About Richard

Organizations Richard Supports

St. John Neumann Catholic Church

Mobile Loaves & Fishes (Homeless) – Core Team, St. John Neumann Commissary

St. Gabriel’s Catholic Elementary School

Austin Area Food Bank

The 100 Club

Eremos – A Center of Contemplative Life

Texas Alliance for Life

Hungry Souls

The Gathering at Community First!

Center for Action and Contemplation

Heritage Foundation

Lost Creek Neighborhood Association

Biography

About Richard

Richard is a native Texan and servant leader in the city of Austin. He is an
intellectual property (IP) attorney and former Administrative Patent Judge (APJ). He is known as a leader, problem solver, and community advocate.  
 
Richard was born in Dallas, Texas, and met his wife Kathleen through a high
school friend and a church that Kathleen and he attended.  They were married in 1978 and have two children, Julie and Nick, living in San Antonio, and four grandchildren.  Their beagle Duncan is also a treasured family member.

Hard work was a value instilled in Richard while growing up.  After cutting lawns for a few years, he began part time work at age fifteen as a Fuller Brush man selling products door to door.  That job taught him how to speak with people and, hopefully, persuade them to buy a brush or cleaning products. 
 
After graduating from college, Richard became a state certified science teacher and taught high school physical science and biology in Houston. In the fall of 1979, Richard enrolled at the University of Houston Law School. He clerked at IP firms in Houston during law school and became a registered patent agent with the
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office before graduation.
 
Richard has been an attorney for approximately forty years.  In addition to
practicing law, Richard taught at the University of Texas Law School and served as a member of the Federal Legislation Committee of the Austin Chamber.
 
In 2015, Richard was appointed by the Secretary of Commerce to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board as an APJ. He served as an APJ until March 2021. Richard
continues to practice law and serves as a member of Austin’s Board of Adjustment.
 
Richard’s friends and family know him as a person who enjoys the company of
others, is a good listener, funny, and easy going.
 

Early Years

I was born in 1955 in Dallas, Texas, to Don and Mary Ann Smith. Don, a WWII veteran, and Mary Ann were first generation college graduates from Missouri and children of the Depression.  Life was frugal in the Smith household!  But that environment taught me fiscal responsibility and that “less is more.”

Despite my frugal upbringing, my parents still found the money to send me and my older sister, Margaret Ann, to Catholic school from elementary through high school.  Education was foremost in the Smith household and it was always understood that that my sister and I would go to college.  

Our family moved to Houston in 1962 to begin my father’s career as an engineer with NASA working on the Apollo spacecraft, and ultimately the space shuttle, before retiring in 1989.  The space program was a thrilling environment to experience growing up. The space program was, and remains, an amazing time in America’s history, evidenced by the collaboration of thousands of people and multiple industries to place a man on the moon and return him safely to earth.  When people work together toward a shared goal, seemingly impossible things can happen.

My brother Steve was born in 1964, and tragically died in 1991 from melanoma.

I ran track and cross-country during high school and finished three marathons.  My first marathon was also the first marathon in Houston on January 1, 1973.  After high school, I enrolled at the University of Notre Dame, studying chemistry, biology, and engineering.  I completed my studies at the University of St. Thomas in Houston and graduated in 1978.  During my time at St. Thomas, I was part of a co-ed, Christian community which taught me the importance of living a spiritual life and serving others. 

Hard work was a value instilled in me while I was growing up.  After cutting lawns for a few years, I began part time work at age fifteen as a Fuller Brush man selling products door to door.  That job taught me how to speak to people I did not know and, hopefully, to persuade them to buy a brush or cleaning products.  During college, I worked at oil refineries around Houston doing dirty and dangerous jobs.

In 1977, I met my wife Kathleen through a high school friend and a church that Kathleen and I attended.  We were married in August 1978 and have two children, Julie and Nick, living in San Antonio, and four grandchildren.  Our beagle Duncan is also a treasured family member.

After graduating from college, I became a state certified science teacher and taught high school physical science and biology in Houston.  My wife was teaching elementary school at the time (she has a Master’s in Education (Reading Specialist)) and she continued to teach students and teachers until retiring in 2012.  I fully understand the challenges faced by educators and the difficulty of the job, and view teaching as an invaluable profession that should be fully supported.  

In the fall of 1979, I enrolled at the University of Houston Law School.  After my first year, I mentioned to a good friend that I wanted to work as a lawyer in an area that integrated law and science.  He suggested I investigate patent law (now called intellectual property (IP)), and I was immediately hooked.  I clerked at IP firms in Houston during my second and third years of law school and became a registered patent agent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office before graduation from law school.

