FTG 0002 - Using a STEM Degree in Law: Patent Attorney John Hemmer '03

Episode 2 September 07, 2021 00:53:37
FTG 0002 - Using a STEM Degree in Law: Patent Attorney John Hemmer '03
Following the Gong, a Podcast of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State
FTG 0002 - Using a STEM Degree in Law: Patent Attorney John Hemmer '03

Sep 07 2021 | 00:53:37


Hosted By

Sean Goheen

Show Notes

Guest Bio:

In this episode, we hear from John Hemmer ‘03 Eng. John is a patent attorney and partner at Morgan Lewis where he helps clients protect and leverage their most important and innovative inventions and designs. John also regularly prepares and negotiates technology agreements, counsels clients on matters relating to litigation and patent challenges, and works with clients on venture capital financing, merger and acquisition agreements, and IP due diligence. John earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering magna cum laude and with Honors from Penn State’s College of Engineering in 2003. He earned his law degree from Temple University.

Episode Specifics:

 John shares advice and insight on:

• Pursing a “non-traditional” role as an engineering graduate – and the value a STEM degree offers in law

• The law school internship experience and navigating different sized firms

• A day in the life of a patent attorney protecting the IP of solopreneurs and large firms

• The importance of staying involved in your community even with a busy schedule


Schreyer Honors College Links: 




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Credits & Notes:

This show is hosted, produced, and edited by Sean Goheen ‘11 Lib (Schreyer). 

The artwork was created by Tom Harrington, the College’s Web Developer. 

The sound effect is “Chinese Gong,” accessed via SoundBible used under Creative Commons License. 

The theme music is “Conquest” by Geovane Bruno, accessed via Pixabay and used under Creative Commons License.

