Seth Alain Watkins


Adjunct Associate Professor in the Engineering Graduate and Professional Programs

Since 2011, Seth A. Watkins has served on the adjunct faculty in the Duke Master of Engineering Management Program (MEMP).

He also held an appointment, most recently as Adjunct Professor, in Duke's Thomas Lord Department of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science (1997-2017). As an alumnus, he served on the Board of Visitors of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke from 2008-2016. He received the Engineering Distinguished Service Award (2015) from Duke's Engineering Alumni Association as well as the Charles A. Dukes Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service (2002) from the Duke Alumni Association.

Seth was a student at Duke for 11 years. He received both a PhD and JD from Duke, and his research for the former particularly focused on high-temperature superconductors. As an undergraduate at Duke, Seth completed a double major in mechanical engineering and materials science, as well as public policy.

Among the courses that Seth previously taught are dynamic systems/control systems and advanced mechanical systems design. Long ago, Seth was the first to mainstream the teaching of computer-aided design (CAD) at Pratt, implemented in undergraduate, mechanical engineering coursework. His current courses focus on design thinking as well as law and entrepreneurship for engineers. Seth's courses draw upon his experiences outside Duke, during which he often has been embedded in his clients' product-related teams, bridging the gap between engineering and legal aspects in areas such as invention, risk, and liabilities that may arise.

He has a private law practice located in Washington, D.C. He is licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia and Virginia. Prior to forming his own firm, Seth practiced in a large general practice firm as well as boutique intellectual property and international trade firms. He represents clients concerning a diverse array of issues before the courts and administrative agencies, in transactional and counseling matters, and in other considerations that lend themselves to legal advice and advocacy.

His law practice has included bench and jury trials, appellate briefings and arguments, and high-stakes advocacy from the perspectives of both small and large clients. He represents plaintiffs, defendants, intervenors, and amicus parties, handling matters of a private, sensitive nature as well as those subject to the public's scrutiny. He maintains an active federal court practice litigating against the federal government.

Among Seth's intellectual property representations, he has: litigated technology cases with billions of dollars and thousands of jobs on the line; filed actions involving unfair trade acts; asserted claims of unfair competition and false advertising; prosecuted hundreds of patent matters at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office; handled federal government contract matters including End User Licensing Agreement preparation; represented an Asian foreign government's embassy in the United States, and the country's monarch, in a matter before the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office; represented a major foreign government filing as amicus curiae in an appellate matter involving trade secret misappropriation; represented a group of world-class scientists in a formerly communist, Eastern European country who sought to apply capitalism to their inventions; and even led a client's acquisition of a hydroelectric facility licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

He also teaches intellectual property law courses (from 2007-2011 and 2018-present) at The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law in Washington, DC.

Seth has a substantial pro bono practice particularly focused on veterans and efforts in the wounded warrior community.

Appointments and Affiliations

  • Adjunct Associate Professor in the Engineering Graduate and Professional Programs

Contact Information

  • Office Location: 144 Hudson Hall, Durham, NC 27708
  • Office Phone: +1 919 660 5310
  • Email Address:


  • J.D. Duke University, 1999
  • Ph.D. Duke University, 1996
  • M.S. Duke University, 1993
  • B.S.E. Duke University, 1992

Courses Taught

  • EGRMGMT 591: Special Readings in Engineering Management
  • EGRMGMT 590: Advanced Topics in Engineering Management
  • EGRMGMT 520: Intellectual Property, Business Law, and Entrepreneurship

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Cocks, FH; Klenk, PA; Watkins, SA; Simmons, WN; Cocks, JC; Cocks, EE; Sussingham, JC, Lunar ice: Adsorbed water on subsurface polar dust, Icarus, vol 160 no. 2 (2002), pp. 386-397 [10.1006/icar.2002.6972] [abs].
  • Cocks, FH; Watkins, SA; Walker, MJ; Lutz, TA; Sussingham, JC, A high-resolution solar telescope using dark-lens diffractive optics, Solar Physics, vol 198 no. 2 (2001), pp. 211-222 [10.1023/A:1005221126857] [abs].
  • Sussingham, JC; Watkins, SA; Cocks, FH, Forty years of development of active systems for radiation protection of spacecraft, Journal of the Astronautical Sciences, vol 47 no. 3-4 (1999), pp. 165-175 [abs].
  • Watkins, S, Tailormade for tomorrow's market, Textile Asia, vol 30 no. 7 (1999), pp. 43-45 [abs].
  • Watkins, SA; Hadley Cocks, F, X-ray and neutron diffraction of yttrium-barium-copper-oxide: Modeling diffraction intensity variations produced by surface leaching, Journal of Materials Research, vol 14 no. 7 (1999), pp. 2773-2777 [10.1557/JMR.1999.0370] [abs].