Rest in Peace Friend: Karl Jorda 1929 – 2016

Karl Jorda

Karl Jorda

Earlier this afternoon the Pierce IP Center at the University of New Hampshire School of Law announced via Twitter that Professor Karl Jorda has passed away.

I had the opportunity to get to know Karl while I attended Franklin Pierce Law Center a generation ago. Through my good fortune as a first year law student I was assigned to perform my work-study for Professor Jorda, who became one of my mentors, and ultimately my friend. When I returned to obtain a Master of Laws, Karl was one of my advisors for my thesis. Despite the fact that he had reached the highest pinnacles within our industry, Karl always had time for me and so many other students like me who he so greatly influenced.

Karl will be deeply missed, although there is no doubt that his legacy will live on in the many people he touched and inspired.

Karl Jorda was a giant in the intellectual property world, but more importantly he was a genuinely nice and good person. All the good things that people will say and write about Karl over the next several days, weeks and months will be true. He was just that kind of man. Everyone who knew Karl was better off for having known this true Renaissance man.


Not only did Karl speak multiple languages fluently, he was an avid gardener, and a bee keeper too. He also seemed to have the ability to instantly befriend anyone he met, and his friends would do pretty much anything Karl would ask. For decades Franklin Pierce Law Center would play host to the biggest names in the intellectual property world thanks to Karl, who would invite his colleagues from literally all over the globe to come and spend some time in Concord, New Hampshire, imparting their wisdom on a diverse array of students gathered in the small north eastern community. Indeed, Karl was the type of person everyone always seemed to say “yes” to because you couldn’t envision letting him down.

Karl Jorda immigrated to the United States in 1951. He attended the University of Great Falls, Montana, where he graduated in 1953 Summa Cum Laude. He then received a Masters degree in chemistry from the University of Notre Dame in 1954, and a law degree also from the University of Notre Dame in 1957.

Jorda became most known within the industry as the Chief IP Counsel and Director of the IP Department at Ciba-Geigy Corporation, a position he held from 1963-1989. Ciba-Geigy does not exist today, but parts of the company now make up Novartis and Syngenta. After retiring from Ciba-Geigy, Jorda moved to New Hampshire where he became a professor of law at Franklin Pierce Law Center.

Jorda accomplished much during his life and received a great many honors. Chief among them would be the 1996 Jefferson Medal from the New Jersey Intellectual Property Law Association, which is regarded by many (including myself) as the highest honor one can receive in the United States within our industry. Jorda was also rightfully inducted into the global Intellectual Property Hall of Fame in 2007 for “an outstanding contribution to the development of intellectual property law and practice, thereby helping to establish intellectual property as one of the key business assets of the 21st century.”

For me, Karl was much more than an icon — he was one the greatest influences on my career and style as a lawyer. I recall many of his lessons as if they were taught only yesterday. He would tell us to always be “green light lawyers” that help the client achieve their goals and never to be “red light lawyers” who only say no, it can’t be done.

I never heard Karl say a negative word about anyone, although he certainly loved to debate issues — and with great passion. He was a true believer in the power of intellectual property, a first class gentleman and a friend to those who knew him. His indomitable spirit was infectious and will be sorely missed.

UPDATED: Tuesday, May 24, 2016, at 5:49pm


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Join the Discussion

11 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for Helen Jorda]
    Helen Jorda
    June 11, 2016 09:54 pm

    Thanks Gene for such a nice tribute to my father!
    Helen Jorda

  • [Avatar for Rebecca Goldman Rudich]
    Rebecca Goldman Rudich
    May 26, 2016 01:53 pm

    Thanks, Gene, for a fitting memory of Karl. I learned of Karl’s passing at the UNH Law reception at INTA, where the dean announced it, and it truly brought a tear to my eye. Karl was my professor, my mentor and my friend. It was an honor to learn licensing from him. He was a true gift to our industry and most certainly to Franklin Pierce. He will be missed.

  • [Avatar for A.J. Bahou]
    A.J. Bahou
    May 25, 2016 05:34 pm

    Professor Jorda was a kind gentleman, a good friend, and an excellent attorney. We will miss you…

  • [Avatar for Doug Gilmore]
    Doug Gilmore
    May 25, 2016 10:05 am

    Professor Jorda hosted law student mixers at his home where he talked at length about apiaries, bee keeping, and his time at Ciba-Geigy. He said that bee stings were good for his arthritis. What I hope to be the most lasting memory, however, is how he went out of his way to make sure that spouses of the married students felt welcome and engaged.

    He was indeed an IP giant, a thoughtful adviser, a generous teacher, and a compassionate man. He will be greatly missed.

  • [Avatar for Fanqi Meng]
    Fanqi Meng
    May 25, 2016 09:55 am

    This is a sad news. I attended Karl’s IP Managememt and Tech Licensing class in 2010. He is a great teacher and mentor…

  • [Avatar for Agi Vezer]
    Agi Vezer
    May 25, 2016 09:23 am

    Sounds like a great person, wonderful mentor. Will someone build a Wikipedia page?

  • [Avatar for Michael Lin]
    Michael Lin
    May 25, 2016 05:34 am

    Very sorry to hear about Karl’s passing. My condolences to the family. Met him many times in Asia and the US. Truly, we stand on the shoulders of giants.

  • [Avatar for Lars Smith]
    Lars Smith
    May 24, 2016 08:14 pm

    Nice write up, Gene. I learned a great deal from him, and feel privileged to have gotten to know him. Sad to hear of his passing. His “green light” lawyer saying is one that stuck with me as well, and one I hope that I manage to pass on to my students.

  • [Avatar for John White]
    John White
    May 24, 2016 04:46 pm

    Here, here. A fine fellow and a source of good humor and good sense in the patent realm.

  • [Avatar for Doug Gilmore]
    Doug Gilmore
    May 24, 2016 03:53 pm

    Yes – a giant in IP. Condolences to Professor Jorda’s family.

  • [Avatar for EG]
    May 24, 2016 02:58 pm

    Hey Gene,

    Definitely sad to see Karl passing away. The “old guard” is definitely shrinking.

    I’m pretty sure I either met Karl or talked with him on the phone. A class act on par with the late Howard Bremer.