James Edward Denny, 72, who served as assistant commissioner of patents and trademarks for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office from 1989 until 1991, died Nov. 7 at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville. He had adult respiratory distress syndrome.

Mr. Denny began working as a patent solicitor with Western Electric Co. in 1955, while attending law school at night. He was also employed by the Navy Department, the Federal Council for Science and Technology and NASA before joining the patent and trademark office in 1971.

He served as director of the Office of Government Inventions and Patents and later as assistant general counsel of patents and deputy assistant commissioner of patents. He retired in 1991.

Mr. Denny was born in Charleston, W.Va., and moved to Silver Spring as a child. He graduated in 1951 from Montgomery Blair High School. He received an electrical engineering degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1955 and a law degree from George Washington School of Law in 1961.

He served as a second lieutenant in the Army Signal Corps in 1956, and was in the reserve from 1956 to 1965. He retired as a captain.

His awards included the Presidential Rank of Meritorious Executive in 1985 and the Senior Executive Association's Distinguished Executive Service Award in 1988.

Mr. Denny held positions with North Chevy Chase Christian Church and St. Mark Presbyterian Church in Rockville, including serving as an elder in both. He was a volunteer for Montgomery Hospice from 1995 until his death.

A resident of Montgomery Village, Mr. Denny created the Denny Run road race, which he organized annually for five years for family, friends and co-workers. He was also an amateur photographer and fan of the Washington Redskins and University of Maryland Terps.

His marriage to Barbara Shytle Kirkland ended in divorce. His second wife, Susan Harper Denny, died in 1993.

Survivors include his wife, Peggy Sengstack Denny, whom he married in 1999, of Montgomery Village; three children from his first marriage, Shannon Price of McLean, Elisa Moriarty of Manchester, Md., and Lori Knowles of Overland Park, Kan.; three stepchildren, Bill Harper of McLean, Steve Harper of Rockville and John Harper of Seal Beach, Calif.; a brother; 13 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.