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University of Missouri

Innate Innovation

Dean Franklin grew up around innovators. Now he helps protect their ideas.

Dean Franklin

Dean Franklin photo by Rob Hill.

For Dean Franklin, there was no escaping a career related to research and discovery.

I grew up in a laboratory. Literally,” says Franklin, JD ’83. His father, Dean Franklin Sr., the first director of MU’s Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center, was a lifelong scientist, inventor and academic. “He would give me a dollar a day to hang out in the lab, take out the trash and go for lunch with the researchers. So I had the opportunity to talk with some of the leading lights in research and development.”

The younger Franklin had his heart set on the courtroom, however, and in 1983, after graduating from MU’s School of Law, he joined Thompson Coburn, the largest law firm in St. Louis. At first he focused on complex commercial cases but soon morphed into patents and intellectual property. He is now co-chair of the firm’s intellectual property practice group, which helps clients apply for patents and defend existing ones.

It’s an atmosphere he was born for. “You’re always dealing with new ideas and cutting-edge technology,” he says. “You’re dealing with the brightest of the bright; everyone is on top of their game, really pushing science forward.”

Franklin also serves on MU’s Research and Development Advisory Board, which lets him — along with dozens of other professionals from the corporate, government, academic and financial world — advise faculty who are developing new intellectual property.

It’s an approach his dad, who died in 2007, would have embraced. “The lesson my dad taught me was when you get someone else’s eyes on something, someone who knows what they’re doing, who’s smart in their field, it can’t help but improve your efforts.”