Flash point- Attorney played early role in windshield wiper case

By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

Patent attorney Jeff Sadowski was involved in the early years of the Kearns windshield wiper case, when college engineering professor Robert Kearns took on the Ford Motor Co., claiming it stole his patented idea for an intermittent windshield wiper and used it in its new Mustang model. A 2008 movie--"Flash of Genius"--depicted the case, starring Greg Kinnear as Kearns, an inventor who won a $10.1 million award from Ford, and a later $18.7 million judgment from Chrysler Corp.

While Sadowski enjoyed the movie, he did not recognize the screen depictions of himself or his colleagues.

"The casting was all wrong for me and others," he says. "I was the young associate."

An attorney with Howard & Howard in Royal Oak where he concentrates his practice in litigation and prosecution in various aspects of patent, trademark, copyright, computer law and franchising, Sadowski has practiced in more than 29 jurisdictions throughout the United States, as well as six Courts of Appeals and the Court of Claims.

He is particularly proud of litigating a number of cases that other attorneys were involved in losing, having saved these cases for the client whether with reversals on appeal or other means to settlement.

"I've had more than 25 jury trials and each one has held particular significance to me, each in a different way," he says.

The only patent attorney to date in Michigan to be named a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, Sadowski has obtained more than 100 seizure orders for counterfeit goods under trademark and copyright laws.

"We had to burn 10,000 Fendi purses one time--that had people crying on the sidelines watching them burn and asking for them even with the FBI in the mix," he says. "I've seized counterfeit music, watches, auto parts, software, and other things. I've worked with musicians and singers on protecting their works, and have met some very interesting people in that process, above and beyond the inventors and marketers."

His long and prestigious career has earned Sadowski kudos, including being named among dbusiness Top Lawyers; The Best Lawyers in America; Michigan Super Lawyers; and the Top 100 Michigan Lawyers. In 2005, he received the 33rd Annual Dr. Joseph Rossman Memorial Award as co-author of the article in the Journal of the Patent and Trademark Office Society that made the greatest contribution to the field of Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights

Sadowski earned his undergrad degree in mechanical engineering, magna cum laude, from the University of Michigan.

"My degree would be an electrical engineering degree today -a lot of mechanical stuff mixed with computer software and hardware," he notes. "I attended college as an English major and just gravitated to engineering through my math, computers and science classes. I always thought I was going to law school with my English major. Once I was involved in engineering, I was drawn to all of the leading edges of engineering, which ultimately gravitated me to patent law, with a short stop in environmental law when I worked for the EPA in Ann Arbor drafting regulations."

Sadowski pays tribute to two important mentors: attorney Don Harness; and Robert Choate, then a lecturer in patent law at Michigan Law School.

"Bob Choate was an old school patent attorney downtown who claimed that you were not a patent attorney unless you could do everything - patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, licensing/franchising and litigation. He challenged me to gain and maintain expertise in all of those phases since they all worked together."

Sadowski has been involved in the prosecution of patents on a variety of technologies for individuals as well as some of the largest companies in the world. He has obtained patents for clients in a variety of hi-tech and low-tech areas, including business method patents, computer software related patents, vacuum cleaners, luggage racks and other automotive-related products, computer-related manufacturing systems, tire regrinding, medical appliances, environmental apparatus, clutches and brakes, robotic systems, carburetors, flying tube cutoff machines and die sets, home appliances and parts, conveyor systems and machines, welding appliances, computerized machine tools, dental appliances, injectors for veterinary drugs, building supplies, various manufacturing processes and control systems, and many other areas.

"If I were to give a piece of advice to encourage someone into this profession, I would say it's a great opportunity to meet some very interesting people in all walks of life if you let it happen," he says.

Sadowski has lectured on patent and trademark issues to trade groups and other organizations around the country; and conducted a recent roundtable discussion on intellectual property and the Internet.

"The Internet has made prior art much more accessible than it once was," he explains. "Also, the Internet has made the personal contact and relationship we used to have with Patent Examiners almost a thing of the past."

President-elect of the American IP Inns of Court, Sadowski is a past board member of the Federal Bar Association, Eastern District of Michigan Chapter, and serves on several committees for national organizations, such as the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) and its committee on Federal Practice and Procedure; and the International Trademark Association (INTA) and its International Anti-Counterfeiting and Enforcement Committees. A member of the State Bar of Michigan, the Oakland County Bar Association, and the American Bar Association and its sections on Litigation and Patent, Trademark and Copyright Law, he is also a member of the Michigan Patent Law Association and regularly attends conferences for those organizations as well as the Michigan Institute for Continuing Legal Education (ICLE).

Born in Detroit and raised in Roseville, Sadowski attended Detroit De La Salle before it moved to Warren. He currently lives in Birmingham, where he has served on local commissions. He and his wife have three sons: the youngest at U of D Jesuit High School in Detroit, one in college, and the oldest out of college and working in Chicago.

Passionate about restoring old cars, Sadowski is the proud owner of a 1982 Porsche that he drives to work every day in summer, when possible.

"I play tennis, golf, volleyball, and I run--or perform a facsimile thereof," he says with a smile. "I used to play a lot of softball and basketball myself, and coach baseball and basketball for the boys. Now I watch my youngest son play baseball."

With Europe a favorite vacation spot, he recently returned from a trip to Cracow, Berlin, and Paris. Closer to home, he enjoys the Florida Keys in winter, and in the summer, a family vacation home in northern Michigan where he takes pleasure in fly fishing.

He volunteers for the Judson Center, a nonprofit, human service agency, and for various other children's charities through auction-related fund raising and other activities. He notes Howard & Howard has a Community Reinvestment Fund, a charitable trust, funded annually by Howard & Howard employees to benefit the communities in which the firm's offices are located.

A trustee for the Parade Company in Detroit, for the past 19 years Sadowski and his family have taken part in the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

"Mostly, I believe in giving time and treasure anonymously as much as possible as the true spirit of giving," he says. "I also encourage my sons to work for various charities and they've done so."

Published: Mon, Jul 22, 2013

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