George A. Degnan, 87, a patent attoney in Washington for more than 50 years, died Monday at his home in Washington. He had cancer.

Mr. Degnan was born in Bethlehem, Pa. He grew up in Washington and graduated from Gonzaga High School. After World War I service as an army lieutenant, he graduated from George Washington University with a degree in engineering. In 1923, he earned a law degree from George Washington and began a private practice in which he specialized in patent law.

For many years, Mr. Degnan was the Washington representative of the Detroit law firm of Whittemore, Hulbert & Belkanp. He retired from that firm in 1966 and then was associated with the firm of Shoemaker & Mattare in Arlington. He retired a second time last April.

He was a member of the American Patent Law Association and of the American Bar Association.

He also was a 4th degree member of the Knights of Columbus, a former Grand Knight, and a member of the Aleantara Caravan of the Alhambra of the K. of C. He was a member of the parish of Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in Washington and of the National Press Club and its chorus.

His wife, the former Lydia Payette,died in 1976.

Survivors include three daughters, Mary Ellen Burke and Barbara D. Bonner, both of Bethesda, and Jeanne D. Forte, of Washington; a son, George Neil Degnan, of Bethesda; a sister, Elizabeth C. Degnan. of Washington; 15 grandchildren, and six great grandchildren.