TRADEMARKS, DRAGON BOATS
AND ROBERTA JACOBS-MEADWAY
The Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott IP attorney
found her strength on the water during her recovery
from breast cancer INTERVIEW CONDUCTED AND EDITED BY ROSS PFUND
Q: Did the performance aspect come
naturally to you?
A: It did not come naturally. When I had to
speak in high school, I could hear my knees
knocking. The only way to be able to do it
is to get up and do it. Relatively early in my
career, I was fortunate to be working with Art
Seidel, who was the dean of the Philadelphia
intellectual property bar. Working with him
gave me tremendous opportunities as a young
lawyer to present arguments, to work in court,
and to be on my feet in front of a judge.
Q: Can you tell me about your battle
A: I was diagnosed [with breast cancer] in
2007 and went under a lumpectomy and
radiation. As I was beginning the recovery, I
was fortunate enough to discover a sport that
I had never participated in before: dragon
boating. I discovered an entire community of
breast cancer survivors who were involved in
dragon boating. It was one of those things
that greatly aided in my recovery, not only
physically, but just in terms of attitude.
When I first had my procedure, I was
given one of these typical lists of thou-shalt-nots. It was “Thou shalt not lift
anything over five pounds; thou shalt
not get your blood pressure taken on
that side; and thou shalt not engage
in gardening, and thou shalt not live!”
You look at the restrictions and you
say, “Whoa. What’s this all about?”
And through dragon boating and the
community you realize that, frankly, most
of that’s bunk. The sooner you disregard
that kind of advice, the sooner you’re
going to get your life back together.
Q: What drew you to the law?
A: Basically, I’m a frustrated writer. It was
a love of language that started out in
playwriting. But I realized very soon that I
lacked the creative talent to write great plays,
and being a starving playwright doesn’t have
a lot of appeal. The law, and specifically
trademark and unfair competition and
copyright law, seemed to be a place where I
could use some of my interest in writing, work
with creative people, work with new ideas …
and not be a starving playwright.
Q: Has your love of language and writing
benefitted you in your legal career?
A: Clearly. The relationship between [my
practice areas] and language and words
and where you draw associations, where
you find similarities, is all of a piece. It’s
heavily dependent on words.
Then there’s the aspect of being able to
use language to persuade and negotiate.
To a certain extent, anytime you’re in a
courtroom setting, you’re the playwright
and a performer and a director.
Q: Is it difficult to juggle all those roles?
A: It’s a challenge. That’s one of the things
that I like about appellate argument,
especially before the Court of Appeals for
the Federal Circuit, or arguing before the
Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, where
you have, if you will, a knowledgeable
group of listeners. You can engage in that
back-and-forth discussion on points of law.
There is the effort to persuade, to convince,
and being open to being persuaded and
convinced and understanding where the
other side’s arguments are coming from.