Ride of a Lifetime
Amy Berge’s priorities take their turns at the top
Published in 2019 Kentucky Super Lawyers magazine on December 5, 2018
Amy Berge sees life’s priorities as going around on a Ferris wheel. The one at the top is the priority of the moment—until it moves down and another takes its place.
“They’re all important,” she says. “You’ve got your family, you’ve got yourself, your work, your extracurricular activities or service to the community. And they’re all on the Ferris wheel.”
For Berge, a director at Louisville’s Middleton Reutlinger, the ride is always full. The intellectual property attorney handles copyright and trademark law at her firm, which has the largest IP practice in Kentucky, according to Louisville Business First.
“I like to be knowledgeable and involved with businesses, and help them with their strategy and portfolio and the protection of their brand,” says Berge. “I do litigation as well.”
Berge’s largest client is Louisville-based Turning Point Brands, exclusive distributor in the U.S. of Zig-Zag cigarette rolling papers and cigar wraps. She handles the company’s advertising issues and copyright filings, and its trademark prosecution around the world. Another big client is Churchill Downs Inc., owner of the Kentucky Derby.
LeAnne Moore, assistant general counsel with Turning Points Brands, has worked with Berge for about 15 years. “She’s great, as a lawyer and as a person,” Moore says. “She’s not easily ruffled, no matter how hard I, or other lawyers, try.”
Berge grew up in Atlanta and attended Auburn University as an undergrad. She met her husband, Tom, who was attending veterinary school at Auburn. He later opened an animal clinic in Louisville. Their son, Jack, manages it, and daughter Sara plans to join when she finishes veterinary school.
Berge, 54, got her undergrad in personnel management and industrial relations: “I worked in personnel for a while and absolutely hated it.”
At the University of Louisville School of Law, she gave little thought to intellectual property until 1986, when she became a summer law clerk at Middleton Reutlinger. Partner Jim Higgins put her to work researching cases for a book on trademark law in all 50 states.
“Amy was a willing candidate to begin to research old cases to find the backbone of Kentucky unfair-trade and unfair-competition law,” Higgins says. “She was thorough and insightful. Her intellect was obvious.”
This was before electronic indexing. “She would find cases that were indexed in some weird way,” he says. “Somehow she found them, and they added depth to the chapter we published.”
After graduating from law school in 1988, Berge joined Middleton Reutlinger and worked there until 1999, when she became a founding member of the intellectual property practice group at another firm. She returned to Middleton Reutlinger—“my roots,” she says—in 2015.
Berge says she loves hearing people’s ideas: “It’s fun to be part of things coming out and protecting them.” But for the full picture of what drew her to intellectual property, it’s just as important to say what IP is not. “It does not involve emotional drama, and there’s a lot less crying involved. [Laughs.] Personnel management involved people telling me all kinds of things I didn’t want to hear. The first couple of years [in law], I did some plaintiff’s work, and that was difficult to put down and walk away from to go home. … You have to be able to turn that off. Even though trademarks are very valuable and it’s multimillion-dollar brands, it’s business. It’s more fun than it is emotional.”
She also does a considerable amount of community and pro bono work. For 15 years, Berge served on the board of the American Advertising Federation of Louisville and received the organization’s Five Star Service Award for Committed Service. She volunteers as general counsel for Women 4 Women in Louisville, started about 25 years ago to improve the lives of women and girls.
Berge says the law is a good field for women to consider, especially as the profession offers more flexibility. “Not everything is going to be perfect,” she tells young women, “but you can do it and you can figure out ways to make it work.”
And keep the wheels turning.