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Alumna Spotlight: Mimi Addy

Mimi Addy: At ease with patents and painting

Mimi Addy largeFor Meredith (Mimi) Martin Addy ’90, an electrical engineer who practices patent law, intellectual ambidexterity is a family affair.

She graduated from Rice University with two degrees—a B.S. in electrical engineering and a B.A. in fine arts—and one of her paintings from Rice, a 4-foot-by-3-foot abstraction, hangs on the wall of her law office in Chicago. Addy’s father, who graduated from Georgia Tech as a mechanical engineer, also practiced patent law, and she comes from a long line of artists on her mother’s side.

“I grew up thinking these interests were perfectly normal. There was no contradiction in my mind,” said Addy, 39, a partner in Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione, a Chicago law firm specializing in intellectual property law.

“Dad warned me against practicing patent law. He said it can be very tedious, very hard, and sometimes boring; but in the end, I think he was proud that I followed in his footsteps,” said Mimi.

Addy specializes in intellectual property litigation, including appeals before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. In addition to her electrical engineering expertise, she has litigation experience in the biotech, pharmaceutical, and chemical arts—not precisely what she had in mind when she came to Rice as a freshman in 1986.

While at Rice, Mimi interned one summer with a patent law firm in Houston: “That’s where I saw the connection between engineering and patent law. Understanding the underlying technology is critical in litigation. Conceptually, you have to know the engineering behind the patent to properly counsel your clients.”

This experience solidified her decision, and she went on to earn her law degree from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1993. That year, she joined Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione as an associate.

In addition to sitting for the Georgia and Illinois bars, Mimi sat for the Patent Agents Exam, a requirement for all patent attorneys prior to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office. By 1997, she had earned her masters of law degree from The John Marshall Law School in Chicago by going to school at night, and was made a partner at Brinks in 2000.

From 1997 to1998, Mimi worked as a law clerk for The Honorable Paul R. Michel, circuit judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C. Under U.S. law, all patent infringement cases are tried in federal court and all appeals are heard by the Federal Circuit, one level below the U.S. Supreme Court.

Her experience at the Federal Circuit provided her with a deeper understanding of the development of patent law and has allowed her to provide her clients with insights in the development of precedent.

Recently, Addy has been named to several leadership positions in the intellectual property community. She is president of the Richard Linn American Inn Of Court in Chicago, one of five intellectual property Inns in the U.S.

She is a member of the 16-member Advisory Council for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which works with the court on policy and operations. Addy is also chair of the Amicus Committee for the American Intellectual Property Law Association. The committee prepares recommendations on IP issues for which the Association files briefs, usually to the U.S. Supreme Court and the Federal Circuit.

“I enjoy practicing patent law; it’s challenging because it requires you to learn everything there is to know about one little thing in excruciating detail—let’s say, a semi-conductor. You not only must learn how it works and what it does, but also the history of the device, what developments led up to the patents, and the advancements that are likely to come in the future, the whole penumbra of the device,” she said.

The grueling education and training seems to be paying off. In 2007 alone, Addy successfully argued a number of major cases. For her efforts, she was recently named one of the “Top 10 Illinois Super Lawyers” for 2008 by Law & Politics magazine, and she represented clients in three of the IPO DailyNews’ list of the Top 13 Patent Cases of 2007. Addy was named a leading Illinois IP attorney by Chambers USA in 2006 and 2007.

“The past year has been so successful for me, how could I not love what I’m doing?” she asked.