John Flannery, attorney considered a giant in intellectual property law, dies at 92

  • John Flannery

    John Flannery Courtesy of Fitch, Even, Tabin & Flannery LLP

By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald correspondent
Updated 7/13/2021 4:30 PM

In the world of intellectual property law, attorney John Flannery was a giant.

Back in 1960, he obtained the original patent on the videotape recorder, which changed the future of television, and his caseload of complex issues grew from there.


The longtime Park Ridge resident died Saturday. He was 92.

Flannery was the last name partner to work for the firm Fitch, Even, Tabin & Flannery in Chicago. His career there stretched nearly 60 years and included leading the firm's litigation practice for several decades.

"He was a great lawyer and mentor who set an example that all lawyers should want to follow," said Karl Fink, a partner at the firm who tried cases with Flannery. "His career was a matter of character and integrity, as much as anything."

Flannery grew up in Chicago as the son of Irish immigrants. His father worked as a Chicago police officer, and Flannery attended the former DePaul Academy, where he excelled in academics and played football.

At first, he dreamed of becoming an engineer, and he earned an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering at the University of Illinois and a master's degree at Northwestern University. He earned his law degree in 1959 from Loyola University School of Law.

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"His training made him understand the concepts of engineering and computer science, so he tried complex cases that involved technology and various products," Fink said.

Flannery was recognized in 2011 by the Chicago Bar Association for his 50 years of service. He also was elected as a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, a rare honor given to only 1% of the total lawyer population in any state, colleagues said. Those chosen include experienced trial lawyers whose careers have been marked by the highest standards of ethical conduct, professionalism, civility and collegiality.

"John epitomized those values," Fink added. "By his example, he taught the meaning of those values."

In his personal life, Flannery was the patriarch of a large, blended family of 13 children. As a widower with seven children, he was introduced to Catherine, a widow with six children. They married in 1990 and enjoyed nearly 30 years together until Catherine died in 2019.

"He enjoyed his large family so much that it was never a chore for him," said his daughter Colleen Janesku of Lincolnwood. "He was just a giving, loving and genuinely great guy."


Colleagues at the firm say Flannery practiced as the second chair attorney in patent cases until his mid-80s, then continued to drop in the office occasionally after that.

"He was always interested in the career and development of the younger lawyers," Fink said, "and he worked to maintain the collegiality of a specialized patent firm."

Visitation will take place from 10 a.m. to noon Friday at Ryan-Parke Funeral Home, 120 S. Northwest Highway in Park Ridge, before a 12:30 p.m. funeral Mass at St. Paul of the Cross Church, 14 S. Northwest Highway in Park Ridge.

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