David Kline passed away last month after battling esophageal cancer. He was an unsung hero in the quest to make intellectual property better understood and more widely accepted.
David was best-known in the IP community for Rembrandts in the Attic, a still controversial book about patent monetization he co-wrote with Kevin Rivette and published in 1999. Later, “The Burning of the Ships” with Marshall Phelps, about Microsoft’s evolution in IP strategy and licensing.
David was responsible for writing and editing “The Intangible Advantage,” an important text book for students, that is currently distributed for free by the Michelson Institute for Intellectual Property.
A Pulitzer-nominated journalist, ghost writer and business consultant, David was a former columnist for Wired and Upside magazines; reporter for New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Atlantic, NBC News, CBS News, and Rolling Stone; consultant to Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard and Accenture.
On a personal level, David and I were colleagues for more than twenty years, sharing stories by phone and at conferences. We had several clients in common and had discussed having Brody Berman Associates acquire his business to form a the largest IP communications consultancy. He understood the role of good communications and education in IP value, and was interested in investor relations.
David was generous about my writing and would surprise me with a note or phone call about an Intangible Investor column or IP CloseUp post. We helped each other on projects, pointing in the right direction or sharing contacts. Occasionally, we pilfered from each other in IP-affirming ways that made each of us feel good about what we produced.
David will be remembered for his clear, concise prose, broad understanding of IP and legal concepts in the context of business and the human story. He told me on more than one occasion that he preferred not to be known as a ‘ghost’ writer, even though he penned many scripts and op-eds for CEOs, but as a collaborator, conversant in the topic he covered. Marshall and many others spoke highly of David and worked closely with him in Forbes and other publications.
David and I were to meet for a coffee when I was in Portland in 2019, but he was still mending from a broken a bone in his foot. When I last spoke with him a few months ago he was dour about the prospects for getting IP on the editorial page of business or political media: “If it does not intersect with Covid or Trump they don’t want to know about it,” he told me. “In the end, it’s all about timing and luck.”
David’s impeccable reporter’s instincts were rarely off. I am sure he is still taking notes and sending them. Rest in peace, my friend.
Photo from davidkline.com