Edmund J. Sease Retirement TributeJanuary 18, 2022

On December 31, 2021, Edmund J. Sease officially retired after a long and illustrious career at the law firm that bears his name, McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC. Ed practiced law for 55 years where he established himself as one of the premier intellectual property attorneys in the country. He also taught and mentored students at Drake University Law School and was responsible for creating the Intellectual Property Law curriculum at Drake University. When he was in Law School, Ed wanted a course in Patent Law, but it was not offered. It was his last year of law school (1966-1967) and he asked the Dean if he could get a patent law class at Drake. He was told that if he could get someone to teach it and have 10 students enrolled, he could have it. He got attorney and Drake Law School alum, Donald Zarley, to teach the course and had 10 students enrolled. However, one of them had to drop out and Ed went back to the Dean and the Dean said, “close enough” and let them have the class with 9 students. Don taught until Ed took it over in 1976. Now Drake offers several courses in Intellectual Property Law including Patent Law, Patent Office Practice, Copyright Law, Trademark and Unfair Competition Law, Licensing and Intellectual Property Litigation. Drake Law School’s Intellectual Property curriculum continues to be one of the premier academic offerings in the country thanks to Ed’s perseverance and vision of what the law school needed.

Richard M. Calkins, former Dean of Drake Law School, provided a great story of Ed’s early success with his IP law students. “In 1980 when I became Dean of Drake University Law School, Ed Sease, who was teaching the intellectual property class, came to my office and said he had entered his class for the IP mock trial competition being held out east. They had purchased airline tickets to arrive on Tuesday and return on Wednesday after the first round. At the end of the day on Wednesday, Ed called and said they had made it through the first round and asked if they could stay through Thursday. I, of course, approved.  On Thursday afternoon, Ed called again and said they had made it through the quarter finals and could they stay through Friday. Again, I approved. On Friday Ed called and he said they had made it through the semi-finals, and I told him to come back Sunday after the finals. Sunday afternoon Ed called and said, ‘You’ll never guess what happened. We won the national title!’  He was elated, and, of course, we honored the team when they returned to school.”

Just recently, Ed, at 78 years young, conceived and organized the Drake Law Review Spring 2021 Intellectual Property Special Edition Issue dedicated to controversial and timely patent law topics. This publication contains articles that are authored by several prominent practitioners in the field of law including the Honorable Chief Judge Paul R. Michel (ret) of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and Matthew J. Dowd, former clerk for Chief Judge Paul R. Michel (ret) and partner and founder of Dowd Scheffel, PLLC, to name a few. He was recognized for his tremendous efforts at an event at Drake University Law School where he was presented with a plaque that in part reads: “The Drake Law Review recognizes Ed Sease, for overall support and dedication to the Drake Law Review during the 2020-2021 school year as selected by the Editorial Board and Staff Members of the Law Review.”

Other law school deans had this to say about Ed’s impact on Drake’s Law School and the Intellectual Property Program:

Allan W. Vestal, Dwight D. Opperman Distinguished Professor of Law and Former Dean, Drake University Law School stated, “Ed Sease is a remarkable friend of the Drake Law School. Over the years, he has been involved as a respected professor, a trusted advisor, and an influential public advocate, as well as in the role of a generous financial backer. He taught intellectual property classes which excited students about the field. He advised students, faculty members, and administrators. As Dean, I frequently relied on Ed’s judgment and candor. He has been a public supporter of the Law School in many valuable ways.  It is hard to think of a more valuable friend. He certainly has our heartfelt gratitude as he scales back his participation in our work.”

David S. Walker, Professor Emeritus and Former Dean, Drake University Law School, nicely summed it up, “Congratulations and all honor to Ed Sease for a truly distinguished and exemplary professional career! A brilliant, nationally respected Intellectual Property Law scholar, he served Drake Law School in expanding its IP Curriculum and was deeply appreciated by students and faculty for outstanding teaching and enrichment of the curriculum. He’s been a formidable trial and appellate lawyer, whose victories include briefing and arguing a landmark patent case in the U.S. Supreme Court. He is an engaging, widely read, most interesting, generous, and fiercely loyal friend and advisor. I count myself lucky to be indebted to him for so much.”

Jerry L. Anderson, Dean and Richard M. and Anita Calkins Distinguished Professor of Law, Drake University Law School, nicely commented, “I consider Ed Sease as the “Father of IP Law” in the state of Iowa, not only because of his impressive practice, but because of his service in teaching the next generation of lawyers who now practice in that field. At Drake Law, Ed has selflessly given back by teaching several patent law courses to thousands of law students over the last four decades.  Frankly, no one has been more instrumental in the development of Drake’s IP program. Beyond his teaching, I rely regularly on Ed’s advice and deeply appreciate his fervent desire to improve the law and legal education.”

In recognition for all of his contributions to Drake University Law School, Dean Anderson is creating a permanent endowment for an intellectual property professor to serve as The Edmund J. Sease Faculty Research Scholar. This named professorship will provide the resources for a Law School professor, who has distinguished themselves in their field, to pursue their legal interests with an emphasis on teaching, research and public speaking. This is a unique opportunity to honor Ed who has given so much to the school through his teaching and mentorship. McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC is proud to provide the lead gift to this endowment.

