smartphone showing a lightbulb with 100 on it smartphone showing a lightbulb with 100 on it

Harnessing Innovation for 100 Years Harnessing Innovation for 100 Years

collage of test tubes, floating astronaut and smartphone collage of test tubes, floating astronaut and smartphone 100 Years of Innovation Anniversary

Harnessing innovation for 100 years. Few intellectual property law firms can say they have held the trust and confidence of their clients throughout a century, but we are honored that this is true for Harness Dickey. We have sought to enable clients across the world to harness their innovation to build business success and achieve the most from their IP investment, allowing our firm to grow and thrive simultaneously, decade after decade. This year, we celebrate a century of strong relationships, high standards, and technology.

100 Years of Innovation

  • 1897

    J. King Harness is Born

    Jake Harness, as he is known to friends and family, is born in Corydon, Kentucky, on April 17, 1897.

  • 1916

    Harness Moves to Detroit

    Harness starts as a Stenographer in the legal department of Ford Motor Company and then becomes the Secretary to the General Attorney.

  • 1919

    Harness Organizes Ford's first Patent Department

    At the age of 21, Harness organizes and heads Ford’s first Patent Department.

  • 1920

    Harness is Admitted to the Bar

    After attending night school at the Detroit College of Law, Harness is admitted to practice law in Michigan.

  • 1921

    Harness Opens His Own Firm

    Harness leaves Ford to launch his own patent and trademark firm on the 10th floor of the Majestic Building in Downtown Detroit.

  • 1921

    The First Office Move

    Not long after opening, the firm moves to the General Motors Building in the New Center district.

  • 1921

    Harness Balances New Firm with In-house Role

    In November, Harness becomes Patent Counsel for Maxwell Motor Corporation, which would later become Chrysler Corporation. He splits his time between his firm and Chrysler for the next four decades.

  • 1925

    Dickey Joins the Firm

    Arthur Dickey, Harness’ classmate from Detroit College of Law, joins the firm and leads a successful practice in patent litigation. The firm is briefly renamed “Harness & Dickey.”

  • 1927

    Pierce Joins the Firm

    Hodgson Pierce, also a classmate from law school, joins the firm. The firm is soon renamed “Harness, Dickey & Pierce.”

  • 1947

    Don Harness Joins the Firm

    Jake Harness’ oldest son, Don, joins the firm. Jake’s son Hugh would later join, as well. They both become Partners.

  • 1947

    Pierce Passes Away

    Hodgson Pierce passes away. There are 14 attorneys at the firm at the time of his death.

  • 1962

    Jake Harness retires from Chrysler

    After serving as Chief Patent Counsel and working one day every week in Chrysler’s offices for roughly 40 years, Jake Harness retires from Chrysler. He continues to serve as an occasional consultant, however.

  • 1964

    Dickey passes away

    Arthur Dickey passes away suddenly at the age of 66. There are 25 attorneys at the firm at the time of his death.

  • 1965

    The Firm Moves to the Fisher Building

  • 1973

    A New Office in Birmingham, Michigan

    The firm opens an office in Birmingham, a suburb north of Detroit, in the summer of 1973. The Detroit office eventually closes in 1977.

  • 1974

    Jake Harness Retires from the Firm

    Harness and wife Vera move to Arizona

  • 1977

    Jake Harness Passes Away

    Harness passes away. The firm had 25 attorneys at the time of his death. Harness’ wife Vera passes away in 1999 at the age of 103.

  • 1981

    Harness Dickey joins the Computer Age

    Attorney Charlie Blair buys the firm its first computer, an Alpha Micro, which was primarily used to run a word processing program called SuperView. The firm soon upgrades to IBM PCs, supported largely by attorneys with an interest in the burgeoning field of personal computers.

  • 1986

    Harness Dickey Adds its First Woman Attorney

    The firm welcomes its first woman patent attorney.

  • 1989

    The Firm Moves to Troy

    Another office change, this time to Troy, Michigan. As part of the new office build out, the firm creates its first file sharing network using Novell NetWare.

  • 1990

    Celebrating 50 years with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

    The firm has 48 attorneys and 81 staff. The same year, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan awards the firm a plaque celebrating 50 years of continuous partnership.

