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A few more words about Uncle Ken

First, I’d like to thank everyone for the kind words of condolence that I’ve received in the comments, email, and by phone. I really appreciate it. Having the whole family in town was a great comfort for all of us. Everyone was at our house last night. We ordered a ton of takeout from Berryhill in the Heights, enjoyed each other’s company, and talked some more about Uncle Ken. The occasion that brought us all together was sad, but it’s never sad when we are all together.

This is Uncle Ken, with each of his grandchildren. The one on the bottom right was born eight weeks premature in November and is still in the NICU after several surgeries to relieve intestinal problems. The good news is that he’ll be home in two weeks’ time. We’re all glad that Uncle Ken got to meet little Ryan before he died.

Uncle Ken was a patent attorney. He worked for a number of years with the Houston office of Arnold, White & Durkee, which has since merged with another firm. The biggest case he was involved in was the landmark patent infringement suit Two Pesos, Inc. v. Taco Cabana, Inc. (1992), in which the Supreme Court ruled that Two Pesos had copied enough individual elements of Taco Cabana’s overall look to infringe on its uniqueness. That’s the reason why there are no more Two Pesos restaurants in Houston. I know that when I arrived here in 1988 from San Antonio, which was definitely a Taco Cabana town, I was amazed at how interchangeable Two P’s was with TC’s. Sorry to disappoint any remaining Two Pesos fans here (having cut my teeth on Taco Cabana, I always thought Two P’s was inferior), but Uncle Ken was on the winning plaintiff’s team for that one.

Uncle Ken was still consulting on patent issues, as well as doing mediation work, when he died. My cousin James, who cut short a business trip to Tokyo to fly in yesterday and take part in the memorial, told us that he had retained Uncle Ken’s services for some IP work in recent years. He said he got great advice, and was always gratified to know that he was working with a lawyer he knew he could trust.

The next time the whole family will be together is in July, for a family wedding in Portland. We have a longstanding tradition at family weddings in which the Kuffner men, led by the uncles, sings “Nothing Like A Dame” from South Pacific to the bride. Each of the uncles has a little solo part in it. Uncle Ken’s was the bridge that begins “Lots of things in life are beautiful, but brother”. They’ll have to reassign that part, either by giving it to another brother or by transitioning it to one of the nephews, for the first generational shift since they took over the role from their uncles at the first of my cousins’ weddings in 1987. I’ve no doubt that will stir up a lot of emotions and memories, but in the good way, I think. It’ll certainly provide a lot of fodder for reminiscences of Uncle Ken.

Rest in peace, Ace. Your legacy is in good hands.

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  1. Andre Pineda says:

    If immortality is being remembered well, it sounds like the Kuffners – starting with you, Charles! – ensure that each of their number will live forever…

  2. Brenda Helverson says:

    It is my loss that I never met Uncle Ken, But I do know Dos Tacos v. Taco Cabana because we studied it in law school (Seattle University 1996). It is the leading case illustrating the concept of Trade Dress as protected intellectual property. In that sense, I am proud to say that I “knew” Attorney Kenneth Kuffner, Sr.

  3. Pete says:

    Just getting back into reading blogs after Sundance, so I’m only seeing this now. I’ll echo Andre’s comments, for if it’s true that no one truly dies as long as someone remembers them, then Uncle Ken will be around for many moons yet.

  4. Patrick says:

    Charles, I am sorry for your loss. Maybe it’s because I’m staring down the barrel at 40 but I find myself thinking about my own mortality more often.

    This past weekend I heard a poignant interview with Roseanne Cash on NPR’s Weekend Edition about her new album Black Cadillac with music written following the passing of her mother, father and step-mother. In it she describes her new understanding of her mortality. She described her parents’ generation as wall between her generation and death and as each of the passed away, the growing realization that it was now her generation that formed the wall. It was a stark but apt description.

  5. Your Sister says:

    Nicely done Chuck. Uncle Ken would have been pleased.
    Love, Ei

  6. Mike Mooney says:

    So sad to hear about Ken…. I grew up with him on Oakland Ave. (Staten Island)… we were in the same classes at elementary and St. Peter’s Boys High..(he was so smart!)… played stick-ball on the streets, hand-ball in the rear of the courthouse and had great times together. Let’s see.. he had a brother Charlie, sister Judy, brothers Jim, Dan and Bill I believe..

    My deepest condolences to his family…

    An old (and admiring)friend…..