UNIVERSITY PARK, FLORIDA - Roger Spencer Smith, who oversaw intellectual property rights for IBM at a time when "Big Blue" was the preeminent technology company in the world, passed away while at home on Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014. He was 84.
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Roger was born in Butte on October 10, 1930, in the midst of the Great Depression. He was the second of four children born to Lois (nee Spencer) and Burtt Russell Smith, then an accountant for the Anaconda Copper Mining Company. Roger's maternal grandfather was a liberal, nationally syndicated political cartoonist descended from Quakers; his paternal grandfather was an ultraconservative, teetotaling Methodist carpenter descended from Loyalists in the Revolutionary War. The two strains combined in Roger to form a man of even temperament - conservative but tolerant, strong in his convictions but sensitive to the feelings of others, careful with his money but generous to those he loved.
The family moved to Spokane, Washington in 1934 where his father found work at the Federal Land Bank. Roger left Spokane to study electrical engineering at Montana State College in Bozeman, where he joined the fraternity Sigma Chi, made fast friends and generally had a good time – the dean of the engineering school famously rang him late one morning to get him out of bed.
While in Bozeman, he met and married his first wife, Patricia Ann (Stewart) Smith, the daughter of a Montana cattle rancher. The couple moved back to Spokane in 1953 where Roger finished his undergraduate studies at Gonzaga University. He graduated in 1954 with a bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering and went on to Gonzaga Law School where he finished his J.D. in 1958. He joined IBM that year and moved his young family to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., starting a career in which he moved around the country with the company until his retirement in 1994 as Assistant General Counsel in charge of worldwide patent operations.
Roger's first marriage ended in divorce and he married his second wife, G. Angelika (Strobl) Smith, in 1989.
After IBM, Roger became a member of the law firm Morgan and Finnegan in New York City for five years. He was a member of the New York, Washington and Colorado bars. He was active in the Intellectual Property Owners Association and the American Intellectual Property Law Association, serving as president of each organization from 1993-1994 and 1996-1997, respectively. In retirement, he remained active in the profession, acting as an expert witness in many high-profile intellectual property cases.
He is survived by Angelika, his wife and soul mate of 29 years, a step-son, Peer, three sons from his first marriage, Todd, Craig and Mark, one brother, Jerry and a sister, Linda. He delighted in the seven grandchildren he leaves behind: Sarah, Pierce, Sky, True, Anja, Nadia and Johanna.
A celebration of Roger's life will be held on Feb. 6 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the University Park Country Club in University Park, Florida. The family asks that in lieu of flowers donations be made to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Dec. 20, 2014