  • 1993

    Harness, Dickey & Pierce Ventures into Cyberspace

    www.hdp.com was registered on November 9, 1993. Attitudes about the commercial use of the Internet had largely been negative until the early 1990s, but then began to change. It took several more years for the Internet to be fully borne out as a useful medium.

  • 1993-1994

    Principal Gary Newtson Serves as President of AIPLA

    Gary Newston is elected to serve as President of the American Intellectual Property Law Association. The AIPLA dates back to the late 1800s and serves as an important group for supporting IP professionals and advancing an effective and balanced intellectual property system.

  • 2000

    A New Millennium

    The firm welcomes the new millennium with 64 attorneys.

  • 2000

    The firm opens an office in Metro St. Louis

    The firm opens an office in Clayton, Missouri, led by partners Joe Walsh and Bryan Wheelock.

  • 2001

    The firm opens an office in Metro Washington, D.C.

    The firm opens an office in Reston, Virginia, led by partners John Castellano, Don Daley, and Gary Yacura.

  • 2004

    Harness Dickey Crosses the 100 Attorney Line

    Harness Dickey enters triple digits with the addition of its 100th attorney, cementing its position as one of the largest firms in the U.S. focused exclusively on intellectual property.

  • 2014

    PTAB Upholds a Patent Claim in an IPR Proceeding for the First Time

    Harness Dickey attorneys secure the first ruling in an Inter Partes Review proceeding to uphold a claim in their client’s patent. Up to that point, the patent survival rate at the PTAB was notoriously low. The ruling offered a glimmer of hope for patent holders across the U.S.

  • 2014

    Octane Case decided at the U.S. Supreme Court

    On behalf of Octane Fitness, Harness Dickey secures a unanimous verdict from the Supreme Court in the client’s favor.

  • 2015

    The firm opens an office in Metro Dallas

    The firm opens an office in Frisco, Texas, led by partner Jerry Welch.

  • 2015

    Federal Circuit Reverses the PTAB in Microsoft v. Proxyconn

    On behalf of firm client Proxyconn, attorneys Bryan Wheelock and Matt Cutler secure the Federal Circuit’s first-ever reversal of an Inter Partes Review decision, thereby ruling in favor of the patentee.

  • 2020

    The firm appoints its first CEO

    Harness Dickey welcomes back former Principal, and former Chief Patent Counsel of Ford Global Technologies, Bill Coughlin to serve in the role of CEO.

  • 2021

    May

    The firm celebrates 100 years in Business

Notable Patents and Trademarks

  • Photo of a Classic Chrysler with Patented Automotive Technology

    U.S. Patent No. 1,867,358

    Client: Chrysler
    Year Obtained: 1932

    One of at least two patented technologies that the founder of Harness Dickey, Jake Harness, invented himself. He also prosecuted the patent and assigned it to Chrysler, where he served as in-house counsel at least one day per week for nearly forty years. He spent the rest of the week leading the team at Harness Dickey.  

  • Vintage Car with Patented Automotive Technology

    U.S. Patent No. 2,546,038

    Client: Monroe Auto Equipment Company
    Year Obtained: 1951

    Harness Dickey obtained U.S. Patent No. 2,546,038 on behalf of client Monroe Auto Equipment Company and then successfully enforced it at trial. At the time of the decision, the ‘038 patent and another patent also obtained by Harness Dickey protected about 90% of the client’s shock absorber product line. Interestingly, the lawsuit was a frequent topic of law school debate over whether the acts of a repair shop or remanufacturer constitute permissible repair or impermissible reconstruction of a patented device.

  • La-Z-Boy Ad showing La-Z-Boy Trademark

    U.S. Trademark Reg. No. 599,684

    Client: La-Z-Boy
    Year Obtained: 1954

    The La-Z-Boy trademark protects a famous American brand with whom Harness Dickey is proud to have a long relationship dating back to the 1950s. Both La-Z-Boy and Harness Dickey were founded in Michigan in the first half of the twentieth century, and are still going strong today. 

  • Commercial Refrigerator Using Patented Scroll Compressor Technology

    U.S. Patent No. 4,609,334

    Client: Copeland Corporation
    Year Obtained: 1986

    The ‘334 patent, among other Copeland patents, relates to scroll compressor technology for use in industrial and commercial refrigeration. The move to scroll compressor technology marked a big leap forward as it was both more efficient and more reliable than other refrigeration technologies that existed at the time. Both Copeland Corporation and Harness Dickey were founded in Detroit around the same time, and Harness Dickey has represented Copeland nearly continuously since the 1920s, including in its current form as a division of Emerson. 

