Detroit attorney puts her stamp on trademark law

By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

Marjorie Basile once dreamed of being a flight attendant. Now she's petrified of flying, although at times taking to the skies is unavoidable.

So it's just as well she chose to fly high in a legal career instead.

Basile has enjoyed a career spanning more than three decades with Miller Canfield Paddock and Stone in Detroit. One of the firm's first women partners, she helped start Miller Canfield's Intellectual Property Practice Group about 18 years ago and led the group until 2006. She has been listed among the Best Lawyers in America, Intellectual Property Law, since 2007; Michigan Super Lawyers, Top 50 Women Michigan Super Lawyers 2007-09; Intellectual Property Litigation since 2006; and this year made the list of DBusiness Magazine, Intellectual Property.

Miller Canfield was her first and only choice.

"In the course of all my interviews, Miller Canfield stood out as a firm whose hallmark is diversity," she says. "I picked up on it immediately - and this is back in the late 1970s when the firm wasn't nearly as diverse and eclectic as it is today - and my instincts proved correct through out the 30 some years I've been here.

"There's a richness to that atmosphere that breeds creativity, curiosity, and collegiality, all designed to motivate attorneys to excel."

Law was in her genes - she is the daughter of an attorney, and the second of six children, three of whom are practicing lawyers.

"Our father was an attorney who lived and breathed the law. He was still going to his office at age 92," she says. "He was a role model for civility and decorum in the practice. He made no bones about it. He would rather be practicing law than anything else, including playing golf!"

Her father's passion for law rubbed off on his daughter. One rainy week in the summer of 1953, she came upon transcripts of a trial her father had the previous year, stashed away in the basement shadows.

"I hauled them out and read cover to cover about a wrongful death that occurred on a Ferris wheel during the annual county fair," she says. "I was hooked from that time on. I particularly marveled at the cross-examination process."

But her first career step was a bachelor's degree in journalism from Marygrove College in Detroit.

"I love to write and couldn't imagine a 'more fun' major in college," she says. "However, after graduation I faced a harsh reality in the job market and I had to satisfy myself and use my education to teach English and be faculty adviser for the high school yearbook and newspaper.

"As with everything else I've done, I ended up loving it. The energy of teenagers is a phenomenon that happens only in those brief years. It was challenging and fun to work with them."

Basile went on to earn her J.D. summa cum laude from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.

"I had top-notch professors," she says. "The school had a unique combination of social conscience and nuts and bolts training on the abstract thought process, a/k/a legal thinking. Often you don't find the two together."

A Charter Fellow of the Litigation Council of America, Basile has extensive experience and expertise in trademark procurement and trademark infringement litigation and has obtained a significant docket of registered trademarks for clients as well as several preliminary injunctions and trial verdicts. She also has considerable experience in copyright matters and patent licensing and is admitted to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

"My trademark practice is a joy from a time management perspective," she says. "The deadlines are long so one can be very organized and in control of such a practice. So, I like that practice because it is always under control.

"In contrast, a litigation practice is almost always out of control in that no matter how much effort you spend organizing and strategizing, the game plan changes often and without much notice so you are on your toes with adrenalin flowing all the time. It can be exhausting, but exhilarating. I love it.

"Litigation is also full of very humorous moments and you need to have a sense of humor to take advantage of those moments. Trademark practice is rarely humorous or unpredictable."

Basile was instrumental in helping Faygo Beverages secure branding rights in its Ohana non-carbonated drink line. She had to assure the name had widespread appeal, and stood apart from names of other beverages. Another suggestion, Moon Mist, was nixed because of its similarity to a competitor's product. Basile did her homework, and found "Ohana" is a Hawaiian word for "family," making it a good brand name for this tropical beverage that went on to become a successful product line for Faygo.

"I've had my share of 'notorious' trademarks - Jenny Craig, 747, Faygo - but much of my docket is just ordinary small businesses or larger portfolios of automotive supplier marks - not too sexy!

"The trade off is that the clients are smart, creative, and fully of energy about their businesses. There are very few 'downers' in the trademark practice."

Basile, who has authored several articles and given presentations in the United States and Canada, served on the Qualifications Review Committee for the Federal Eastern District of Michigan in 2001; is a member of the Alumni Association for the Detroit Regional Chamber, Detroit Leadership VIII; is a member of the Founders' Society of The Detroit Institute of Arts; a member of the Detroit Athletic Club; and serves on the Ad Hoc Committee for Women Drivers for the Visiting Nurse Association.

She has been a member of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society since 2002.

"Mostly I enjoy the chance to visit with some of the legends of the local legal scene," she says.

For the past 12 years, she has volunteered with the American Bar Association, serving in leadership in the Sections of Litigation and Intellectual Property as well as the House of Delegates.

"My most rewarding involvements have been as a presidential appointee to two standing committees: Prepaid legal plan services and delivery of legal services," she says. "These two committees focus on legal services for people with moderate incomes. This group is vastly underserved and I've appreciated the opportunity to work collaboratively with the ABA resources and the community to provide and enhance access to justice for this group in our population."

Basile also enjoys sharing her expertise with the next generation of attorneys.

"Being that I'm getting to a ripe old age, I've spent a lot of time thinking about and implementing ways that people like me can make valuable and much needed contributions to the firms with whom we have been associated for so long," she says. "Mentoring the younger attorneys is one of the more important endeavors and, for me, one of the more enjoyable ones.

"I've no intention of retiring to a golf course in Florida though folks will tell you I'm liberal about my long weekends at my cottage and trips to see my grandchildren!"

Basile and her husband are two years shy of a golden wedding anniversary, and have three adult children, and eight grandchildren.

"A huge part of my life centers around them," she says. "Although I feel I've been uncommonly blessed in both my professional and personal lives, I would not have the professional life I've had without the complete support of my husband and children."

In her leisure time, Basile loves to cook and to eat.

"I can't think of a restaurant that I would choose over a dinner in my home with family and/or friends," she says.

She also likes to play the piano, golf and knit.

"Talk about an odd combination. I'm not particularly skilled at any of them, but for some odd reason that does not take any of the enjoyment away."

A native of Mount Pleasant, Basile is a "huge fan" of not only Michigan, but the Detroit area, and the city itself.

"I can't imagine working anywhere, but downtown Detroit," she says. "The river is the prettiest urban river in the entire country, bar none. I walk on it regularly from May to October.

"I love the breath of life that Campus Martius, the Riverwalk, and all the environs around infuse into the area. I get excited every time a new eatery or consumer business opens, from the Taco Truck to the Whole Foods Market to the new Joe Muer's restaurant. I want to support them all. I hate it when winter sets in and I can't walk around so easily on my lunch hour to check out what's going on."

Published: Thu, Oct 27, 2011

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