A Most Remarkable Accomplishment: Changing the Name of a NATO Working Group

Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives at College Park.

In late 1962, Lt. Col. John TeSelle, U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps, then assigned to the United States Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), made a suggestion that the name of a NATO Working Group, of which he was a member, be changed. The NATO bureaucracy addressed his proposal systematically, methodically and, for TeSelle, perhaps slowly.

TeSelle was born January 29, 1922, in Antigo, Wisconsin, where his father served as a prosecuting attorney and a circuit court commissioner. In 1928, the TeSelle family moved to Gainesville, Florida, where TeSelle’s father joined the faculty of the University of Florida College of Law. While in undergraduate school during World War II, he joined the Army on November 17, 1942. He was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in the Field Artillery on July 15, 1944. He would serve as an aviator, flying small planes in the Philippines as an artillery spotter. After the war, TeSelle received his Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida in 1947, and attended the Ground General School at Fort Riley, Kansas, 1947-1948. Then as a Captain, under the sponsorship of the Office of the Judge Advocate General, he attended the University of Pennsylvania Law School, graduating with an LL.B. in June 1951. He joined the Judge Advocate General Corps in June 2, 1952, and served with the Staff Judge Advocate Sections with the Fourth US Army and U.S. Forces, Austria before joining the Patents Division, office of the Judge Advocate General in 1955. While in that position, he received an LL.M. from George Washington University in 1957. During 1958 and 1959, TeSelle, now a Major, attended the Command and General Staff College. This was followed by an assignment during 1959 and 1960, as the Deputy Staff Judge Advocate, with the Military Assistance and Advisory Group (Korea). In 1960, TeSelle was assigned to Paris as the Patent Advisor and Deputy Legal Advisor with the United States Mission to NATO.

In December 1962, TeSelle at a meeting of the NATO Working Group on the Protection of Proprietary Technical Information proposed the working group’s title should be changed to Working Group on Industrial Property. The working group agreed.

Note by the Chairman of the Working Group.

But before a change could be made, approval was needed from the NATO Armaments Committee. On February 21, 1963, that committee approved the name change, subject to confirmation from the United Kingdom.

Knowing that he would soon be leaving his NATO assignment and desiring the name change before he departed, TeSelle wrote a British colleague at the end of February, soliciting his support with obtaining the British Government’s agreement to the name change. He wrote:

Inasmuch as this was my proposal and will probably mark my only accomplishment during my three years in NATO, I would appreciate whatever you can do to bring about your government’s approval to this change.

TeSelle letter of February 27, 1963.

In early March 1963, with British approval, the name change was approved.

Note by the Acting Secretary, March 5, 1963.

After leaving his NATO assignment in 1963, TeSelle was assigned as Chief, Plans Division, and Chief, Military Affairs Division of The Judge Advocate General’s School at the University of Virginia. He retired from the military on August 31, 1964, and the next month joined the faculty of the University of Tulsa Law School. In 1970, he joined the faculty of the University of Oklahoma College of Law. He co-authored the original House draft of the Family Farmer Bankruptcy Act of 1986, which was signed into law by the President on October 27, 1986. Perhaps his time with NATO enabled TeSelle to effectively work with Congress, which substantially included his and a colleague’s language in the final legislative act. He retired as a Professor of Law Emeritus upon his appointment as a United States Bankruptcy Judge for the Western District of Oklahoma on October 19, 1987. TeSelle retired from the bankruptcy court after completion of his term of office in 2002.

All documents in this post are from: File 401-05 WGIP-Terms of reference & Title of Group, Records Relating to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Working Group on Intellectual property, 1953-1979, Entry UD-WW 18 (NAID 74618252), Intellectual Property Division, Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General, Record Group 153.