Detroit attorney puts her stamp on trademark law

By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

Marjorie Basile once dreamed of being a flight attendant. Now she's petrified of flying, although at times taking to the skies is unavoidable.

So it's just as well she chose to fly high in a legal career instead.

Basile has enjoyed a career spanning more than three decades with Miller Canfield Paddock and Stone in Detroit. One of the firm's first women partners, she helped start Miller Canfield's Intellectual Property Practice Group about 18 years ago and led the group until 2006. She has been listed among the Best Lawyers in America, Intellectual Property Law, since 2007; Michigan Super Lawyers, Top 50 Women Michigan Super Lawyers 2007-09; Intellectual Property Litigation since 2006; and this year made the list of DBusiness Magazine, Intellectual Property.

Miller Canfield was her first and only choice.

''In the course of all my interviews, Miller Canfield stood out as a firm whose hallmark is diversity,'' she says. ''I picked up on it immediately -- and this is back in the late 1970s when the firm wasn't nearly as diverse and eclectic as it is today -- and my instincts proved correct throughout the 30 some years I've been here.

''There's a richness to that atmosphere that breeds creativity, curiosity, and collegiality, all designed to motivate attorneys to excel.''

Law was in her genes -- she is the daughter of an attorney, and the second of six children, three of whom are practicing lawyers.

Her father's passion for law rubbed off on his daughter. One rainy week in the summer of 1953, she came upon transcripts of a trial her father had the previous year, stashed away in the basement shadows.

''I hauled them out and read cover to cover about a wrongful death that occurred on a Ferris wheel during the annual county fair,'' she says. ''I was hooked from that time on. I particularly marveled at the cross-examination process.''

But her first career step was a bachelor's degree in journalism from Marygrove College in Detroit. Basile went on to earn her J.D. summa cum laude from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.

A Charter Fellow of the Litigation Council of America, Basile has extensive experience and expertise in trademark procurement and trademark infringement litigation and has obtained a significant docket of registered trademarks for clients as well as several preliminary injunctions and trial verdicts. She also has considerable experience in copyright matters and patent licensing and is admitted to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Basile was instrumental in helping Faygo Beverages secure branding rights in its Ohana non-carbonated drink line. She had to assure the name had widespread appeal, and stood apart from names of other beverages. Another suggestion, Moon Mist, was nixed because of its similarity to a competitor's product. Basile did her homework, and found ''Ohana'' is a Hawaiian word for ''family,'' making it a good brand name for this tropical beverage that went on to become a successful product line for Faygo.

''I've had my share of 'notorious' trademarks -- Jenny Craig, 747, Faygo -- but much of my docket is just ordinary small businesses or larger portfolios of automotive supplier marks -- not too sexy!

''The trade off is that the clients are smart, creative, and fully of energy about their businesses. There are very few 'downers' in the trademark practice.''

Basile, who has authored several articles and given presentations in the United States and Canada, served on the Qualifications Review Committee for the Federal Eastern District of Michigan in 2001; is a member of the Alumni Association for the Detroit Regional Chamber, Detroit Leadership VIII; is a member of the Founders' Society of The Detroit Institute of Arts; a member of the Detroit Athletic Club; and serves on the Ad Hoc Committee for Women Drivers for the Visiting Nurse Association.

''My most rewarding involvements have been as a presidential appointee to two standing committees: Prepaid legal plan services and delivery of legal services,'' she says. ''These two committees focus on legal services for people with moderate incomes. This group is vastly underserved and I've appreciated the opportunity to work collaboratively with the ABA resources and the community to provide and enhance access to justice for this group in our population.''

Basile and her husband are two years shy of a golden wedding anniversary, and have three adult children, and eight grandchildren. In her leisure time, Basile loves to cook and to eat.

She also likes to play the piano, golf and knit.

Published: Thu, Nov 24, 2011