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

[00:00:01] Speaker A: Greetings, scholars, and welcome to following the Gong, a podcast at the Shrier Honors College at Penn State. Following the Gong takes you inside conversations with our Scholar alumni to hear their story so you can gain career and life advice and expand your professional network. You can hear the true breadth of how Scholar alumni have gone on to shape the world old after they rind the gong, and graduate with honors and learn from their experiences so you can use their insights in your own journey. [00:00:32] Speaker B: This show is proudly sponsored by the. [00:00:33] Speaker A: Scholar Alumni Society, a constituent group of the Penn State Alumni Association. I'm your host, Sean Doheen, class of 2011 and college staff member. If this is your first time joining us, welcome. If you're a regular listener, welcome back. [00:00:55] Speaker B: You. In this episode. [00:00:58] Speaker A: We hear from John Hemmer, class of 2003. John is a patent attorney and partner at Morgan Lewis, where he helps clients protect and leverage their most important and innovative inventions and designs. John also regularly prepares and negotiates technology agreements, counsels clients on matters relating to litigation and patent challenges, and works with clients on venture capital financing, merger and acquisition agreements, and IP due diligence. [00:01:21] Speaker B: John. [00:01:22] Speaker A: Earned a BS in mechanical engineering, magna cum laude, and with honors from Penn State's College of Engineering. In 2003, he earned his law degree from Temple University. John shares advice and insight in this episode on pursuing a quote unquote nontraditional role as an engineering graduate and the value of a Stem degree in law. The law school internship experience in navigating different sized firms a day. In the life of a patent attorney, protecting the IP of solopreneurs and large firms alike and the importance of staying involved in your community even with a busy schedule. And with that, let's dive into our conversation with John Hemmer. [00:02:03] Speaker B: Welcome to the show, John. Thank you for joining me today. It's great to have you on. Really excited to dive into a conversation about your career and your you know, let's kick things off right away with what you're working on right now, if you can tell us a little bit about some of the projects that you're working on. [00:02:24] Speaker C: Sure. Thanks, Sean. Thanks for having me. So I'm a patent attorney. I work at Morgan Lewis, which is international law firm. I have a background in mechanical engineering, so I tend to get a lot of devices, from med devices to military equipment to sporting equipment. Today I worked on a face mask for fanatics, a harness for dog, and an accessory for a phone. So it really varies every day, which is what I really like about my job every day. By definition, it's something new or it should be if it's going to be patentable. So it's exciting technology that I work on, and it's a variety of things that I get to see every day. [00:03:08] Speaker B: So are you able to tell us a little bit about the face mask? Or is there maybe some attorney client confidentiality involved in that? [00:03:18] Speaker C: Not yet, because we're just filing it right after this episode. We'll be filing that application. So I can't talk about that one specifically. But what I've worked on that's interesting in the past, I've worked on the design for Google Home, and a lot of the Google products that you see, the industrial design helped Google protect that, which has been really cool to work on. Another one of my large clients is Gentex Corporation. They're in Northeast Pennsylvania and they make all the helmets for Special Ops and Big Army as well. And they have a lot of new and exciting attachments for helmets. And their business is to go after the Special Ops contracts. And they have high performance, really involved helmets for attaching night vision goggles communication systems. And so I help them protect the interesting industrial designs as well as the function and utility of their new helmet systems. So that's neat to see because they'll be featured in video games and movies, and it's neat to see some of the products that I've worked on show up in advertisements for movies, for example, and to see them in the news on our troops. So that's exciting to see how things that I'm working on make their way either to the battlefield or to the storefronts and to see them consumers. I work on Insoles for OrthoLite and they supply Insoles to most. I think it's 90% of the shoe companies out there. And it's cool to work on these products and see them out there in the marketplace. [00:05:07] Speaker B: So I find it interesting. I never would have thought of that, that you have the main purpose for a product like that, with the helmet, for example. But it's also incorporated into video game designs, I imagine something like Call of Duty, perhaps, or in movies, obviously there's many movies that feature military elements to their plots. How do you go about that process of identifying all the different potential options for a product that even maybe the developer might not know when they're filing their patents? Do you work with them on that? [00:05:48] Speaker C: You mean as far as where they're used and how they're used downstream? [00:05:52] Speaker B: Yeah, I think that'd be really interesting to hear about those secondary parts of the applications that maybe aren't the primary objective, but still are worth that copyright or patent protection. [00:06:04] Speaker C: Yeah, the primary objective is to protect it so that competitors don't knock them off or take their contract. So that's the primary objective that I'm focused on. They come to me with these new exciting ideas. I'm making sure I'm protecting at least their commercial embodiment. I'll work with them to think creatively about how others might try to solve a similar problem. They may have considered five different solutions to solve a problem and