Attorney shares patent expertise with law students
By Sheila Pursglove
Patent attorneys have a ticket to a front row seat to one of the greatest shows on earth.
So says Andrew Grove, a partner with Honigman in Bloomfield Hills and an adjunct professor teaching Trademark Law and Unfair Competition at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, who has enjoyed that front row perspective from childhood.
“My grandfathers were both tinkerers, and that always fascinated and inspired me – both the tools and the things they were able to make with them,” Grove says. “One grandfather modified a trailer so we could tow our family Sunfish sailboat to the lakes all around the Mitten. It was very slick and handy, and we still use it 40 years later!” Grove, who has worked with “gadgets, gizmos and goops” his entire life and whose parents plied him with Erector sets and chemistry kits, was a big fan of Q’s outrageous inventions in James Bond movies, and also of inventions in the movie “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”
“And then there was a Disney show called the ‘Whiz Kid’ about a kid inventor that made me run down to my basement to screw and glue some things together,” he says. “I took over my dad’s workbench early on, and it really perplexed him. I was always modifying toys, model trains, model airplanes, bikes, lawn mowers, mopeds – you name it – even food. I love to cook, too. And I still invent things whenever I get the time. I think creativity is the wellspring of wealth, good living and a rich life. I always thought it would be great to spend a life around invention.”
His father was also a patent attorney, who helped Grove’s grandfather get a patent on one of his many inventions.
“It involved a way to use a plentiful, cheap, and lightweight wood to make a very strong beam for construction,” Grove says. “I still have the ribbon copy.”
Grove is a Wayne Law grad with bachelor and master’s degrees in English language and literature from the University of Michigan and University of Chicago, respectively. He also obtained a bachelor’s in engineering from U-M, and was a shareholder with Reising Ethington and an associate at Young & Basile before joining Honigman.
“Honigman has a great group of people,” he says. “There are so many talented lawyers here doing so many different things; and the firm has been very supportive in growing the IP practice – we’ve gone from a handful of IP lawyers to almost 40 in just a few years.
“I really enjoy the variety of people here – and the fact that there are so many great litigators I can consult,” Grove says “IP lawyers tend not to be in the court very much, so it helps us to consult with commercial litigators now and again to keep us between the ditches. Also, the firm is very committed to city issues and related causes. I like that because I love Detroit and want to see it rise again.
“I love helping people solve problems – especially those relating to patents, trademarks, and copyrights,” he says. “I just find myself completely absorbed and in a ‘flow’ when I get a new case. My office is always filled with all kinds of great inventions that my partners and associates enjoy looking at.”
When UDM approached Grove, he was happy to try his hand at teaching.
“A couple of my partners from my old firm taught there. My father went to school there at night while he worked a day job at the old Parke-Davis factory just down the street.”
While Grove feels IP law is a good field, his students face challenges getting jobs – but Honigman has already added one of his students to its list of associates, Reising Ethington hired a couple, and other firms in the area are hiring them, too. Several of his students in each class are Canadians.
“They want to learn U.S .law, and sometimes they actually stay here to practice. More often, they get jobs in Canada, but they become specialists in U.S. IP law.”
He can share fascinating stories with students.
“The inventors can be very interesting,” he says. “If I had to pick one inventor who invented the most impressive thing, he would also be the craziest – this guy who lived in a swamp in Louisiana in an old mansion filled with bats. He could speak for hours on the technology – very impressive, but zany as heck. He drove us crazy when we tried to get him organized to be a good witness.”
Grove defended a supplier of side view mirrors in a case involving a power-telescoping mirror that extends out from large pickup trucks so the driver can see even if the vehicle is towing a trailer. A small company in eastern Oregon sued for patent infringement – in Pendleton, Ore.
“We had a jurisdiction hearing planned in Pendleton, but the judge called and said we could not do it there because it was cattle round-up that day, and it would be too dangerous with all the cattle in the streets – so we had the hearing in Portland. While the judge was considering the issue, we found that someone had done the same thing in Japan, and years before the patent owner – so we had great evidence that the patent was invalid. The case settled shortly after that on terms very favorable to our client.”
Another legal battle was between two very hostile rivals in sports field lighting.
“Sports field lighting was and is a big business, because there are sports fields all over the world that need lighting – but the two companies hated each other, and the bigger company did not want to share. So it sued our client, a small Michigan company, for patent infringement,” he says.
The larger firm had patents on methods and things for controlling spill light (where light spills over into places like nearby residences), halo effect (where light is directed up instead of down, which can irritate pilots flying overhead), and glare (which can harm drivers on nearby roads).
“We went through a trial and invalidated one of their four patents when we found a prior art light with a visor on it for directing light downwardly – proof that someone had invented the same thing earlier – at a Birmingham gas station on Woodward that was being demolished.”
His firm lost the jury trial on the rest of the patents, and the patent owner/plaintiff sent the sheriff to start collecting the client’s assets to satisfy the judgment, which was for over a million dollars. Grove’s firm posted a bond to get the sheriff to leave; and filed an appeal.
“All the while, we had to fight for every new job at every new park, because the plaintiff would always write the customer and tell them about the infringement,” Grove says. “We had to offer to indemnify every customer. We argued the appeal; and on one ordinary day several months later, we got a simple letter in the mail announcing that the appeals court had ruled in our favor completely. We called the client and told him that, after all he had gone through, he won a complete victory and the case was over. He was stunned, but was pretty happy. It was one of the most satisfying days of my career.”
Grove has also battled Patent Troll Attacks.
“Patent trolls – some people also refer to them as non-practicing entities – are people or companies who get or buy patents and then try to enforce them,” he explains. “Some of these are legitimate inventors or small companies. Many more are just stick-up artists who try to scam the system. We’ve been in cases where a troll sued hundreds of companies, hoping to collect a toll from each one and get rich. Sometimes these troll attacks are unfair.”
Grove, who has appeared on a TV show hosted by attorney Henry Baskin, has taught a class on IP law at the College For Creative Studies.
“CCS is a very great and creative place,” he says. “Ralph Gilles was one of many very creative people there. He really helped Chrysler over the years with car designs like the 300.”
Grove, who lives in Birmingham, has two daughters who attend Cranbrook: Natalie, a junior, and Stephanie, a freshman. In his leisure time, he loves to cook and eat.
“Breakfast is my specialty,” Grove says. “I’m also very interested in writing, and in history – especially Michigan history. I have a very busy schedule with work and teaching – and with raising my two daughters – so I don’t have lots of time for other things.”