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J. Bennett Clark brought courtroom savvy to his intellectual property practice at Senniger Powers


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When J. Bennett Clark joined St. Louis-based Senniger Powers, the largest intellectual property firm in Missouri, he had very little knowledge of intellectual property law.

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J. Bennett Clark brought courtroom savvy to his intellectual property practice at Senniger Powers

  1. 1. PARTNER PROFILE 1. 800.973.1177SPONSORED BY BCG ATTORNEY SEARCH J. Bennett Clark Brought Courtroom Savvy to His Intellectual Property Practice at Senniger Powers [By Kenneth Davis] When J. Bennett Clark joined St. Louis-based Senniger Powers, the largest intellectual property firm in Missouri, he had very little knowledge of intellectual property law.“In 1991, Senniger approached me and said, clients such as Paramount Pictures Group, Clark discussed what he enjoyed most about‘Would you be interested in doing intellectual Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, Inc., Warner his job:property law?’ and I said, ‘Well, if you tell me Brothers Entertainment, Inc., and the Motionwhat the hell it is, I would strongly consider Picture Association of America. And once, “I would say knowing that I am challengingit,’” he laughed. he even represented the Grateful Dead and myself every day in an area of litigation that helped the band obtain ex parte orders that is by far the most difficult of any litigation I’veBut, as it turned out, the firm wasn’t looking led to the seizure of counterfeit Dead goods at ever handled-criminal, civil, you name it,” hefor an expert in intellectual property law; it a concert in St. Louis in 1995. said. “Patent infringement is a real mind-was looking for someone who knew their way melter, and to know that you’re doing reallyaround a courtroom and had the ability to In his practice, Clark principally handles difficult stuff, most of it big-ticket in terms ofconnect with a judge and jury. And those were patent infringement, trademark infringement, the dollars involved, you definitely know thatqualities that Clark possessed in abundance. and copyright infringement lawsuits. He said you are maxing yourself out in terms of theHe had spent four years as a federal about 80 percent of his time is spent on patent challenges that you’re subjecting yourselfprosecutor for the state of Missouri and infringement matters. He’s also chair of his to…. It just kind of keeps you sharp.”worked at two different St. Louis law firms firm’s litigation department. He said recentlywhere he handled complex federal litigation he’s been heavily involved in incentive and Clark majored in Political Science as anmatters for a number of years. loyalty card space litigation. undergrad at Duke University and graduated with honors in 1976. After graduation, he“When Senniger approached me, that was “I do a lot of work for American Express took a year off to travel to Europe. Clark,a time in which the intellectual property and Maritz, which are large players in the who played sports all through high schoolsegment of the law business was changing,” incentive and loyalty card market,” Clark said. and college, was offered a chance to playClark explained. “Historically, intellectual professional basketball in England andproperty, particularly in patent work, had He added that all the incentive and loyalty also had the opportunity to work as aalways been done by specialty intellectual matters are patent infringement litigation. correspondent/reporter for United Pressproperty firms, and you had patent lawyers International in Paris. In addition, he hadhandling big-ticket litigation. And the “Either we are suing on patents we own or some interest in going to law school.problem that was happening was judges and we are being sued on patents other peoplejuries found the patent attorneys to be very own,” he explained. “There are hundreds “I had to decide, do I want to continue the lifetechnical; and the patent attorneys kind of and hundreds of millions of dollars issued on of Riley, hanging out and playing hoops inassumed that the judge and jury understood these cards annually. Even though when you some European city, or do I want to get downthe patent laws as well as they did, and that, hear the topic, it seems a little dry, but once to it?” he said. “And I applied to a bunch of lawof course, was not usually the case.” you get into it, you realize there can be a lot of schools, and I decided that if I got accepted money at stake.” by the University of Virginia, that was anIt didn’t take long for Clark to pick up on opportunity that I couldn’t pass up; that wouldintellectual property law. He now has a He said most of the work he does for his be the tie-breaker. And if not, I don’t knowthriving IP practice at Senniger and has entertainment clients involves copyright what I would have done, to be honest.”represented high-profile entertainment infringement litigation. The University of Virginia School of LawPAGE continued on back