  • Illustration of a stomach benfitting from biopharma patents

    U.S. Patent Nos. 4,830,010; 5,256,684; and 5,601,848

    Client: Dr. Barry Marshall
    Year Obtained: 1989, 1993, and 1997, Respectively

    This trio of patents protected the work of Dr. Barry Marshall and helped him win the 2005 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his discovery of the role of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori in gastritis and peptic ulcer disease. The firm was involved in two ways: Harness Dickey attorneys helped deliver a successful outcome over a patent dispute that arose, and the patents themselves were largely prepared and prosecuted by attorney David Suter, who was in-house counsel at Procter & Gamble at the time and is now a Principal of the firm.

  • Motorcycle Jacket Featured Trademarked Logo

    U.S. Trademark Reg. No. 1,816,946

    Client: Joe Rocket
    Year Obtained: 1994

    Harness Dickey obtained U.S. Trademark Registration for JOE ROCKET, which was owned by a popular manufacturer of motorcycle jackets and gear. When the attorneys learned their client’s trademark was being infringed, however, they sprang into action to enforce the client’s brand position. The resulting actions included working with Federal Marshalls to carry out a raid and successful seizure of counterfeit goods.

  • Oil Pan Fastened to a Car Using Patented Automotive Technology

    U.S. Patent No. 5,395,194

    Client: Thad Johnson
    Year Obtained: 1995

    Up until the late 1990s, bolting an oil pan to the bottom of a car engine was done by hand on the auto assembly line. Lining up the oil pan, engine, and bolts, and then using the bolt driver required a considerable amount of coordination and time. Thad Johnson, a solo inventor, found a way to use grommets to align everything, allowing a robot to come in and drive in the bolts. The result was a faster and safer process for workers. The inventor eventually sold his patent to one of the Big Three auto companies and made enough profit that he was able to launch a new career as a serial-entrepreneur.

  • Draper Blueberries Protected by a Plant Patent

    U.S. Plant Patent 15,103

    Client: Michigan State University
    Year Obtained: 2004

    On behalf of Michigan State University, Harness Dickey obtained U.S. Plant Patent 15,103 for the blueberry plant known as “Draper.” MSU Professor James Hancock invented the new variety, which later became the basis for other new and improved varieties. According to Richard Chylla, the Executive Director of MSU Technologies, MSU earned more than $4.7 million in royalties from licensing the blueberries to growers worldwide. The small but mighty Draper led to a clear win-win: millions of dollars in additional revenue for MSU and farmers around the globe, and more delicious and healthy fruit for the rest of the world.

  • Industrial Metal Roll

    U.S. Patent No. 8,080,304

    Client: WP Innova
    Year Obtained: 2011

    Harness Dickey obtained the ‘304 patent, which is based on a Canadian filing, and successfully enforced it at trial. The patent was found valid and willfully infringed in a jury trial, allowing the firm to also secure treble damages and a permanent injunction against the defendant.

Client Stories

Serving Growth Companies

For the rapidly growing company Algae to Omega, we are happy to serve as their outside patent counsel and guide them through the process for protecting their technology for large scale, sustainable, and eco-friendly algae production. 

A Colorful Success

While watching his daughters make friendship bracelets one day, a Michigan engineer named Cheong Choon Ng was inspired to invent the Rainbow Loom, a toy that lets children turn rubber bands into creative and colorful bracelets. Mr. Ng and his family soon built their new company into one of the most popular brands in the country. The Rainbow Loom was named the #1 toy in America in 2015 and hand-made Rainbow Loom bracelets were proudly worn by Michelle Obama.

Colorful Bracelets Protected by a Trademark

Consumer Products Launched Safely and Smartly

When entrepreneur and serial inventor Joe McDonnell had an idea for a new household consumer product, he turned to his long-time patent attorney, Harness Dickey Principal Gary Yacura, for counsel on the necessary due diligence and freedom-to-practice studies. Gary’s analysis helped guide the new product’s development by navigating around competitor patents. 

Woman and dog meditating at home with help from patented consumer products