de Angeli is a modern day Renaissance man
Most Jamestown residents recognize Michael de Angeli as Chairman of the Harbor Management Commission and a sailboat racing enthusiast. Few are aware that he is a prominent attorney specializing in the complex field of international patent law.
Although he did not disclose the details of the cases, de Angeli has taken both Toyota and Kodak to court and won. But he was quick to say, "I also lost a case against IBM." The rules of patent law are subject to interpretation and application, and taking a case to court can often be a long and involved ordeal, he said.
De Angeli managed to secure a patent for himself for an innovative exercise machine that he invented, and he considered that to be a real coup. "So many inventions appear similar, especially in the area of exercise products. It's so easy to infringe on another patent without being aware of it," he said. However, he was never able to secure commercial interest in the invention and the patent has now expired.
He explained that he enjoys patent law because "every day presents a new challenge. All cases are different. And I have the opportunity to work with some very creative people on some fascinating inventions. Going to work is always interesting," he said.
Although he has competed in many arenas, including playing college basketball and later rac- ing motorcycles, cars, and now sailboats, "there is no thrill like winning an important case for a deserving client against a worthy adversary," de Angeli explained.
The attorney has worked in all aspects of patent practice. According to his resume, his experience includes prosecution and defense of patent infringement and trade secret litigation in various U. S. District Courts and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, opposition proceedings at the European Patent Office, appeals of decisions at the Japanese Patent Office, and licensing negotiations with U. S. and foreign corporations. He currently represents Argus Analyzers, a local company that manufactures digital battery analyzers.
When de Angeli goes to work, he does not have to go far. His massive, well-appointed home office sits above a garage and state-of-the-art carpentry and machine shop. There, he indulges in his second passion with love and precision - boat building.
A glassed-in balcony in his office offers a gallery view of a collection of boats and other watercraft that he has built or are works-in-progress. Directly below the balcony, his current project, a 1938 Herreshoff Twelveand a-Half sailboat, which means 12.5-feet on the waterline, sits upside down on a work platform. The racing sloop is going through complete reconstruction.
De Angeli said that he owns half-a-dozen boats in all, "Too many!" and he enjoys racing in the Tuesday night sailboat races sponsored by the Jamestown Yacht Club. He said that he learned sailing basics like he learned many other things, by reading books. He did, however, take sailing lessons with his wife, Vicki, before they bought a share in their first sailboat.
He learned carpentry and mechanics from his father and managed to work his way through college with summer and parttime jobs as a pipe fitter, machinist, and welder.
Before de Angeli earned his law degree, he attended the University of Pennsylvania, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in physics in 1973. Although he was a dean's list student, he thought his talents were better suited elsewhere and he applied for admittance to law school at where he met his wife and graduated in 1976. He then took a special government patent exam and has been involved in patent law ever since.
He is admitted to both the Pennsylvania and Maryland Bars, and worked in a number of firms before establishing his own practice in 1991. "I'm not a member of the Rhode Island Bar because it isn't necessary," he said. "All patent litigation takes place in the federal courts."
The family rented a house on East Shore Road in July of 1999 and 2000, and got to love Jamestown. "It was actually the Kodak case, in which I represented a North Kingstown company, that brought us here," de Angeli said. "We bought the house where we presently live in 2001. I built the shop and office afterwards.
"Vicki started selling real estate with Island Realty three years ago and that's worked out very well. She's also the president of the Jamestown Chamber of Commerce," he said.
The de Angelis have two children, Adam, 26, who graduated from the University of Michigan in 2003 with a degree in computer science. He is presently the IT manager for the Ron Paul presidential campaign. Their recently married daughter, Christine Moberg, 24, is studying for her doctorate in clinical psychology at the University of Wisconsin.
In addition to his law practice, boat building, sailboat racing, and chairing the harbor commission, de Angeli recently began writing his first novel. "It's a biotech patent thriller," he said. "I enjoy writing about law, because it's something I know, in a nonlegal style. The subject is topical and it's a what-if story that could very well happen. I got some technical advice from a patent attorney friend who specializes in biotechnology, and it's great fun. So we'll see what happens."
De Angeli came by his many talents quite honestly. He talked fondly about his formative years, and the influences of his talented parents. He was the oldest of four boys. His grandmother, Marguerite de Angeli, was a prolific and highly respected author of children's books, several of which are still in print. His mother was a librarian, and his father was a journalist, harpsichord builder, and restorer of antique automobiles.
If authoring a novel is in keeping with his many other accomplishments, Michael de Angeli's first book promises to be a resounding success.