By Kathleen Smith
The IP Section said goodbye to patent attorney Michael Brooks, JD, PhD, PE(EE) in July. Because of his uncommon generosity of spirit and time, Dr. Brooks, Esq. earned a reputation among Ventura County intellectual property attorneys as “Professor Brooks.” He also taught IP law at Pepperdine Law School, so he was legitimately a professor.
Professor Brooks frequently presented lunchtime topics to the IP Section, spending time organizing his encyclopedic knowledge of hot topics in patent law into one hour presentations which created better understanding in all who listened. Even those of us who are not patent lawyers benefited from Professor Brooks’ generosity. He had a way of happily tripping through patent vocabulary that brought us along, and illuminating meaning where there had been dark confusion. Sometimes he almost giggled with delight in explaining patent procedures, rules and holdings.
These past few years Professor Brooks helped VC lawyers understand two milestone Supreme Court cases, Bilski (business method patents) and Prometheus (law of nature patents).
I remember at least three times I asked Professor Brooks to explain to me the Bilski rule – I needed three explanations not because his treatment of the subject was dense but because the rule is so complex it arises for my clients in so many different ways. Professor Brooks was always happy and energetic in explaining “machine or transformation” and in trying to define what the Bilski rule was.
Bilski ruled on patent eligibility of a business method in hedging risk. Prometheus ruled on patent ligibility of application of a law of nature. In my opinion, Michael Brooks had a patent-eligible nature: he was generous in teaching his IP colleagues while having no fear of business competition from them, and he had a unique, naturally occurring enthusiasm for talking about complex issues in a way that created understanding among his listeners.
Kathleen Smith practices law at Norman Dowler specializing in business and civil litigation.