  2. 2. PARTNER PROFILE 1. 800.973.1177SPONSORED BY BCG ATTORNEY SEARCHaccepted Clark, and he started his first year in either obtaining money or defending against was recently a lecturer and demonstrator1977 and graduated in 1980. somebody else’s claim, and it’s successful. in the trial advocacy program put on by the That feeling of friendship and affinity that you University of Missouri. He said he gets greatRight after law school, Clark worked for have with the client who appreciates your satisfaction out of teaching.federal litigation boutique Guilfoil, Symington, help, that’s probably the single best thing.”Petzall Shomake, where he said he “first “It makes me feel younger and morebecame exposed to the wonders of complex Clark discussed some of the most difficult energized,” Clark said. “It makes me feelfederal litigation.” challenges of his work: like if I can help pass some of the secrets of effective advocacy to younger people, thenAfter working at Guilfoil Symington for four “I would say just getting your arms around maybe those secrets will live on after I’myears, Clark served as Assistant United States what is new and different about a given gone.”Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, invention compared to what you might havewhere he prosecuted federal criminal cases done before,” he said. “We’re constantly He had the following advice for young lawyers:for the United States Government. He analyzing, ‘Is an invention new? What partremained there for four years. of it is novel? What part of it is different?’ “You know, I tend to trust the worriers,” And that means you have to study both the he said. “I tend to trust if you think you’reIn 1988, Clark joined St. Louis-based firm patent you’re looking at now and the patents worrying too much about a given caseGallop, Johnson Neuman where he was and other technology that’s existed in the or issue, you’re not. The people who geta partner. There, he principally handled past. Because you can only get patents on in trouble are the ones who are alwaysfederal commercial litigation and white-collar subject matter that’s new and not obvious. super sure of the answers, always smiling,criminal work. He joined Senniger Powers as And so studying and just getting a feel for the confident, relaxed. Prepare to fret if youa partner in 1991. essence of an invention in light of all that’s wanna be a good lawyer, but don’t worry gone before can be really challenging.” about it when you do, because that’s whereClark said one of the highlights of his you should be. Get used to waking up at threeprofessional career was when he prosecuted Clark said for many years he was a member in the morning and thinking about somethinga big bank fraud case back when he was of the University of Virginia Trial Advocacy that bubbles up to the surface while youAssistant United States attorney. He said that Institute where he taught law students and were sleeping. Look forward to an extremelyhe and his colleagues were on the front page practicing attorneys trial techniques. And he challenging, sometimes exhausting, butof the paper for a month during the trial. ultimately rewarding profession where you get out of it about as much as you put in.”“That was a special form of adrenaline, you About Senniger Powersknow, to be operating in the public eye like Clark said one of his biggest influences isthat,” he said. Senniger Powers was established in 1919 Senniger Powers partner David Harlan, and is the largest intellectual property with whom he has worked in three differentClark got convictions on all counts for the firm in Missouri. The firm provides a full offices.head of the bank and said that was a “great spectrum of services in IP law, rangingwin.” from government administrative matters, “He is a very wise man,” Clark said. “He’s such as obtaining patents (in the U.S. and probably, in a lot of ways, my hero in the law.He said other highlights include having a abroad), trademarks, and copyrights to all I mean, he has obtained some of the biggestchance to argue cases before the courts of aspects of litigation to enforce and defend verdicts in the history of this district, and I’veappeals in criminal cases. clients’ rights with respect to intellectual learned so much from him. I also look up to property. Through its network of foreign my father-in-law, Judge George Gunn, who is“That’s very uplifting,” Clark said. “You feel associates, the firm assists its clients in now deceased. But he was a gentle, wonderfulkind of like this why I went to law school similar matters throughout the world. The man and a great judge.”if you’re standing in an appellate court firm has seen significant growth throughdelivering an argument. That’s special. the years and has added numerous Clark was born in St. Louis Missouri butAnother highlight is having a chance to work Fortune 500 and other national and said he moved around a lot while growing upwith a client who’s got a goal at the start of international companies to its clientele. It because his father was a journalist for TIMEthe representation; and then after two or has the one office in St. Louis, MO. magazine.three or four years, you’ve met your objective,PAGE continued
  3. 3. PARTNER PROFILE 1. 800.973.1177SPONSORED BY BCG ATTORNEY SEARCHHe and his wife, Becky, have been married the fall, attending the Fulbright Honors ON THE NETfor almost 23 years and have four children: College there, and swimming for the LadyBennett (21), Libby (19), Jessie (17), and Razorbacks. Maggie is also a national-level Senniger PowersMaggie (15). Clark said that his family is one swimmer, who is beginning to entertain www.senniger.comof his biggest sources of inspiration. approaches being made to her by colleges…. There are a lot of days when I am half Motion Picture Association of America“Truthfully, what makes me tick is I draw inclined to be a slug by nature, but when I www.mpaa.orginspiration from my kids and my wife, who’s see what they’re doing, it makes me prouda great mom,” he said. “My daughter Libby and keeps me stepping lively. I don’t have to University of Virginia School of Lawis a special-needs child [she suffers from go any further than my home to see people Syndrome] and having watched that I can draw motivation from.”her overcome so much to become a highschool graduate, and I’m just so proud of Clark said one of his hobbies is watching hisher. My son Bennett is a junior swimmer at kids compete in swim competitions, wherethe University of Missouri, a school record he also serves as an announcer. He said heholder and Olympic Trials qualifier. Jessie also enjoys playing his guitar in the quiet ofis a national-level swimmer who will be his basement and imagining he’s either Johnattending the University of Arkansas in Lennon or Neil Young.PAGE