In Memoriam: Q. Todd Dickinson

Todd DickinsonGene Quinn
Founder and CEO, IPWatchdog, Inc.

It is with tremendous sadness that I write today to say that Q. Todd Dickinson passed away on Sunday, May 3, 2020.

As I choke back tears, staring at my computer screen, I find myself at a loss for words to describe someone who has been a friend for so many years, both to Renée and I personally and to IPWatchdog. I mourn not only a great man who, through his many accomplishments, did much domestically and internationally within the intellectual property world, but I also mourn one of my best, truest friends.

Perhaps the one thing that summarizes my friend best is the fact that he was known by one name – Todd. Like Madonna or Lebron or Tiger, only a select few can truly be identified by one name without causing any confusion as to who is meant. Todd was such a person, and occasionally his friends would tease him at events when he introduced himself as “Todd Dickinson”—as if “Todd” wasn’t enough.

Many will remember Todd as the former Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office during Bill Clinton’s second term, a job that he would tell me on the record during one of our many interviews was the best job of his life. Every morning, as he would drive into work, he would anticipate how today he might make a decision, or two, that would improve the system. He was always looking to improve the patent system in any way that he could.

Todd was USPTO Acting Director when I received my Patent Attorney Registration Number, so his is the signature that authorized me to become a member of the patent bar. Years later, after he had also become a good friend, I always thought it was a great honor to have my friend’s name on my registration.

During his four-decade legal career, Todd served as Chief IP Counsel for two Fortune 50 companies, having overall corporate responsibility for all IP, including the management of extensive patent and trademark portfolios. Todd also served as the Executive Director of the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA), an association of more than 15,000 members, and one of the world’s leading policy and advocacy organizations in the field of intellectual property, where he played a key role in the drafting and passage of the America Invents Act and the subsequent PTO rules, including all aspects of post-grant review.

Whether it was planning a new patent prosecution program, handling an appeal or amicus brief at the Supreme Court or Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, or understanding the effect of the latest IP legislation on your company, few attorneys offered such a breadth of experience in both in-house IP management and domestic and global IP policy matters and government relations.

I could tell many stories about my times together with Todd, but the one that always stands out and I will always cherish is one particular evening in San Francisco at the Palace Hotel. It was a chance meeting with several of us there for one conference and several others there for a different event, but all of us staying at the same hotel. We drank for hours, told stories, laughed, and that was probably the most enjoyable night I’ve ever spent on the road.

I look forward to someday raising a glass with him again. For now, cheers, Todd! I will miss you very much, my friend.

Renée C. Quinn
COO and CFO, IPWatchdog, Inc.

When I learned of our friend’s passing today, I instantly started to cry. I will never forget the first time I met Todd. It was in the spring of 2010. Gene was traveling on business, so in his absence I attended Judge Paul Michel’s retirement dinner. This was the very first IP event I had ever gone to, and I had not yet met anyone in the IP community myself. I knew David Kappos, as Gene had just done an article about him the week before. So, I introduced myself to him, and not knowing anyone, I asked him if he minded me joining him at his table. He turned around to some guy and said, “Hey Todd, do we have room for one more at our table?” He responded: “Of course we do!” with a big smile on his face!

I sat between David and Todd. But it wasn’t until about 20 minutes into the event when someone approached him and said, “Hello Mr. Dickinson” that I realized that this was THE Todd I was sitting next to. I was so excited I texted Gene right away to say, “OMG, You will never guess who I am sitting with!  I’m sitting between David Kappos and Todd Dickinson!”  to which Gene teases that I invited myself to the head table.  Gene had always spoken so highly of Todd, and seeing the sheer respect he received from those who approached him, I knew he was a rockstar. But during dinner that night, he was just so down to earth and easy to talk to. And through the years, even though we knew just how important he was to the IP community, whenever we’d see him—whether he was participating in one of our webinars or live events, when we saw him at other events in D.C. and across the country, or when he came to our home for our BBQs  —when we talked with him, he was not only our colleague, but also our friend.  So much so, that he and his husband Robert, were present at our home as we renewed our wedding vows on our 10th anniversary.