Career

After graduating from law school in December 1981, Kathleen and I moved to San Antonio to begin my career as a lawyer with the San Antonio office of an IP firm I clerked with during law school.  We were accompanied by our daughter Julie who was born my first year of law school.  We fell in love with the Hill Country and our son Nick was born in 1983.  I left that firm in 1986 and began working as a sole practitioner and with another IP attorney.  In 1989, we became partners at the law firm of Matthews and Branscomb, one of the oldest and largest law firms in San Antonio at the time.  During my time at Matthews and Branscomb, I taught Biotechnology Law as an adjunct professor at St. Mary’s Law School.  That position led me to teach the same course as an adjunct professor at the University of Texas Law School.

In 1993, I became a partner in an Austin IP firm, commuting from San Antonio.  In 1995, our firm merged with the Austin office of Akin Gump where I practiced until 2002.  During that time, we sold our home in San Antonio and bought our current home in in Austin (Lost Creek).  Julie and Nick also completed high school during the Akin Gump years.

In 2002, I accepted a partnership position in Palo Alto, California at the prestigious IP firm Finnegan Henderson.  Kathleen and I made the move to California, but kept our house in Lost Creek, knowing we would return to Austin.  I returned to Austin in 2007 and set up my own solo practice IP firm.  During those years I did work for a Fortune 500 company and served as the head of its ten-person intellectual property group for a year.  I also was a member of the Austin Chamber of Commerce and served on the Federal Legislation Committee. 

By 2015, I had practiced law for thirty-three years.  During that time, I had the good fortune of representing Fortune 500 companies, small companies, and individuals in all aspects of intellectual property, including trial work, litigation, obtaining patents and trademarks, counseling, mediation, and contract negotiations.  I engaged in vigorous battles with opposing counsel and was a fierce advocate for my clients.  I also had the opportunity to write articles and make presentations before company management and audiences interested in IP.  Yet perhaps the most satisfying aspect of my law practice was achieving the resolution of disputes by mutual agreement of both sides.  

In 2015, I decided to give back to the IP community, and was appointed by the Secretary of Commerce to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) as an Administrative Patent Judge (APJ).  I resigned my position as an APJ after five years and six months of service. As an APJ, I worked with other judges on cases involving disputes over the validity of issued patents. That task required an impartial evaluation of each side’s position, and a decision based on applicable law and relevant facts.  Because of the complexity of the issues and the high quality of counsel on both sides, reaching a decision was often a challenging task. But we made those decisions in a collaborative manner.

Hobbies 

I grew up sailing with my father and have had a passion for sailing throughout my life.  I own a forty-foot sailboat, located on San Francisco Bay, and try to get out there as often as possible. I have sailed in much of the Caribbean as well.

I became a certified scuba diver during high school and took it up again in earnest in 2005.  I have had the opportunity to dive all over the Caribbean and in Monterrey Bay, California.  

I swim regularly and play tennis and golf at Lost Creek Country Club.  My wife and I enjoy exploring new restaurants with friends. 

My wife and I have traveled extensively over the last ten years, including trips to Mexico, China, Russia, France, the Netherlands, Ireland, and Italy. I have climbed the Great Wall of China and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  I have also had the incredible experience of walking the beach and visiting the cemetery at Normandy.

I have been an avid reader most of my life, with interests in history and fiction.  My Amazon Prime and Netflix choices are old comedies and documentaries.  I enjoy writing and sometime dabble in poetry.

Values

I believe in a divine Being, whether one uses the word God or Ultimate Reality or Divine Source, and I am deeply centered in my belief in, relationship with, and experience of, the divine Being.  Each person has a divine origin and is unique and created equal to any other person.  I passionately believe that community forms the fundamental and necessary structure of all human relationships. 

I believe life is to be lived to the fullest extent possible.  During my life, I have been blessed with the opportunity to sail, dive, travel, and teach high school science, religious education, and biotechnology law.  I have also been a partner at large international law firms, small firms, and a sole practitioner, and have worked for the government as an APJ.  I have witnessed the incredible development of technology over the past forty-five years. I have also had the opportunity to participate in hands-on work with the homeless in Austin.  I have been blessed with a beautiful family. As a lover of life, I am pro-life and opposed to the death penalty.

My friends and family know me as a person who enjoys the company of others, is a good listener, funny, and easy going.