In regard to his law firm work, Ed has represented clients before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and argued before the Supreme Court of the United States where he won the seminal case, J.E.M. Ag Supply, Inc. v. Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., 593 U.S. 124, 151 L.Ed.2d 508, 122 S.Ct. 593 (2001) (plants are 35 U.S.C. § 101 statutory subject matter) that was precedent-setting in shaping the law of utility patents for plants. Prior to that case, he was appointed Special Master, from 1994-1997, by Judge Mecham of New Mexico District Court to manage patent case discovery and hear dispositive motions in Avonite Inc. v. Ralph Wilson Plastics Co., Inc. and Nevamar Corporation, CIV 93-1415 M/WWD.

Ed’s client base included varying sizes, from individual innovators to Fortune 500 companies and handling the legal services for those clients of varying specialties, industries, and technologies. Some of those clients included, Musco Corporation, Shell Oil Company, Northern Petro Chemical, Alcon Laboratories, Apple Computer, Zinpro Corporation and Brownmed, Inc., to name a few.

Ed has also been recognized several times for his body of work over these past five decades in intellectual property law. He has been recognized by The Best Lawyers in America® for the past 10 years. In 2020, he was recognized by his peers and Best Lawyers as “Lawyer of the Year” for his work in intellectual property litigation and patent law. In addition, Ed has been recognized for the past 13 years by Great Plains Super Lawyers for Intellectual Property Litigation. He has been a member of a number of professional associations that include, Iowa Bar Association, American Bar Association, Iowa Intellectual Property Law Association, Blackstone Inn of Court and American Intellectual Bar Association, to name a few. Ed has also written numerous articles in his long career on a number of intellectual property topics.

As one of the foremost experts in the country on intellectual property law, Ed was sought out by his clients, colleagues and friends on a wide range of intellectual property issues. Many of those clients and friends provided the following comments on what their relationship with Ed has meant to them:

“No doubt at Ed’s retirement his considerable achievements in intellectual property law have been observed by his colleagues and clients. They have been impressive. Among them is arguing, briefing and winning a critical case before the U.S. Supreme Court that revolutionized patent law regarding protection of plant related inventions. As a litigation attorney, his presence in the courtroom has been articulate, intelligent, and, most importantly, persuasive. He is able to combine a deep knowledge of the law and the invention in question and tell the jury a convincing story. But many of us also know him as a remarkable mentor. Passing along his skills and experience with clarity and patience. That is a rare combination of talent. Time to kick back and enjoy the farm and time with family, Ed. You’ve earned it.” Patricia A. Sweeney, J.D., Retired MVS Attorney and the first woman patent lawyer in the state of Iowa.

“We have worked with Ed Sease for over thirty years and with his legal skill, guidance, and wise counsel we have developed well over ten patents. Ossian is a small company. I always felt Ed looked after our interest as he would any of his clients and our size did not matter. My sincere congratulations to Ed on his long history and notable career. He has played a significant role in our company’s success and I will be forever grateful.” Ken Ossian, President, Ossian, Inc.

“I had just received word that my first patent submission had been rejected by the USPTO. I was crushed. I wondered if a different attorney might produce a different result. So, I called Ed Sease because his firm specializes in IP. Ed embraced the opportunity to help us with that patent, despite how small our business was at the time. Ed eventually prevailed, and I had my first patent. Now, some 30 years later, I have 41 patents and 1 pending. Our firm has more than 60 patents and significant intellectual property. Ed has been with us every step of the way. I have learned an excellent IP attorney never gives up. Ed never gave up on us, and that has made the difference in the growth of our company.” Ivan E. Brown, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, Brownmed, Inc.

“Ed and his team have been critical partners as we sought to grow and expand our global business. Thanks in large part to Ed’s leadership and wise counsel on protecting our intellectual property rights, Zinpro is well positioned for a very bright future. Ed’s passion runs as deep as his knowledge, and we are grateful for his support and dedicated service over the years.” Rob Sheffer, President and CEO, Zinpro Corporation

“Dear Ed, thanks for over 40 years of helping put the legal concrete in the foundation of The Three Sons and the University of Okoboji! We would not be where we are without you and your team. It’s been fun! See you on Campus. Your Friend, Herman Richter” Herman Richter, The Three Sons, University of Okoboji

There is so much more to say about Ed’s impact on the legal, business and academic community and all those he came into contact with over his career, but Heidi S. Nebel, MVS Managing Partner, said it best in a LinkedIn post, “Last day at the office for my father. What a ride!!! From the US Supreme Court to all of years of advising clients and growing the firm that will forever bear your name. It has been an honor and privilege Dad. Enjoy your retirement!

Thank you, Ed, for all that you have done.

Richard Marsolais is the Business Development Director at McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC. To learn more, visit our MVS website , or contact Richard directly via email.

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