By Jamie L. Freedman
GW Law’s pioneering Intellectual Property Law Program took a giant leap forward this summer, thanks to a major gift by Michael J. McKeon, JD ’96. The nationally acclaimed IP trial and litigation attorney established the Michael J. McKeon Professorship of Intellectual Property Law. Professor Robert Brauneis, co-director of GW Law’s IP program, was appointed the inaugural holder of the endowed professorship and installed in a ceremony on November 17.
“I am deeply honored to be appointed the McKeon Professor of IP Law,” said Professor Brauneis, who joined the GW Law faculty in 1993 and is a prominent scholar in the IP world. He is, among other things, the co-author of a leading casebook on copyright law, a member of the Managing Board of the Munich Intellectual Property Law Center, and an Advisor on the American Law Institute’s Restatement of Copyright project.
“GW Law has had a leading Intellectual Property Law program for well over a century, and I am proud and grateful to be part of that tradition,” he said. “The McKeon professorship is a real ray of light for the IP Program and the Law School.”
Mr. McKeon, who earned his law degree at night while working days at the U.S. Patent Office as a patent examiner and then as a law clerk at a firm, is a principal in the Washington, DC office of Fish & Richardson and a member of the firm's Management Committee. He represents some of the world's top technology companies in high stake patent infringement cases and is one of the country’s leading authorities on litigation at the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC). Despite his demanding schedule, he has supported GW Law for years as a member (and now chair) of the Intellectual Property and Technology Law Advisory Council, as well as a popular GW IP adjunct professor.
“GW Law has been a stepping stone to many great opportunities for me over the years, and when a school is good to you, you give back,” said Mr. McKeon, who graduated at the top of his law school class. The star student, who began his career as a mechanical engineer, impressed his professors right from the start—including the scholar who now holds his endowed professorship.
“Amazingly enough, Mike was a student in the very first class I taught at GW Law—an evening Property class in the fall of 1993,” Professor Brauneis said. “He was a phenomenal student, the kind that you don't forget even after 27 years of teaching. He made me feel like I had come to the right place to teach.”
During his early years of law school, Mr. McKeon also forged a strong and enduring friendship with John Whealan, who now serves as GW Law’s associate dean for IP law. “I met John while working on my very first IP case as a law clerk while going to school at night,” he said. “John was working at the ITC as a staff lawyer at the time and was assigned that case. He actually beat us, and I’ve never forgiven him. When he moved to GW Law, the IP Law Advisory Council was set up and he encouraged me to get involved.”
Associate Dean Whealan said the IP professorship is “just one more generous example of Mike’s longstanding support” of the program. “When I joined GW in 2008 as the inaugural Associate Dean of IP Law, Mike was one of the first people who reached out and asked how he could help,” he said. “Mike’s been extremely supportive of the IP program ever since.”
Since joining the board more than a decade ago, Mr. McKeon has never looked back. “It’s a very significant circle of alumni who have succeeded in part thanks to GW Law’s reputation and the excellent education they received,” said Mr. McKeon, who has chaired the group for the past five years. “It’s our responsibility as successful alumni to promote the school, encourage others to give back, and ensure the program maintains its status as one of the top IP programs in the country.”
Around the same time he joined the board, he launched his groundbreaking GW Law course on Enforcement of IP Rights at the ITC, which he developed from scratch. He loves teaching the course—the first in the country dedicated to section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, which deals with unfair trade. “It’s a very powerful remedy,” he stated. “When I started litigating cases before the ITC, there were less than 20 cases a year devoted to Section 337 and now there are 70 to 80 cases a year.” The course has grown steadily in popularity, attracting approximately 40 students per year.
In addition to teaching the next generation of IP lawyers, he supports his alma mater by hiring GW Law graduates at his firm. “We have developed a great pipeline of talent, which is good for the firm and good for the grads,” he said.
Professor Brauneis said he could not be prouder to call himself the Michael J. McKeon Professor of Intellectual Property Law. “While endowing a professorship is a huge deal, it's just another day in the life of Mike's service to the Law School,” he said. “In addition to becoming a leader in the patent bar and one of the preeminent litigators of his generation, he has given back so much to our community. It has truly been gratifying to watch him accomplish so much. We are extremely fortunate that he’s a member of the GW Law family.”