David Swenson: Ingenuity in Action

David Swenson
Cannabis Law Special Issue

David Swenson

Inventors reimagine the world, and they need equally creative advocates to protect and defend their ideas in the marketplace. The lawyers at Patterson Thuente IP, all of whom are credentialed engineers and scientists, share their clients’ passion for innovation. They are resourceful problem solvers who use their prowess in intellectual property law to help clients meet their business objectives across a wide range of industries by obtaining patent and trademark protection, enforcing IP rights, negotiating licensing agreements and defending against patent infringement.

David Swenson joined Patterson Thuente IP as litigation practice chair in September 2020, bringing with him more than 25 years of experience as a preeminent trial and appellate advocate. He has championed clients in IP matters spanning patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets, as well as high stakes civil suits.

“As a former partner in notable law firms of varying sizes, he brings a well-rounded perspective to our firm,” says Tom Dickson, Patterson Thuente’s managing partner. “His emphasis on collaboration and creativity fits perfectly with our culture.”

Swenson describes himself as a “geek and computer science guy” whose interest in technology began in adolescence. He and a few “nerdy friends” were given unfettered access to the new Commodore PET computers at Sonnesyn Elementary School in exchange for writing educational programs for other students to use. By the time Swenson was in junior high, his father had started his own soft ware company. Swenson often tagged along to client consults and helped his dad flowchart soft ware concepts before they had even arrived back home in New Hope.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota Law School, Swenson clerked for Federal Circuit Court of Appeals judges Giles Rich and Pauline Newman. “Judge Rich was a co-drafter of the modern patent code, and having the chance to have lunch every day at his elbow was an incredible opportunity,” says Swenson. “Judge Newman is still an active judge on that court today at 93, and we did our annual clerks’ reunion with her virtually this year, just a few weeks ago.”

From the inception of his career, Swenson has crafted significant IP victories, refining the landscape for inventors. Three times in his career he has helped to secure outcomes in excess of $100 million in favor of his clients. He also won a general exclusion order in an International Trade Commission trial barring importation of bathroom faucets that infringed a design patent. Currently, he is serving as a U.S. patent law expert witness in a Canadian patent case, which involves virtually identical U.S. and Canadian patent claims. Swenson is eager to use the focused resources at Patterson Thuente IP to expand the firm’s representation in consequential cases.

“I’ve been taking stock of everything we have here to build on and grow from, including the experienced prosecution team and great litigators who already thrive here. We have the full commitment of the firm’s leadership and resources to continue expanding our litigation practice.”

The pandemic has raised novel challenges for businesses from new enterprises to going concerns. In fact, Swenson and his colleagues are seeing a trend toward new ventures in the wake of recent layoffs. The trend has inspired the need for legal guidance relating to branding, transactional documents, trademarking and defense of intellectual property. With a client base comprising entrepreneurs to Fortune 100 companies, Patterson Thuente IP has a history of delivering the same value and expert counsel to clients, regardless of size, and is well positioned to assist these emerging entities.

“We see a lot of people becoming more entrepreneurial to adapt to the pandemic,” Swenson says. “They are starting individual businesses, launching an online presence, tinkering more and inventing things, or seeking to protect their creations with copyrights. They are hoping to monetize their ideas while sitting at home and make a living for themselves and their families. People in that position need to understand what the pitfalls are. I have primarily focused on patent litigation and appeals in my career, but I find I’m doing a lot more talking to friends and contacts who call and want to know about copyrights in artworks for use in a business logo or how to register a trademark. They may be willing to do the first steps, but run into a rejection and need wisdom on how to deal with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. What’s great is how nimble this firm is in being able to respond to these needs. We have great diversity in resources and can provide help and answers for people in all of these stages of business.”

Sarah Stensland is a chemical engineer and partner with Patterson Thuente IP whose clients include individual entrepreneurs as well as domestic and multinational corporations across industries, including pharmaceutical, medical device, automotive, soft ware, consumer products, and engineered materials firms. She has made her mark as an IP strategist in brand protection and IP enforcement and as a formidable IP litigator.

“Working for both large and small entities gives us a unique perspective on how they operate. If a small enterprise is up against a larger company, from either side we have insight into how negotiations might work, and how each may behave. It’s useful to know what the other side is doing and what their motivations might be.”

Small and fledgling enterprises often face capital constraints. Patterson Thuente IP is versatile in its approach to representation, brainstorming alternative fee arrangements that include contingent, hybrid and funded case options.

“I have noted an uptick in inquires as people get more serious about their side hustles,” Stensland says. “We’ve been exploring innovative ways to accommodate representing people who might not have millions in the bank to fund litigation. Something David has brought to the firm — and that we’re excited about — is figuring out how to make that work.”

And helping people is what it’s all about. Swenson remembers some of the hard times his dad went through as a technology startup. “Software was not so easily patentable when my dad started his business. I saw the struggle of creating and building a business around proprietary technology. When I graduated from law school, I wanted to help those people. Some firms may be willing to do contingent cases, but there is a high bar of damages expectations, and other firms’ financial models may not allow them to take that kind of risk at all. Here, we’re nimble, and we’re willing to discuss those options. We’re willing to work with litigation funders and fee models that allow us to take on some of the smaller cases because we empathize with what they’re trying to do, and we want to see them succeed.”

Stensland adds, “You hear stories about how somebody copied something valuable from someone, and the human side of it is heart-breaking. Especially now, when more people are struggling and relying on their inspirations for income. It’s exciting to be able to help people in those scenarios. We typically don’t take IP litigation matters on a pro bono basis, but if we can find financing or reach an alternative fee arrangement for them, it’s very fulfilling.”

The phones are ringing at Patterson Thuente IP with challenging and interesting legal questions.

“We are quickly reaching the point where we will need additional talented IP litigators to join us and hit the ground running, to respond to all of this and keep building the practice,” Swenson says. Our aim is to further establish critical mass with experienced attorneys who can mentor associates as we grow, focusing on diversity as we do that, and adding top staff people along the way.”

As Patterson Thuente IP celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2021, the entrepreneurs and companies it represents are facing a new world. According to Swenson, it is the “character, commitment and diversity” of the firm’s attorneys that will ensure great ideas get to market and endure long into the future.

H.K. Wilson

H.K. Wilson is a contributing writer for Attorney at Law Magazine. She has been writing features for the publication for more than four years.

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