History of the Honorable Lee Yeakel Intellectual Property Inn of Court

The Austin IP Inn was formed at the confluence of two efforts led by Masters with long histories of dedication to the American Inn of Court  movement: Judge Richard Linn, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and Judge Lee Yeakel, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. Judge Linn, past President of the Giles S. Rich Inn in Washington, D.C., was working to establish Inns across the country that focused on intellectual property law. Meanwhile, Judge Yeakel, a past President of the Robert W. Calvert Inn in Austin, Texas, was working to meet the growing need for an additional Inn in the area. After discussing their separate efforts at a reception in 2008, the judges began working together on a new Inn for Austin.  

Starting in 2009, Judge Yeakel met with Brian Nash and Doug Wilson, two former law clerks for Judge Linn that practiced intellectual property law in Austin. Together, they began the process for establishing a new American Inn of Court. By August, they had formed an Organizing Committee that also included: U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Pitman, of the Western District of Texas; Lou Pirkey, a nationally-respected trademark attorney and founding partner of Pirkey Barber, PLLC; Bill Schuurman, a nationally-respected patent attorney and partner at Vinson & Elkins LLP; Alan Albright, a nationally-respected patent attorney and partner at Bracewell& Giuliani; and John M. Golden, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law. The first meeting of the Organizing Committee was held in Judge Yeakel's chambers on September 2, 2009.

The members of the Organizing Committee applied for a charter on September 29, 2009. The American Inns of Court approved the application in October 2009.

There was strong support in the Austin community for a new Inn focused on intellectual property. By spring of 2010, the Organizing Committee recruited 25 people to become founding members of the new Inn as Masters of the Bench. The Masters held their first meeting on April 1, 2010, and the Inn's Bylaws were adopted by unanimous consent. The Masters also elected the Inn's officers: Judge Yeakel, President; Lou Pirkey, Membership Chair; Bill Schuurman, Program Chair; Doug Wilson, Treasurer; and Brian Nash, Secretary.

The Inn's first year began with 83 total members, which included Masters, Barristers, Associates, and law students from the University of Texas. The first meeting was held on September 13, 2010 at the AT&T Executive Education Center at the University of Texas. At the meeting, Judge Linn and Anne Paul, Director of Chapter Relations at the American Inns of Court Foundation, presented the Official Charter Number 421 to the Austin Intellectual Property American Inn of Court.

The Inn is organized and modeled after the venerable English Inns of Court system. The Inn is focused on intellectual property law, and it attempts to balance its membership across all areas of the intellectual property community. The Inn's membership includes judges, judicial clerks, special masters, in-house counsel, litigators, prosecutors, transactional attorneys, professors, and law students.

In 2015, the Executive Committee of the Inn asked to rename the Inn in honor of its founder, Judge Lee Yeakel.  The Executive Committee sought a way to recognize Judge Yeakel's efforts to found the Inn and his ongoing contributions in helping the Inn grow, thrive, and achieve excellence as recognized by the National American Inns of Court.  The motion to rename the Inn was unanimously approved, and when consulted, Judge Yeakel conceded to the Committee's request.  Over the summer of 2015, the Inn was renamed the Honorable Lee Yeakel Intellectual Property American Inn of Court.

In addition to bringing together the Austin intellectual property community, the Inn maintains close relationships with other Inns and with the University of Texas School of Law. The Inn hosts joint meetings with the Robert W. Calvert Inn of Court and the Lloyd Lochridge Inn of Court.

The Inn also works with the University of Texas Intellectual Property Law Journal to host an annual dinner and program. The Inn also participates in the Linn Inn Alliance, a group of over 15 American Inns of Court throughout the country that are focused on intellectual property law. 

The Inn's programming teams are formed to achieve balance among Master, Barrister, Associate, and law student members. During its first two years of operation, the Inn's programming was nationally recognized by the American Inns of Court Foundation. The Inn has also hosted a number of notable guest speakers, including Judge Richard Linn, Judge Paul Michel, Judge Timothy Dyk, Judge T. John Ward, and Judge Leonard Davis.

If you are interested in applying for membership, e-mail our Administrator, Darla Thomas.