We were blessed to have you in our lives as long as we did and we will certainly miss you!

Eileen McDermott
Editor-in-Chief, IPWatchdog, Inc.

Todd Dickinson with husband, Robert Atkins

Since the beginning of my career covering IP news and law, Todd’s was a name that was much revered in IP circles. We speculated and investigated what the “Q.” stood for and raced to get him on the phone first when something important at the USPTO, in Congress, or in the courts came down. He was a trusted source and a straight shooter, unafraid to give the scoop and explain his position in matter-of-fact terms. He also was a pleasure to speak with at receptions and dinners over cocktails; most recently, I had the pleasure of introducing my wife to him and his husband during IPWatchdog’s 20th Anniversary party in Washington, D.C.; his is a legacy that will not soon be forgotten within IP circles and beyond.


Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author as of the time of publication and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of

Join the Discussion

26 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for Al Tramposch]
    Al Tramposch
    May 12, 2020 08:34 pm

    There are no words. He will be an enduring presence for all of us that were close to him.

  • [Avatar for Mike Mlotkowski]
    Mike Mlotkowski
    May 8, 2020 03:41 pm

    Lost an old friend and former Oil Patch attorney. Worked together and across the table on several occasions. Loved his stories! Knew everyone. What a loss.

  • [Avatar for Anthony Q. Edwards]
    Anthony Q. Edwards
    May 6, 2020 11:09 am

    Great article Gene! Todd Dickinson was a great leader and advocate for professionalism in the IP community. He will be sorely missed.

  • [Avatar for Samson Helfgott]
    Samson Helfgott
    May 6, 2020 07:27 am

    I was so sorry to learn of the passing of our good friend Todd. In his numerous capacities and with many different titles, he made the greatest contributions to the intellectual property community both domestically and internationally. I traveled the world with him in connection with intellectual property Harmonization. Wherever he went he was highly respected, admired, and most often listened to of all participants. He always had a smile and joke for everyone. He was everyone’s friend and colleague. He will surely be missed

  • [Avatar for Abe Hershkovitz]
    Abe Hershkovitz
    May 6, 2020 06:41 am

    While I was not part of the circle of friends that could permit himself to call him “Q” or “Todd”, or even “QT”, I did have the pleasure to serve under PTO Director Dickinson during my stint in the PTO Office of Petitions. His willingness to really listen, consider and make quick decisions on suggestions made by participants at various staff meetings made him stand out as a “get things done” executive. We are all shocked by his premature departure. RIP, Director Dickinson.

  • [Avatar for Neil Smith]
    Neil Smith
    May 5, 2020 07:36 pm

    So sorry to hear about Todd. aka as Judge Rader noted “Q Todd.” Truly a great lawyer and cheerleader for the Patent Office and system.

    First met him when he was with Chevron in their San Francisco at the beginning of his career. Later after Washington, he was with Howrey (R.I.P.) in San Francisco, ironically in the same space/building, as Chevron had been. 🙂

    We and the patent system will miss him. I know he beat a serious illness a few years ago, even coming to a meeting here in a wheelchair, rather than miss it.

    Neil Smith

  • [Avatar for Dr. Raj S. Davé]
    Dr. Raj S. Davé
    May 5, 2020 05:19 pm

    I am really sorry to hear that Todd is no longer with us. He was such a GREAT human being – always caring, responsive and willing to help.

    He went to India with me on a couple of IP Delegations of the George Washington University Law School India Project. He even arranged a visit for the delegates to the GE Global Research & Technology Center in Bangalore.

    An intern of mine and I are currently preparing a paper and interviewing a few key opinion leaders. I reached out to Todd on April 20, 2020, requesting him for an interview.

