Q. Todd Dickinson, 67, formerly of Philadelphia, director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office during the Clinton administration, died Sunday, May 3, of respiratory failure at a hospital in Warrenton, Va.
He had been living in Washington and The Plains, Va., since 2009 with his husband, Robert H. Atkins. They married in 2017 after a two-year engagement and a decade as partners.
Mr. Dickinson was a lawyer who served as counsel for law firms in the area of intellectual property and technology. His highest-profile job was as director of the country’s patent and trademark office in Washington.
“Todd was immensely knowledgeable and influential in the intellectual property community. He was a warm person and a great friend to many,” said Andrei Iancu, current director of the office, in a statement.
The eldest son of John and Martha Dickinson, he was born in Chestnut Hill and grew up in Mount Lebanon, Pa., graduating from Mount Lebanon High School.
Mr. Dickinson earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Allegheny College and a degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.
From 1981 to 1990, he worked as intellectual property counsel for Chevron Corp. in San Francisco. He supported LGBT causes as a founding member of the Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom and as a national governor of the Human Rights Campaign.
In 1990, he moved to Philadelphia and became chief counsel for intellectual property and technology with what is now Sunoco. He then joined Dechert Price & Rhoads.
He was a member of the Liberty City LGBT+ Democratic Club, the Pride of Philadelphia Election Committee, and what is now the LGBTQ Bar Association. He was a founding master of the Benjamin Franklin Inn of Court, for intellectual property, in Philadelphia.
In 1997, he moved to Washington and joined the Patent and Trademark Office. In 1998, he was appointed by President Bill Clinton and confirmed by the Senate as deputy assistant secretary of commerce and deputy commissioner of patents and trademarks.
In 1999, he was appointed and confirmed as assistant secretary and commissioner. After the American Inventors Protection Act of 1999 was enacted, he oversaw implementation of the law, which at that time was the most important patent legislation in years.
Under the new law, he became the first to be named undersecretary of commerce for intellectual property and also director of the Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). He was credited with modernizing the office.
“Under his leadership, the agency started accepting electronic filings and launched the now popular Patent Application Information Retrieval system, which makes most patent filings available to the public electronically,” said Iancu. “He also was central in efforts to harmonize aspects of U.S. and international patent law."
He told colleagues to view the USPTO as “the patent office, not the rejection office,” Iancu said.
In 2001, he returned to San Francisco to join the law firm of Howrey Simon Arnold & White. He opened and staffed the firm’s office there and co-chaired its intellectual property practice group. He also made partner.
In 2004, Mr. Dickinson joined General Electric in Westport, Conn., as vice president and chief intellectual property counsel.
In 2008, he became executive director of the American Intellectual Property Law Association in Washington. Starting last spring, he lectured on international intellectual property at the George Washington University Law School.
“He was a passionate advocate for intellectual property law and the power of patents to spur innovation,” his husband said.
He mentored and advised many lawyers during his career. Among his many honors was induction into the Intellectual Property Hall of Fame in 2012.
Mr. Dickinson was a devoted husband, brother, uncle, and son. He had many friends. Although as an adult he gave up going to church, he maintained values that he associated with his Presbyterian upbringing – loyalty, honesty, and thrift.
He enjoyed reading, cooking, entertaining, traveling, plays, musicals, and film. He rooted for the Pittsburgh sports teams. He was a connoisseur of art, corgis, and rhododendrons.
A memorial service will be held once the coronavirus pandemic is no longer a threat.
Donations may be made to the Philadelphia LGBTQ Bar Association via https://www.philalgbtqbar.org/.