settled on one. And so we want to make sure we even protect the second through fifth versions. That way if a competitor sees they're blocked from the patented commercial version that they can't just simply design around the patent and do, even if it's a lesser, non ideal solution, we want to try to protect that as well. And so I work with the inventors. And that's why it's helpful to have my mechanical engineering degree, because I work with mechanical engineers, electrical engineers that have created the product, and to know what their thought process is, to know what they're talking about and to sort of back them through their inventive process and think of other ways. And sometimes I even help them identify new ways that they might not necessarily use, but that they could potentially use in the future or that competitors could use and protect that. It's cool to see it show up in video games and movies. That is not as much of a concern for my client. They're happy to have it profiled there. The movie studio and the gaming companies want to make it look realistic. And oftentimes we'll enter into agreements, and our client is generally happy to help. Sometimes they may need help making prototypes, and so a lot of times it will just be copyright in the design that they're allowing the movie studio or video game to use. And so that's not as complicated or involved. Sometimes it will be an agreement that they can simply use it, but nothing more. They can't create derivative uses or do anything else with any prototypes. Like I said, that's not as involved as the primary objective as making sure competitors don't use their designs. [00:08:31] Speaker B: So you talked a little bit about how you're helping your clients problem solve. Is this the kind of problem that you wanted to work on when you were a kid? What kind of originally drew you into what you majored in? In undergrad? [00:08:45] Speaker C: Yeah. I don't know if being a patent attorney is my childhood dream. Sort of stumbled upon it. I don't know exactly where along the line I found out about it. I know a high school classmate also became a patent attorney. He was an engineer at Penn State. I think I learned of it partly during my thesis. We were talking to an attorney. I know that it was an option as I was looking at what else I could do with my engineering degree. I think I was drawn to engineering because I liked math and science and solving problems. And I originally thought I wanted to be a biomedical engineer, to develop artificial hearts and joints, and I thought that was fascinating. And so I applied to all. It was sort of a new field, biomedical engineering at the time. This was 1990, 819, 99, when I was starting to think about college. And I applied to all the schools on the East Coast that had a biomedical engineering program, including Johns Hopkins, Boston University, Northeastern, and didn't get any financial aid. My parents made just enough to disqualify me from financial aid, but they weren't paying for my whole college. So my dad gave me the advice to, why don't you just go to Penn State, get your general engineering classes, and you can transfer if you decide that's still what you want to do? And so I reluctantly did that. I went to Penn State, which was a time, my fallback, I think I was dissuaded from going there because I thought everyone from high school went to Penn State. I grew up in the poconos Northeast Pennsylvania, and a good percentage of my graduating class was going to Penn State and didn't really want to do that, but I thought that was a good vice that my dad gave, and so I did it. And mechanical engineering is the closest fit for biomedical engineering, or at least the type of biomedical engineering that I was interested in. And all the classes the first year are relatively the same. But I fell in love with Penn State, and I fell in love with mechanical engineering and stayed. And I applied for the Shrier's Honors College my second year, and found exactly what I was looking for smaller classes, really engaged classmates and professors and loved it, and so I stayed with it. I didn't know exactly what I was going to do, but I knew if I got good grades, I would have the opportunity to do something with it. And so I really focused on getting the highest grades I could and enjoying what I was studying, and I didn't know what I was going to do. And then I eventually decided to study for the patent bar and study for going to law school and took my LSATs and did okay and just went with it. The amount that I knew about being a patent attorney was pretty small looking in hindsight, but it worked out. I love law school. It was fascinating, and it's more logical in approach than I think a lot of people realize. There's a logic section on the LSAT for a reason. It's a rule that you have to follow and apply to a set of facts. I think it lends itself to scientific thinking and engineering really well. I think people generally think, well, I like to argue. I like to get in debates, I should be a lawyer. But you have to have a logical argument to win a debate. And the reading and analysis in law school lent itself really well to an engineering background. And my work ethic from an engineering background was a little bit different, I think, than some history majors and polySi majors. So I think it worked out really well. I actually started law school thinking, well, maybe I won't even be a patent attorney. Maybe I'll be a criminal attorney. And so I clerked for a judge and then decided that was not the way to go. So I sort of stumbled around a little bit, but then settled back on patent law as being the way to go and hadn't looked back since then. And it's been great. The variety, like I mentioned, is really interesting working with engaged inventors and companies who are looking to protect a lot of times lawyers work with clients who are in a problem and sort of regret having to get attorney to solve that problem and view negatively about attorneys. But I think it's a little bit different when you're trying to help protect something proactively. I