    He wrote to me to me on April 21, 2020, “Happy to help, Raj. Just let me know the particulars.” Then, we received an email from him on April 23, 2020, “When do think you would like to do this?” We wrote back to him on April 24, 2020, “any time after 2 this weekend and all of next week.”

    Subsequently, we did not hear back from him. It is SO SAD that Todd is no more with us. We will forever miss him and his interview.

  • [Avatar for Patrick Kilbride]
    Patrick Kilbride
    May 5, 2020 04:26 pm

    Farewell and Godspeed, Todd. You are sorely needed and sorely missed!

  • [Avatar for Paul Cole]
    Paul Cole
    May 5, 2020 12:47 pm

    Our profession has lost a friend. Deepest sympathy to Robert and to all members of Todd’s family.

  • [Avatar for Manus Cooney]
    Manus Cooney
    May 5, 2020 12:45 pm

    Well expressed Gene. I will miss him a ton. We all will.

  • [Avatar for Robert L. Pilaud]
    Robert L. Pilaud
    May 5, 2020 10:38 am

    I served as an Examiner at the USPTO under Todd’s leadership. I met him several times, in my official capacity and at informal events in and out of the Office. He was a consummate professional through and through, a “patent guy”, not an intellectual property generalist (that trend continued after he left). I spoke with him personally at a DC bar at an interesting time, right after the 2000 election, right after he tendered his voluntary resignation, which is an unspoken rule for Senior Executive Service officers (political appointees) after a change of party. He was, in a word, absolutely devastated to not be given the chance to continue to serve as Director of the USPTO for the incoming Bush Administration. He did indeed love the job. I am sad to see him depart this world, 67 is too young(!), but I am glad I had a chance to meet him and get to know him a bit. God bless.

  • [Avatar for Steve Morsa]
    Steve Morsa
    May 5, 2020 10:15 am

    A bulwark against companies, organizations, and institutions intent on crippling our formally world-leading patent system.

    Though Todd will be sorely missed, it’s comforting to know that his great work and legacy are forever.

  • [Avatar for Paul F. Morgan]
    Paul F. Morgan
    May 5, 2020 10:01 am

    Of the various PTO Directors during my patent attorney lifetime, Todd Dickinson and David Kappos were the two most receptive to, and took actions on, rule changes and other improvement suggestions.

  • [Avatar for Gerry Elman]
    Gerry Elman
    May 5, 2020 09:57 am

    Hear, hear the voices mourning Todd’s passing.

    As a member of the community of patent practitioners in the Philadelphia area, I had the pleasure of getting acquainted with Todd earlier than those who first met him when he burst on the national scene. During his days at Sun and Dechert, he manifested the ability to transform complex business relationships, and was a generous mentor at the Philadelphia IP Law Association. As his circle of acquaintances widened, he kept in personal touch with everyone. I last had the pleasure of being recognized by him a year ago upon entering the offices of the Polsinelli firm for a meeting with someone else. May his memory be blessed.

  • [Avatar for Jonathan Stroud]
    Jonathan Stroud
    May 5, 2020 08:45 am

    Todd was a such a good man. I agree with Ray: we are less without him.

  • [Avatar for Nick Godici]
    Nick Godici
    May 5, 2020 08:43 am

    We are all saddened at the passing of our friend Todd. Those of us from Todd’s PTO days will remember Todd as a leader, staunch advocate for the IP system and the PTO, and above all, a friend. He gave many of us the opportunity to grow and advance in our roles at the PTO and I will be forever grateful for that. I communicated with Todd within the last few weeks and we made plans to get together on his next trip to California. Todd, I will tip my glass to you in memory.

