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IP law continues to create challenges

Becoming an intellectual property attorney requires an inventive spirit.

That’s certainly true of Keith M. Baxter. The Boyle Fredrickson patent lawyer has a knack for working cases that deal with complex technological inventions and in areas where effective patent protection or broad protection is particularly difficult.

He focuses on patent prosecution, counseling on the strategic use of patents and pre-litigation management of patent disputes. If the work sounds overly technical, that’s because it often is.

But Baxter has the requisite education and background, from his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Yale University to his time working on the legal team at General Electric. He also has a sense of humor and noted his “auspicious” April 1, 2006 start date at Boyle Fredrickson in Milwaukee.

Prior to joining the boutique firm, the 1984 Georgetown Law School graduate worked as a partner at Quarles & Brady. His clients include Rockwell Automation, Inc., Illinois Tool Works, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and Standard Imaging, Inc.

Baxter took a few moments to respond to this week’s Asked and Answered.

WLJ: What do you value most about being an attorney?

Keith M. Baxter: Being able to help people. It’s not what I expected coming out of law school. I think then I would have probably have expected it to be the intellectual challenge, which is also there.

WLJ: What is the most underrated skill in a courtroom?

Baxter: As an observer of trials, I think a lot of lawyers don’t fully appreciate the importance of maintaining a high level of credibility with the judge, particularly in a bench trial. Understating the case, just a bit, so that the fact finder wants to complete the sentence, is a close second. Clients don’t fully appreciate either of these.

WLJ: What is your favorite website and why?

Baxter: Hack-a-Day is my current guilty favorite. It’s a site where amateurs tackle technological challenges. It’s entertaining for me because I studied engineering, but it’s also reassuring that the do-it-yourself ethic hasn’t been entirely lost in the era of the iPhone. A close second is Google Street View. Try walking around Tokyo with this.

WLJ: If you could change one thing about Wisconsin’s legal system, what would it be?

Baxter: I’m not sure. Wisconsin seems to do better than some other states I’m familiar with. Of course, I don’t have the perspective of someone working in the Wisconsin legal system on a daily basis as I mostly work with federal law.

WLJ: What is one thing attorneys should know that they won’t learn in law school?

Baxter: How to work smart. You can get by in law school by working disproportionately hard, an approach which kills you in real life.

WLJ: What is the first concert you went to?

Baxter: I’m pretty sure it was Bonnie Raitt, but let me tell you about my first Bruce Springsteen concert at the New Haven Coliseum. At the time, I didn’t know much about him. It was pretty amazing.

WLJ: If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would it be and why?

Baxter: President Obama. To stand in the shoes of a leader of the free world for a day would be pretty interesting and one day would be probably all I could take.

WLJ: What is on your desk that you would most like to get rid of?

Baxter: Bills.

WLJ: What is your favorite invention and why?

Baxter: This is a tough question for a patent attorney. But as a parent, I would probably say antibiotics. That probably sounds flippant, but I’m thinking of my grandmother who lost a two-year-old to a bacterial infection before penicillin. When you have a sick child, antibiotics are pretty close to a miracle.

WLJ: Where and when are you most happy?

Baxter: At least one time is at the end of a day when I’ve gotten something useful accomplished. People are coming out onto the streets and the rowers and cruise boats are going down the Milwaukee River. Things seem pretty good.

Jack Zemlicka can be reached at [email protected].

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