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Talking Trademarks with Mary Boney Denison: Commissioner for Trademarks at the United States Patent

Madiha Khan Student Writer, Windsor Law LTEC Lab Dual J.D., 2019

Mary Boney Denison, the Commissioner for Trademarks at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), joined students and faculty at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law for a talk on Friday, September 7, 2018. The talk was organized and presented by the International Intellectual Property Law Clinic. During her talk, Boney Denison discussed her work at the USPTO, her career path to becoming Commissioner, and answered questions by students interested in pursuing a career with the USPTO.

To start off the discussion, Boney Denison shared her own career path and how she transitioned from practicing trademark prosecution/litigation as a lawyer to working as the Commissioner for Trademarks at the USPTO. When it came to practicing IP law, Denison said that it “wasn’t something that I had ever planned.” While completing her undergraduate studies at Duke University, Boney Denison spent her junior year at a French university in Paris, studying art and curation. After graduating from Duke, Boney Denison was adamant on returning to Paris for good.  However, her mother was staunchly pragmatic about the benefits of higher education and convinced her to give law school a chance.

After graduating from the University of North Carolina School of Law, Boney Denison moved to New York City and started off as an associate at the litigation department of a small firm. As a young associate she had the opportunity to do trademark work for major international brands (such a Burberry), and this led her to developing both interest and experience in the field of trademark law.  This interest led Boney Denison to pursue trademark law as her chosen field, and she worked in the area of trademark law as a partner at Graham & James LLP for 10 years. From 1996 to 2011, she worked as a founding partner at Manelli, Denison & Selter PLLC in Washington, D.C. While in private practice, she became an active participant at the International Trademark Association (INTA). She served as a member of the Board of Directors of INTA for three years and served a three-year term on the USPTO’s Trademark Public Advisory Committee (TPAC) before stepping down to take on her current role as the Commissioner for Trademarks at the USPTO.

Currently as the Commissioner for Trademarks at the USPTO, Boney Denison oversees all aspects of the trademarks organization, including policy, operations and budgets relating to trademark examination, registration, and maintenance.

Throughout the course of her talk, Boney Denison encouraged students interested in trademark law to apply to the USPTO and discussed the hiring and interviewing process for law students. She recommended that students interested in applying to the USPTO take advantage of opportunities that showcase a strong interest in intellectual property or trademark law while in law school. For example, she suggested that clinical courses were beneficial, such as those offered by the International Intellectual Property Law Clinic.


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