  • [Avatar for Randall R. Rader]
    Randall R. Rader
    May 5, 2020 07:49 am

    Q. Todd was a giant in our profession. Succeeding Commissioner Lehman, Q. Todd brought even more distinction and order to the work of the USPTO. He would always find a positive perspective even when IP suffered so many setbacks at the hands of the Judiciary. Whether teaching students at GWU, participating in board meetings, lobbying Congress to improve IP, or attending and sponsoring social events with Robert, I always delighted to sit at his side and absorb his wisdom and energy. He was a dear friend and an unparalleled leader. Heaven will have a much better IP program after today. RIP Q!

  • [Avatar for Raymond Van Dyke]
    Raymond Van Dyke
    May 5, 2020 07:09 am

    Todd was a stalwart proponent of the patent system, and a great guy. As a young attorney I remember him as the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office – a title I found amazing (and still do). I interacted with him while he was AIPLA Executive Director, and had him as an LES speaker not that long ago when we spoke on challenges to the patent system. He was always able to expound on any IP topic, knew the politics of any patent Bill, and always commanded respect. We are less without him.

  • [Avatar for Steve Gravini]
    Steve Gravini
    May 5, 2020 05:13 am

    In the last 25 years at the USPTO, Todd was the only Director to receive recognition by the Patent Office Professional Association. He was a credit to management and patent office employees for his kind and selfless service. Godspeed Todd!

  • [Avatar for Rob Randhava]
    Rob Randhava
    May 5, 2020 02:51 am

    Gene, Renee, and Eileen, thank you for these wonderful tributes. I didn’t work in IP law, but Q – as I often liked to call him rather than Todd – was a great friend and mentor to me for over two decades, ever since I finished law school and headed to DC to start my career. It hurts that he’s gone, and it’s maddening that we can’t even give him a proper send-off. And I’ve been crying quite a bit too since Robert broke the news. But I’ve also found myself cracking up over the hilarity that so often came with being his friend, and smiling in admiration over the remarkable life that he lived as such a giant in his field (even if his brilliance often flew right over my head), and I know that all the memories of him are going to go a long way in helping us all heal and find peace as we reel from this loss.

  • [Avatar for John White]
    John White
    May 4, 2020 11:33 pm

    Sad indeed – but a great force in the patent realm. He brought a thoughtful energy; and, a capacity to communicate across the various political and technical divides. He will be missed. He was a a lot of fun – as well. Not often said about a patent person! Cheers to Tod!

  • [Avatar for Lynda Calderone]
    Lynda Calderone
    May 4, 2020 10:06 pm

    Thank you for that nice story. Todd was a good man and will be sorely missed.

  • [Avatar for Manny Schecter]
    Manny Schecter
    May 4, 2020 09:26 pm

    Todd was not just a former Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property, as mentioned above – he was the very first so named to the position after it was created. With respect, RIP.

  • [Avatar for Herb Wamsley]
    Herb Wamsley
    May 4, 2020 08:13 pm

    Todd Dickinson became one of the great leaders of the intellectual property law profession when he moved to Washington, DC in 1998 to become the deputy head of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and a year and a half later the head of that office. A patent attorney earlier for 20 years, he quickly adapted to the ways of the nation’s capital and navigated the political shoals to improve the patent and trademark systems in the U.S. and worldwide. He was one of the best known heads of the office. As recounted by Gene Quinn, he was just “Todd” to everyone, and he knew everyone. He always had time for the younger people as well as the senators and cabinet members.

    After he left the government for private and corporate practice and AIPLA Executive Director, he continued to be a very visible force for an effective IP system. He worked closely with IPO and other groups to fight against the efforts to weaken the U.S. patent system.

    Most of all, he was a wonderful friend to so many, as testified to by Gene, Renee and Eileen at IP Watchdog.

    Herb Wamsley

  • [Avatar for Russ Slifer]
    Russ Slifer
    May 4, 2020 07:58 pm

    It is sad to lose Todd. He dedicated his professional life to making the US IP system better. We will miss him.

  • [Avatar for Anon]
    May 4, 2020 07:41 pm

    Our loss is heaven’s gain. Condolences to those personally affected.

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