SIP Trunking News

[February 11, 2006]

Donald W. Banner: 1924--2006Noted patent attorneyThe Chicago native, named U.S. patent commissioner by President Carter, specialized in intellectual property issues

(Chicago Tribune (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Feb. 11--Donald W. Banner's career as a world-renowned patent lawyer--including a presidential appointment as U.S. commissioner of patents and trademarks--started with a gentle nudge from a college counselor.

Wrapping up his degree in electrical engineering at Purdue University, Mr. Banner was advised by a Veterans Administration counselor that he had an "aptitude for the law," Mr. Banner's son Mark said.

The Chicago native later received a law degree from the University of Detroit and a master's of patent law from John Marshall Law School in Chicago. In 1953, he took a job with Borg-Warner in Chicago, where he ascended to general patent counsel, working on projects that included the development of automatic transmissions.

Mr. Banner, 81, died of cancer Sunday, Jan. 29, at home in Tucson, Ariz.

He was born in Chicago, graduated from Lake View High School and enlisted in the Army Air Forces to fight in World War II. His P-47 fighter plane was shot down over Italy, and he was held in a German prisoner of war camp from January to April 1945.

His son said a representative from the Chicago Tribune told Mr. Banner's wife, Ruth, and father-in-law that Mr. Banner was alive and had been freed. The newspaper frequently ran stories during that period listing the names of freed U.S. soldiers.

Mr. Banner later had a successful career as a patent lawyer. He left Borg-Warner in 1978 after President Jimmy Carter appointed him as U.S. commissioner of patents and trademarks, a post he held for one year.

He left government to become a private lawyer in Washington, specializing in intellectual property issues. He was a founding partner of the Banner & Witcoff law firm, where he worked until shortly before his death.

"Dad had a front-row seat to America's industrial dominance, and he wanted to keep it that way," his son said. "He always believed it was important to keep our country competitive, and seeking patents was a great way to promote that."

Mr. Banner won many awards for his work and lectured widely about intellectual property law. During his time in Washington, he headed the intellectual property program at George Washington University Law School.

"Don Banner and his important efforts to encourage innovation will be long remembered by our office and by inventors across America," said Jon Dudas, current director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Mr. Banner's first wife died in 1985.

In addition to his son, he is survived by his second wife, Jean; two daughters, Peggy Dau and Pamela Banner Krupka; two other sons, Donald Jr. and Brian; three stepdaughters, Nancy Phipps, Helen Smith and Louis Whitaker; a sister, Irene Buethe; 17 grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.

Mr. Banner will be buried April 19 in Arlington National Cemetery. Memorial services will follow in Washington.

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