“Regrets, I’ve had a few. But then again, too few to mention. I did what I had to do. And saw it through without exemption.” My Way Music and Lyrics by Paul Anka
For the past 40 years or so, give or take a few forays into patent law, my professional world has revolved around brands, symbols, logos, and colors–source identifying devices that we collectively define as “Marks.” But on Father’s Day 2020, my thoughts turn to a Mark of different sort, my dad, Mark Litowitz, who died earlier this year after a short illness, just one day shy of his 91st birthday.
As the above lyric from “My Way” hints at, Dad’s favorite musician was Frank Sinatra, another Jersey Boy just a few years older than Dad and whose home town of Hoboken was only a few turnpike exits north of Trenton, where Dad spent his entire life.
Like Sinatra, our Mark was a symbol of style and class. He never left the house without perfectly pressed slacks, a crisp shirt, and polished loafers with no sign of wear at either heel or toe. There was a brief flirtation with two-piece polyester leisure suits in the early 1970s when those sartorial atrocities somehow managed to infiltrate the middle-age suburban zeitgeist. But except for that short-lived fashion faux pas, Dad’s signature look, like a good brand, never varied. No jeans, no t-shirts, no shorts, no sneakers. Those restaurant signs that read “No Shirt. No Shoes. No Service” were meant for others, not our Mark.
Like the best trademarks, our Mark was distinctive, sometimes even arbitrary, the highest praise for a trademark, (but perhaps not so great for a person, especially when paired with “capricious.”) As much as Dad idolized one Vegas icon–Sinatra, he detested another–Wayne Newton. As a nod to me and my two sisters, Dad tolerated Neil Young, perhaps responding to the plaintive longing of “Heart of Gold.” But he abhorred Bob Dylan, dismissing him as “the Hog Caller,” a particularly rich rebuke coming from Dad, who had rarely, if ever, stepped foot on a farm, and whose experience with “the Other White Meat” was largely confined to enjoying an occasional “Taylor Pork Roll” sandwich, a Trenton delicacy.
And like the most enduring brands, Dad lived by well-established guidelines. For over 40 years, he was a judge who demanded that lawyers who appeared before him be prepared. If you met his expectations, you were treated with dignity. If you fell short, well, you did not want to fall short.
Dad never handled Intellectual Property matters, but he was acutely aware of the power of brands, especially the logos of the two sports teams we rooted for–the New York Giants and New York Rangers. Those two famous brands, one from the gridiron in the Meadowlands, the other from the rink at Madison Square Garden, gave us a common language, they held us together in challenging times as well as in times of joy.
In his last years, when things appeared to be spiraling out of control, Dad would blurt out in Yiddish “G’nug is G’nug”–“enough is enough.” It became his tag line. And we know taglines can be among the most powerful of brands. A final example proving the point, our Mark really did know the power of a good Mark.
Quote of the Day: “Let us endeavor so to live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.” Mark Twain