I wrote this on the day Al Fross died, September 11, 2012. I re-post it every year. Every year someone who had known Al sees the piece, and writes me to share a memory or two.
I thought I was going to write about 9/11 today but that has turned out not to be the case. This morning I received an email from a colleague with the subject “Al Fross.” Al has had cancer for four years now, so I knew my colleague was writing to tell me Al had died.
Simply put, Al Fross was the best trademark lawyer ever. Don’t take my word for it, ask the clients he counseled at Hanna-Barbera, CalTex, Tiffany, Seagrams, the Muppets and others. After Al had obtained for Tiffany a victory in the highest court in Singapore (and made new law doing so), Tiffany presented him with an engraved silver box reading “To the Tiffany of Trademark Lawyers.”
When I had been at what was then Weiss Dawid (now Fross Zelnick) for about two weeks, I was given a big assignment from Al, involving Inter-American trademark treaties, Central American trademark treaties, Pan American trademark treaties, and something called the Andean Pact, none of which I could keep straight. But I gave it a shot and handed him a memo. I sat on the other side of his oddly shaped desk while he read it.
“You’re wrong” he shouted. “But you’re wrong in a really interesting way, and that’s why I’m excited to be working with you.”
That is how you encourage someone to stick with something.
I went on to train with him for ten years. Every day produced something worth remembering forever, souvenirs from a career. Most importantly, Al was a role model – he always took the high road. His long successful career refutes any notion that ethical compromise is necessary to make it as a lawyer.
Al Fross taught me everything I know about trademark law. There wasn’t enough time for him to teach me everything he knew.