Favorite activity away from work?

A: Reading. Anything on the water, boating-wise. Going to Wild games with my kids. They’re grown, in their 30s, so kids and spouses. Social golf is great. I’m not a great golfer, but I enjoy the game.

Q: Where would you take someone visiting your hometown?

A: I live in Chanhassen. We take visitors to the Arboretum; if they’re interested, Paisley Park; Chanhassen Dinner Theatres.

Q: Legal figure you most admire?

A: Sandra Day O’Connor. She was a great legal mind, obviously. She broke a number of barriers. I heard her speak at a couple of Rotary meetings in Phoenix. She was a great storyteller. It was phenomenal to hear her speak.

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

A: Sometimes people think patent law is drudgery, and I don’t see it that way at all. It’s at the center of U.S. innovation, and the law is changing rapidly.

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

A: “The Firm.” It doesn’t necessarily put all lawyers in a good light but it’s a great story.

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