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Wimsatt: Taking on meaty IP cases
Ted Wimsatt stepped out of his professional comfort zone in 2005 to enroll in law school, trading the predictability of his work day as an engineer for the uncertainty of intellectual property law, mediation and legal writing.
“Law school seemed like a little bit of a break in the sense that I had so much more control over my time there,” said Wimsatt, who graduated at the top of the Class of 2008 with a Law, Science and Technology certificate from the College of Law’s Center for Law, Science & Innovation. “I was able to set my own priorities, as opposed to having my employer do it for me.”
Today, as an associate in the litigation practice at Perkins Coie in Phoenix, the 37-year-old father of two young daughters, works on technologies that are revolutionizing the world. His specialty is patent litigation, and Wimsatt, who is admitted to the bar in Arizona, U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, is handling meaty IP cases.
For example, Wimsatt represented Microsoft as an intervenor in a case filed by TiVo against AT&T, alleging infringement of three patents related to digital video recorders. He also represented TriQuint Semiconductor, which manufactures high-performance radio frequency solutions used in wireless communications, in a dispute involving patent, antitrust and trade secret claims.
During law school, Wimsatt figured he eventually would work as an in-house corporate counsel, doing patent procurement and licensing. However, his experience as a summer associate at Perkins Coie fueled an interest in litigation, which presents intellectual demands he found lacking in his previous job.
“Obviously, I’m still in a new career position,” said Wimsatt, who joined Perkins Coie in 2009 after clerking for Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch. “There are a number of challenges that weren’t there in the old career – persuasion isn’t a big part of an engineering career – and in the law, you are trained for unpredictability, whereas engineering was more predictable.”
As an engineer, he cared about the objective function and purpose of technology, whereas now he thinks more about how a product, person, or company will be perceived when preparing for and litigating a case.
For eight years, Wimsatt was a systems engineer at Motorola, where he designed and developed software applications for telecommunications systems, including cellular telephone networks and satellite communications systems.
“My job was challenging, but it had grown to be not stimulating enough, solving simple problems again and again, and not looking at what the next stage was going to be,” he said. “I wanted to look forward.”
Wimsatt’s other option was going for an M.B.A., but the law aligned more with his interests in intellectual property issues and a desire to work in a technology field. Upon making the decision to pursue the intellectual challenge of a legal education, he jumped in with both feet.
Wimsatt worked in the Lodestar Mediation Clinic, toiled as executive editor of
, the ABA’s journal on law and science which is housed in the law school, and was awarded both the John S. Armstrong Award for academic excellence, and the Steven G. Lisa Award for outstanding studies in intellectual property.
He appreciated the largely open-door policy of the faculty, and that his legal education was not just theory-based, but also had practical application.
Wimsatt’s clerkship with Justice Berch helped him hone his research and writing skills, and gave him an appreciation for what judges deal with -- tools he uses daily as an attorney.
“A big part of my job is getting my point across to a judge, and it seems like a lot of issues really come down to how persuasive you are on paper, rather than while standing in the courtroom,” Wimsatt said. “You try to get to the point where you can make the point succinctly, but correctly on paper.”
“The time I spent clerking for Justice Berch really helped in trying to see the other side – what does the judge need to see from me?”
While balancing a family and a demanding career is never simple, Wimsatt appreciates that emerging technologies in the workplace have given him more time with his family, wife Heather, and daughters Athena, 4, and Penelope, 2. And there are parallels between a legal career with an emphasis on technology, and parenting two small children: every day produces new challenges, new lessons and a little joy.