Douglas Eugene “Doug” Olson, listed as one of “The Best Lawyers in America,” died November 15 at his Rancho Santa Fe home, according to a death notice.
“While representing clients in over a hundred matters filed in federal and state courts, Doug was particularly proud of presenting the argument in the appeal in Hybritech v. Monoclonal Antibodies, Inc., winning a reversal on all grounds at the United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit,” said the UT San Diego notice, published Sunday. “He was also proud of his longstanding representation of Nobelpharma (Nobel Biocare).”
The notice said that Olson earned his law degree from George Washington University. After that he moved to LA, where he worked as a lawyer for over 40 years. He specialized in intellectual property, patents, trade secrets and trademarks, according to the notice.
In a 2007 report published by the San Diego Daily Transcript, Olson and his partner David Fortner explained the role lawyers played in the biotech revolution.
“Without the patents and the likelihood that those patents could be enforced, there would have been far fewer scientist, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who would take the risk to start a fledgling biotechnology company,” wrote Olson and Fortner in their report.
“The Federal Circuit reversed the District Court and for the first time held a biotechnology patent to be infringed. Hybritech Inc. v. Monoclonal Antibodies Inc., 802 F.2d 1367 (Fed. Cir. 1986),” wrote Olson and Fortner. “In doing so, the Federal Circuit took a page from the Respess playbook and ruled that the patent was valid because the substitution of monoclonal antibodies for polyclonal antibodies had lead to unexpected advances in medical diagnosis.”
Olson began his career as a patent lawyer when he was offered the job of general counsel at a fresh biotech firm in the early 80s, according to the UT. He went on to spend two decades fighting to protect the intellectual property of biotech companies.
“They wanted me to write patents on gene-splicing,” he told the UT. “I told them I really wanted to stick to the important sciences.” He went on to explain that he originally wrote biotechnology off as “laboratory curiosity.” He quickly changed his mind as he began working for the law firm Lyon & Lyon in Los Angeles, firmly rooting his career in biotech.
According to the UT, Olson established new principles for patent protections in biotech law when he won a 1985 appeal for a Hypbritech company in San Diego. This was the first biotech patent infringement case, setting a precedent for future cases.
“I personally think Doug was responsible for keeping venture capitalists interested in biotech,” said Larry Respess, senior vice president of Nanogen and longtime friend of Olson, to the UT, while working for the company Hybritech during the lawsuit. “The importance of the case was that it gave people comfort that the law could be used to protect biotech products so that the money venture capitalists were spending would be worthwhile. Without this case, the whole industry might have collapsed because venture capitalists wouldn’t have kept putting money into it.”
The biotech industry was lucky to have a person like Olson on its side. In addition to his passion for practicing law, Olson had many hobbies. According to the UT notice, he loved skiing, windsurfing, cycling, tennis and traveling with his beloved wife Debera and children.
He was a man who supported biotechnology, but also went above and beyond that. Olson told the UT, “In every case, you want to win because every case has a personal story behind it.”