Today, the firm's clients range from wineries to artists to national brands like CooperVision and Sherwin-Williams Co. Aided by its younger lawyers, the firm is also pursuing more work with startups, said principal Noel Cook, who leads the firm with Greg.
"From art to high-tech to toys ... we have a real variety in our client base that hedges against trends," Noel said.
A patent shop was a natural fit for A. Donham Owen, an inventor with several patents to his name. One of his inventions was "A La Orange," which slices citrus into eight even pieces. Melville, who goes by "Mel," uses the device every day.
Mel wrote just one patent application, for a french frying machine -- "absolutely dull and uninteresting," he recalls. He favors trademarks, and his father was happy to cede him that side of the business when he graduated from law school. The firm now does only trademark and copyright work -- known these days as "soft IP," Greg notes.
"Is that the term?" his father asked incredulously. "I had not heard that."
Mel still practices. And he is quick to crack a joke. He is never without a hat or his golden harmonica, which he retrieves from his breast pocket during a lull in the conversation to play "Hail to the Chief." His son, 53, has not adopted either custom.
But Mel and Greg say they are the same class of lawyer, both pragmatic and eager to resolve disputes. After years of collaboration, they have a finely tuned working relationship -- Greg refers to his father as "Mel" in meetings with clients and colleagues and "Dad" in one-on-one conversations. The pair has held many successful negotiations aboard their boat, Pat Pending, a classic cruiser that has been in the family since 1940.
"We threatened to throw the other side overboard, and they settled," Mel explained.
Humor is not only Mel's manner but a tool he has used to resolve disputes. One longtime client, "Peanuts" distributor United Feature Syndicate, received a cease and desist letter from the Boy Scouts of America when they produced a Snoopy dog dressed as a Beagle Scout. He wrote to United Feature Syndicate's counsel that the dog consulted with his lawyer before joining the club and would not have enrolled if he didn't think it was "honest, trustworthy and legal."
The opposing lawyer was persuaded to drop the matter. "Good grief, I think you're right. Sigh," he wrote in response, Mel said.