Many claim that success in life is all about chemistry, which certainly proved true for attorney Dianne Brown Elderkin '75. As her rigorous course of studies demanded long library and laboratory hours, she had little time for extracurricular activities; however, she fondly remembers challenging courses and "top-notch professors" who provided individualized attention and forthright mentorship.
While her studies culminated in a B.S. in chemistry, she discovered during a summer program that this field only partially fulfilled her career desires. A mentor commented that it seemed like her heart was not totally in what she was doing. Indeed, practicing chemistry in the isolation of a laboratory turned out to be not what Elderkin envisioned or desired. She wished to find a route to combine her background in science with other, more interactive areas of interest. Therefore, after graduation, she set out to discover the missing piece of the puzzle of her livelihood and life's calling. Newly married, she encountered an in-law who was involved in patent law. Suddenly chemistry found its appropriate partner, a perfect marriage of seemingly disparate disciplines.
Patent law is highly specialized, requiring both legal proficiency and scientific and technical expertise. In order to combine these specialties, Elderkin attended George Washington University Law School from 1975-78. After graduation, she began work at DuPont in Delaware, where she remained for nine years. In 1987, she moved to the Philadelphia firm of Woodcock and Washburn where, as a partner, she continues to practice patent law as a patent litigator.
Recently, Elderkin won the largest patent infringement verdict in U.S. history. Representing Johnson and Johnson/Centocor, the makers of the antibody Remicade, Elderkin obtained a jury verdict that Abbott Laboratories' antibody Humira infringed Centocor's patent. Her client received $1.7 billion in damages. - Maria Jacketti