work on disputes as well, and licensing and other aspect due diligence and other aspects. But the proactive protecting of inventions is really exciting, and it's not in the market yet. It's not known. The inventors are excited about the problem that they're solving, and they're happy to work with you to protect it. And so it's been interesting. [00:14:13] Speaker B: Yeah, imagine you probably feel pretty satisfied at the end of the day, like you're helping people create or protect their creations, and then that's got to be a pretty strong feeling. But I do want to go back a little bit. You talked about the difference in majors, and I was political science, and I was history, and my thesis was maybe a little bit different than what yours might have been. And I'd love to hear what your topic was that you wrote about. [00:14:43] Speaker C: Yeah, sure. No knock on history majors, for sure. We certainly need more history majors. It was just, I think the homework and the level of outside of the classroom work that I had to do in undergrad I think was helpful for law school. But my thesis was working on a microengine, and it was partially funded by a grant from the Navy who were really motivated to try to find an alternative battery solution. And it's kind of interesting that I work a lot on military equipment now, but the push, and I guess the push is still there, is to figure out how to store all this energy, because batteries don't really get any smaller. But the troops were getting more and more technology that they had to carry around, whether it be lights, night vision goggles, monitoring equipment, communication equipment, and all that had to be powered. And so they were carrying a lot of weight in batteries, and so they were trying to figure out more efficient, smaller batteries or energy sources that troops could wear. They've experimented with self generating sources where it was in the soldier's shoe that every footstep, it would generate some electricity and energy, but there was still sort of a need to store all this energy. And so we were working on this micro combustion engine, and there was four of us working on it on various aspects. And it was a mini combustion engine that would heat up this pzoelectric material that was inside this engine. And if you think of it, the pzoelectric material is a ceramic that you essentially squeeze out of a charge out of. I think your grille igniter. When you press that igniter switch, you're squeezing a ceramic material to create a charge. And we were sort of doing the opposite, where we were putting energy heating and cooling this pzoelectric material to store the electricity in it. And so I was focused on researching and analyzing the specific pzoelectric materials to convert the energy in this microengine. We didn't finish it my year. I think it was completed the next year. I don't think it ever was commercialized and what ultimately happened of it, but that was the focus of what my research and thesis was on. [00:17:20] Speaker B: It's kind of cool that you were part of a bigger team working on it. I know coming from liberal arts, it's typically this is my interest. This is laser focused. So that's great to hear that there are kind of options for even some level of collaboration in the thesis process if it's the right project. And I think that's a special part of the Honors College. Are these opportunities like that? [00:17:41] Speaker C: Yeah, it was great. Like I said, there was four of us, and we each had a very discreet part. Someone was working on the combustion aspect. I was working on the energy conversion aspect, somebody was working on the storage aspect. But we had to make all those pieces fit together and make our theses sort of work together. And so I knew my colleagues or my classmates really well because our mechanical engineering group, I think there were only 20 something of us for my year, and so we had all the sort of same classes together. We knew each other really well, and thankfully we worked together nicely on this project. We got to travel together. I think we presented our poster down in New Orleans, and that was really the first time I had traveled for something other than vacation. And so it was exciting to go do that and to have that experience. [00:18:46] Speaker B: Yeah. One of my roommates was also in Trier, and he was in engineering, but even he had opportunity to relax and find some fun and engagement outside of the thesis and classes. I know you've said you were a part of some interesting clubs and opportunities outside of all of that. If you can tell me a little bit about those things that you were involved in. [00:19:10] Speaker C: Yeah, that was another thing that I really loved about Penn State and decided against transferring it, was that it was really good for what I wanted to do. My classmates and my professors were really engaged and intelligent and motivated me to do better, and then I could walk away. And all my classmates I mean, all my roommates and friends were not engineers. And so I got to sort of have this other side where we got to hang out and step away from engineering a little bit. If I had gone to Carnegie Mellon or Johns Hopkins maybe, or another engineering school, I don't know if I would have had that balance like I found at Penn State. And one of the clubs I was involved with was the Formula One racing team, which was engineering focused, but I was also involved with club sports. It had club soccer for a little bit, intramural soccer and football and yeah, just enjoyed being able to have friends that weren't engineers. It was fun. It was a good balance, like I said. [00:20:33] Speaker B: So gong back to something you said a moment ago and it's great to hear that you were able to find some non engineering opportunities. I think that's great to have that balance. You said you went to New Orleans, and I actually went to New Orleans on a trip as well for very different for a class. So it sounds like you may not have studied abroad, but if you did or you wanted to, where did you go or where would you have