Joseph Gawler’s Sons, LLC

5130 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC


Donald R Dunner

12 May, 193116 October, 2019

Donald Robert Dunner, a renowned patent attorney, died peacefully in his sleep on October 16. He was 88. He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Jenny Sue, his two daughters, Jennifer Dunner Weaver and Lisa Dunner, his three grandchildren, Michael, Courtney and Bradley, a sister, Geraldine Sokolsky, and his cat, Lucy.

Don was born in Brooklyn, New York on May 12, 1931. He attended Stuyvesant High School, a specialized math and science school in New York City, and then Purdue University where he graduated with a degree in chemical engineering. Realizing that he did not want to be an engineer, Don enrolled in Georgetown Law School, which he attended at night while working at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and later as a law clerk to the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals. After graduating Georgetown, Don practiced at several small law firms in Washington, D.C., and he ultimately joined Finnegan Henderson in 1978. He considered that the best professional decision he ever made and became a name partner of the Finnegan firm, building a patent practice that many would say has been defined by the most significant matters.

Don argued more cases before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (175) than any other lawyer, which seems appropriate, since he was instrumental in forming the court. In the mid-70s, Don was aware that the lack of a single court for patent appeals led to varied and widely inconsistent interpretations of patent laws. Later, he served on a Carter administration commission that recommended the formation of what would become the Federal Circuit. As president of the American Patent Law Association, he testified before Congress in favor of the court’s formation. After the court was established in 1982, Don was appointed chair of the advisory committee that helped formulate its rules. It has been said that there are few who can equal Don’s contributions to the patent bar and the adjudication of patent matters.

Don had many accomplishments throughout his career, including serving as President of the American Patent Law Association, Chair of the American Bar Association Section of Intellectual Property Law, a member of the ABA Board of Governors, Chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Federal Circuit, George Washington University, Adjunct Professor of Law for 50 years, co-author of “Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit: Practice and Procedure,” past co-author of “Patent Law Perspectives,” Fellow of American College of Trial Lawyers, recipient of the Intellectual Property Trailblazer award by the “National Law Journal,” a recipient of “The American Lawyer” Lifetime Achievement award, naming him “one of the world’s leading experts on patent law, recipient of the 2011 AIPLA Award for Excellence, recipient of the 2013 Samuel E. Gates Litigation Award presented by American College of Trial Lawyers, inductee in IAM’s IP Hall of Fame, Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award at Purdue University, NJIPL Jefferson Medalist, Inductee of American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, recipient of the ABA Section of Intellectual Property Law’s prestigious Mark T. Banner award, and “National Law Journal” 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America, a member of the Cosmos Club, among many others.

Don devoted his life to practicing law, and he had a love and passion for the law like no other. But Don was also devoted to his family and was most proud of the accomplishments of his wife, daughters and grandchildren. He enjoyed spending time with his family on the Eastern Shore and Martha’s Vineyard, and he loved to ski, boat, play tennis and spoil the family cat. For every accolade he received in his career, his family can match those accolades as an amazing husband, father and grandfather. He will be sorely missed, but remembered forever.

Friends may visit on Sunday, October 20, 2019, at Joseph Gawler’s Sons, 5130 Wisconsin Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 2 to 4 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. A private internment at Oxford Cemetery in Oxford, Maryland will occur at a later date and a celebration of life will be planned and held later in the Fall.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Animal Legal Defense Fund (www.aldf.org) or the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center’s Donald R. Dunner Fund for Legal Services (www.dcbar.org/pro-bono/donate.cfm).


  • Afternoon Visitation Sunday, 20 October , 2019
  • Evening Visitation Sunday, 20 October , 2019


Donald R Dunner

have a memory or condolence to add?

Susan Ebner

October 31, 2019

Don gave freely of himself, his time and his advice as a member of the American Bar Association Section Officers Counsel Executive Committee. I always appreciated his sage advice. Getting to know him was a true pleasure. He was one in a billion. He will most certainly be missed. My sincere condolences to Don's wife and children. Susan

Sheila and John Hollis

October 21, 2019

Wonderful, brilliant Don, we will miss you terribly on the Standing Committee on the Law Library of Congress and so much more. God rest his witty, insightful genius and bring peace and bright memories of Don to his adorable sidekick Jenny Sue and his superb daughters. He was a favorite to all who had the privilege of knowing him. Sheila and John Hollis

Eugenia Astrain Covarrubias

October 21, 2019

Dear Mrs Dunner,
My parents, Cary and Santiago Astrain, lived next door to you on Highland Dr in Kenwood.
They always spoke very fondly of you and your husband.
We send you our deepest condolences,

Juan and Eugenia A. Covarrubias

Mike Elmer

October 20, 2019

Don Dunner had a relentless commitment to excellence that impacted everyone with whom he had substantive contact. Like all of his partners and those lucky enough to be among his friends, I will be forever thankful.
Mike Elmer

Christine Nicoll Parson

October 18, 2019

Thank you Don and Jenny Sue for allowing me into your life as I babysat for you. You were an inspiration to me. I have always appreciated both your friendship and your guidance.
Thank you
Chris Nicoll Parson