Welcome to Intangible Assets: The IP Law Section Podcast, a podcast for & about the California Lawyers Association Intellectual Property Law Section, hosted by David Lizerbram. Today’s guest is Lawrence A. Maxham, the founder of the San Diego patent law firm, The Maxham Firm. Larry has been practicing patent and trademark law for more than fifty years and has been involved with the IP Law Section for many of those years, so I hope you’ll find his insights over the evolution of IP law and the IP Law Section as fascinating as I did.
If you want to follow up with Larry, please go to https://www.maxhamfirm.com/
If you’re interested in joining the Intellectual Property Law Section of the California Lawyers Association, visit calawyers.org/joinip
Finally, if you want to send us an email about the show, you can send it to IPPodcast@CALawyers.org – we look forward to hearing from you.
Click here for podcast transcript
David Lizerbram: Hello, and thanks for tuning in to Intangible Assets, a podcast by the Intellectual Property Law Section of the California Lawyers Association. I’m your host, David Lizerbram.
David Lizerbram: The California Lawyers Association is the bar association for all California attorneys. Our mission is to promote excellence, diversity, and inclusion, in the legal profession, and fairness in the administration of justice and the rule of law. In this episode, I’ll be talking to Lawrence A. Maxham, the founder of the San Diego patent law firm, the Maxham Firm.
David Lizerbram: Larry has been practicing patent and trademark law for more than 50 years. That’s five-O, and has been involved with the IP Law Section for many of those years, so I hope you’ll find his insights over the evolution of IP law and the IP Law Section as fascinating as I did. Larry Maxham, welcome to the podcast.
Larry Maxham: Thank you very much, David.
David Lizerbram: So, let’s kind of start at the beginning. Where did you grow up?
Larry Maxham: Northern Vermont, on a little dairy farm, dirt road, one-room school, that sort of thing.
David Lizerbram: Okay. What did you like to do when you were a kid?
Larry Maxham: I read a lot because I was essentially an only child. I have two older brothers, and a younger brother, and younger sister, but they’re all distant in years, so I was pretty much on my own. And my father died when I was nine, so … And the neighbors were all working farm kids, mostly at a significant distance, so I was pretty much alone.
David Lizerbram: Did you know any attorneys?
Larry Maxham: One of the first attorneys I ever met was me. Really, we didn’t have any in Vermont in the sticks, and I don’t think I met any when I was in college, so really, I didn’t know any.
David Lizerbram: What did you intend to do when you went to college?
Larry Maxham: I liked the idea of technology, and from a basic, simple, high school in northern Vermont, you don’t have much of any technology. We did have physics class and geometry class, but we didn’t have any of the wonderful things that kids in the city-type schools have, like in Newton, Mass, or something like that, where they have all kinds of advantages. So, I didn’t know much about it, but it seemed like something that interested me.
David Lizerbram: As you were getting out of college, what were you thinking about doing?
Larry Maxham: That’s a great question, because I was in electronic engineering at Tufts University in the Boston area, and I knew that I liked technology, but I didn’t want to be necessarily confined to a really tiny bit of technology and become the world’s greatest expert. I liked technology more in general.
Larry Maxham: So, the idea, from a friend, came to me of doing patent law. He didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know what it was. Well, I did interview at Western Electric, the patent attorneys there, they have some of the first attorneys I ever met, in the autumn of my senior year of college, and that was kind of on a lark, you might say. And I also did some interviewing on the way down to New York in electronic … in possibly getting a job in the future, because I had three years in the Navy ahead of me.
David Lizerbram: What years were this? What year did you graduate from college?
Larry Maxham: A long time ago, 1960, so I’m approaching the 60th year. I’m in the 60th year, and next year will be the 60th anniversary. So, strangely enough, this is just 15 years after World War II, but at that time, it seemed like forever in the past. And then looking back I realize that, wow, things were so different then.
Larry Maxham: So, I spent three years in the Navy thinking about, “Do I want to be an engineer? Do I want to be a lawyer?” And again, I didn’t know anything about it, but it all just seemed better to go to law school from the Navy, and that’s what I did.
David Lizerbram: And what did you do in the Navy?
Larry Maxham: The Navy put me through college, and so I came out as an officer, a regular line officer, same kind of commission you get from the academy. And I was on a World War II destroyer, a little, old, World War II destroyer, out of San Diego. And I finished as operations officer, which was third in command on the ship at that time. Of course, you only have maybe 12 or 14 officers. It’s not a large ship.
David Lizerbram: And was that your first opportunity to come to California?
Larry Maxham: Yes. Yes, it was.
David Lizerbram: And you enjoyed it?
Larry Maxham: Yeah. I fell in love with San Diego, and even though in those days … You can imagine, 1960 to ’63, it was a very different city than it is now. But, I really loved it and I was thinking for 18 years in Boston in law school and practice, of how can I get back here.
David Lizerbram: Okay. So, you went back to Boston for law school?
Larry Maxham: I did.
David Lizerbram: Where’d you go?
Larry Maxham: Boston College Law School.
David Lizerbram: Okay. And did you focus on patent or intellectual property?
Larry Maxham: They did not have those options in those days, so I just focused on getting a law degree, because there was nothing … At that time, only, I think, the Georgetown, and George Washington, might have been the only law schools that had any kind of intellectual property classes.
David Lizerbram: Okay. So, you got your law degree, and what was your first job out of law school?
Larry Maxham: I had done some part-time work in senior year for a lawyer in the Boston area, and he said he didn’t have a full-time job for me at the end. He recommended me to a friend. The friend turned out to be … He had been in Boston since World War II. He had trained, at that point, about half the patent attorneys in Boston. You know, we’re talking about 1966, and so I joined that firm, and I was there 15 years. And it became [Weingarten 00:05:50], Maxham, and [Shurgan 00:05:52] in 1970, or thereabouts.
David Lizerbram: And you were doing patent from the beginning?
Larry Maxham: Patent, trademark, copyright. I consider myself a throwback patent attorney, which is, I didn’t specialize in one kind of IP. We did all IP, and we didn’t have the word, IP, in those days.
David Lizerbram: Well, what did you call it?
Larry Maxham: Patent attorneys.
David Lizerbram: Okay.
Larry Maxham: And everybody knew what a patent attorney was. But then, we realized in the late ’70s that, “Oh my gosh. People think that patent attorneys only do patent law,” so then we came up with the idea of intellectual property, and we’ve been stuck with that ever since.