gone? [00:20:59] Speaker C: Yeah, I did not and that was my biggest regret. And at the time, I think it wasn't very popular option. I think you could make it work by taking a lot of your electives and non engineering classes. And I think it started to change probably when I graduated. I think they were starting to change and have the ability to doing some engineering related study abroad. I think there were some opportunities in Germany, for example, and they sort of opened it up a little bit more and I was sort of set on, well, I should graduate in four years. I don't have time for that. It doesn't really fit. I couldn't really justify extending my education to study abroad, but that is one of my biggest regrets, is not studying abroad. I mean, I think travel and experiencing other cultures, no matter what you're doing, is extremely important. And if I were to go back and do it again, I would study abroad. [00:21:57] Speaker B: Yeah, absolutely. And that's a huge part of why building a global perspective is a part of our mission statement, because that is truly a transformative experience, regardless of what discipline you're in. [00:22:08] Speaker C: I think the two things that I would have done was study abroad and take time off, whether it was before college or after college, because it's tough to do that again in your career. And it could have been something productive like Peace Corps or not. It could have been something a little bit more selfish like doing a through hike. But either way, I think it would have been. And I would highly recommend doing either of those things or just one of them, if possible, but getting a broader perspective and realizing now is the time to take if you're going to take time off, now is the time to do it, because once your career gets going, it's tough to pause and take some time off. It sort of just keeps going after school. And so I would highly recommend studying abroad and or taking time off before or after college. [00:23:01] Speaker B: That is sage wisdom. Once your life gets going, especially for Shrier scholars who once you graduate and often go on to do very big things and have successful careers, it is very hard to step off that treadmill for even a moment. [00:23:16] Speaker C: Absolutely. [00:23:17] Speaker B: So I don't think you've talked a little bit about law school, but I don't think you've mentioned where you went. So maybe you could, especially for any Stem majors that may listen to this at some point, how you went about selecting the schools that you applied to and ultimately the one that you attended. What set that institution apart for you. [00:23:37] Speaker C: Yeah, sure. So I went to Temple University in Philadelphia, and when I was applying for law school, I sort of knew where I fell based on my LSAT score. You try to get into the best school you can. I think particularly for law, it's important where you go. It sort of follows you the rest of your career and it's something you're talking about it now, 15 years later, and especially for your first job. But the advice and I applied to a lot of schools where I thought they had a strong intellectual property program because that's what I thought I wanted to do, mostly on the East Coast. But then once I figured out where I got into, I boiled it down to the University of Florida and Temple University based on the ranking of the school and what I thought about the intellectual property program. And I had a family friend who was, I think at the time, a student at University of Florida and was thinking about intellectual property. And so he gave me a tour and I was really excited to go there. And then ultimately I got advice from I don't even know who it was. It might have even been my thesis advisor. No, it was a lawyer that I talked to saying where you go to law school is typically where you're gong to end up, and if not, it's where your network base is going to be. Your classmates are probably going to stay in the area and they're going to get jobs where you can network. And it's easier to interview, especially at school like Temple University that has a better reputation locally than nationally. It makes sense to go to law school where you want to end up. And so I didn't picture myself in Florida long term, and I thought Philadelphia was the better fit. And so I went with Temple and it wasn't in the greatest area of Philadelphia, but it was a tremendous school experience for me. My professors were top notch. I was extremely challenged though, I thought, like I mentioned, that I thought I was prepared for my engineering studies. It was really intellectually challenging and eye opening. It was a diverse set of classmates and professors and with diverse opinions and diverse backgrounds, and it was really fascinating and really interesting. And I really enjoyed my law school experience. [00:26:17] Speaker B: Sounds like it was very well thought out, which would expect nothing less from a Schreyer scholar. But obviously law school is not the entire piece is in the classroom. There's a huge element of going out in the summers and getting internships and clerking and all of these other pre professional opportunities. So what did you do? And more importantly, how did you go about securing those opportunities? [00:26:43] Speaker C: Yeah, so it's very important for lawyers the summer job, and it's sort of a set procedure of things that happen. And my undergraduate experience I shied away from. I worked very hard to make sure I got the highest grades possible during the school year. And then I went home and I taught sailing lessons during the summer. And I loved doing that so much. It was the break that I needed, and I kept doing it every year. And I don't know if I regret, but I think I should have gotten probably an internship. And so I made sure that I wasn't going to repeat that mistake again and just practically to know whether I was going to like this job. I think once I started to realize I wasn't going to be an engineer, it made it easier to go home and teach sailing lessons during the summer rather than get some