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James P. Cleary


[email protected]



Jim focuses on patent law and is dedicated to writing claims and patent applications that advance his clients’ goals. He enjoys getting to know his clients’ technologies, and he integrates a hands-on (or feet-on, for his surf clients) understanding of their products into his work to develop patent strategies and tactics that afford them the broadest possible protections. His clients include action sports and apparel companies, among them top players in the surfing, skateboarding, kite surfing, and fitness industries. He also represents leaders in the medical devices, telecommunications, and software industries. Jim is regularly recognized as a top patent and IP attorney by regional and national publications.

James focuses on patent law, including preparation and prosecution of patent applications, rendering of opinions on infringement and validity, licensing, due diligence investigations, and client counseling, with an emphasis on electrical, telecommunications, software, and mechanical technologies. James is also founder of the action sports and apparel practice at Mintz, representing top clients in the surfing, skateboarding, kite surfing, and fitness industries.

Before joining the firm, James was a principal at an international intellectual property law firm located in San Diego. His Internet and software experience includes the areas of enterprise applications, business warehouse and database platforms, computer graphics and presentation software, communications protocols, and e-commerce applications. His electronics experience includes computer hardware, controls, and networking devices such as switches, routers, and repeaters. His telecommunications experience includes wireless communications, particularly base station and antenna design, digital signal processing, encryption, and encoding technologies. His mechanical technologies experience includes wave machines, skateboards, exercise and therapeutic equipment, medical devices, and mechanical assembly systems.

While serving in the Air Force, James was a senior test engineer and product team leader for the US Air Force Defense Dissemination Program (1991 – 1994), and a program manager and technical representative for Northrop Corporation, USAF Office (1989 – 1991).


  • University of California - Davis (JD)
  • Chapman University (MBA)
  • US Air Force Academy (BS, Electrical Engineering and Communications)


  • Mintz attorneys serve as sole US and foreign patent filing and prosecution team for one of the world's largest credit rating agencies, which is also a leader in fraud detection and other financial risk mitigation technology. The firm has tailored the company's portfolio and strategies for filing (with a particular focus on jurisdiction analysis) which saves the company money while achieving protections in the markets where they are most likely to have them granted and where they most need them. The firm is responsible for more than 100 issued US patents.

Recognition & Awards

  • Best Lawyers in America: Trademark Law (2018 – 2019)
  • Included on the San Diego Super Lawyers: Intellectual Property list (2019)
  • Included on the Southern California Super Lawyers: Intellectual Property list (2014 – 2018)
  • San Diego Daily Transcript: “Top Attorneys” (2006 – 2010)

Recent Insights

News & Press


Federal Circuit Says PTO Submissions Can Waive Privilege to Future Communications

August 15, 2017 | Blog | By Jim Cleary, Paul Brockland

On July 20, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in In re OptumInsight denied OptumInsight’s petition for writ of mandamus on privilege waiver.
Viewpoint General

Patents 101: Protecting Innovations

March 23, 2016 | Article | By Michael Van Loy, Jim Cleary

A deeper dive into the importance and value of patents and the process to get one – from filing through issuance.
The oft-overlooked design patent has seen somewhat of a revival recently (at least in the media) ever since a jury in California awarded Apple $399 million in damages — i.e., all Samsung profits from the sale of several of its smartphone and tablet devices — for Samsung’s infringement of three Apple design patents in Apple, Inc., v. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.

News & Press

Mintz Levin is pleased to announce that nine attorneys have been named San Diego Super Lawyers for 2018 while two others have been named San Diego Rising Stars. The annual publication identifies lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. 
Best Lawyers named 85 Mintz attorneys to its 2018 list of The Best Lawyers in America. In addition, Mintz attorneys Matthew J. Gardella and Samuel M. Tony Starr were named “Lawyer of the Year” in their respective practice areas.
Seven Mintz attorneys have been named Southern California Super Lawyers for 2017 and five have been named Southern California Rising Stars. Only five percent of area lawyers were named 2017 Southern California Super Lawyers and Rising Stars.