internship at some engineering firm. But when I went to law school my first summer, I mentioned before I was not even sure I wanted to do intellectual property necessarily, and I was wide open to doing anything. And so I took a job with a criminal common pleas judge in Philadelphia as a clerk. And it was interesting, and I liked writing the briefs, but I didn't love criminal law, and I realized my strengths were better suited to be an intellectual property attorney. And so my second summer, you apply for your second summer job after your first year, and that's why your first year grades in law school are so important. And that's the most stressful year, and everyone's sort of based on a curve and where you're ranked in your class, and so it gets very competitive. And I fell just short of the on campus recruiting for the big law firms for my second summer, and I was pretty disheartened by that. It was the first time I think I'd ever been not the top of the class. And so I missed the big law summer, important second summer, and it really lit a fire under me to do better in my law school grades and to get a job. And I was laser focused at this point. And so I must have written 150 letters to all the small firms. If I missed the big firm opportunity and the window for getting that summer associate job, I was dead set on getting a job with a mid or small firm. And I wrote 150 letters to all practitioners in the Philadelphia area and I offered to work for free. And I got a response from an attorney at a small firm, it was a boutique law firm in Springhouse and was about ten attorneys, and he invited me in for an interview. He said, I was intrigued by your letter and offered to work for free and wanted to talk to me and he offered me a job. And so I started working there my second summer and it was a great experience because they had work that had to be done and I got to work on patent applications and some interesting cases and they had some surprisingly big clients for a small firm. Slinky was one of their clients. For example, I don't know what the parent was, was it hasbro, but I had to write some cease and desist letters and I think Eminem at the time came out with a song using a Slinky and actually had to write to Eminem about the inappropriate use of a Slinky. And it was a great summer and carried it over to actually a part time job my third year in law school and bumped most of my classes to night, essentially becoming a night student and to work more to make money and get experience. And as graduation was approaching my third year, they were dragging their feet with an offer and I said, Look, I'm going to graduate soon, I need to know what I'm doing. And they said they couldn't extend one just yet, but they would have hoped to. So in the meantime I went out and looked and I actually got a job at a big international firm, Aiken Gump, and I was extremely lucky to get that interview and got an offer and I had to take it. And so though I had a great experience at that small firm, I took a job at this big law firm. They had an immediate need. And so I worked through that third summer, I guess it's just before graduation, so studying for the bar, and it was extremely stressful knowing that all my classmates were off for the summer studying for the bar and I was working my first full time job. So that was an extremely stressful start, but it worked out great and I had some good experience there. Then I jumped to Morgan Lewis twelve years ago. The office that I was working at at Aiken Gump spun off into a small boutique. Again, I realized I liked working at a big firm with a lot of the different practices that you could interact with. And so I lateraled over to Morgan Lewis twelve years ago. [00:32:09] Speaker B: So it sounds like something I didn't know about law practice is these ideas of the really large kind of mega firms, the skyscrapers in Philly and DC New York, but then you have these smaller firms. Could you maybe provide some insight on not saying one is better than the other? But what are some of the differences or the perks of working in one or the other for our scholar who are thinking or maybe starting law school next year or thinking about it? [00:32:38] Speaker C: Yeah, I think the benefits of a big firm are generally you have bigger clients. I guess just to say it is the pay is better at a big law firm generally, and then you have bigger clients. You're not a siloed generally. You have a lot of different practice areas. At a big international firm, you have basically somebody who specializes in everything that you don't ever have to refer somebody else. If your client has a need, there's somebody in the firm who can help out. So that's nice to be able to have a full service practice, not only for my experience, but for my clients, that I can sort of loop in colleagues to weigh in on things and not just be like, okay, I only file patent applications. That's all I can do here. It's okay. This patent application might affect how you structure your company, how you will go after a licensing deal, your enforcement, and so you get to have sort of a broader scope in what you're practicing. I think the benefits of a boutique are if you are interested in only writing the patent applications, some engineers don't necessarily want to get out there in a broader way, and they just want to write patent applications or they want to have a better work life balance. Maybe their hours are a little less demanding at a smaller firm. But I think generally it's good to strive to work for a big firm and then I'll give you the flexibility to go in house or at a smaller firm firm later. Or what I did is you start at a smaller firm, you get that experience, and then you lateral to a bigger firm. So that's not as common. And so I think you have greater flexibility if you go from big down, but you can also do the reverse. [00:34:35] Speaker B: That is very great insight. I want to pivot a little bit in our conversation here. I know you referenced not studying abroad, but was there any kind of other mistake that you think you've made or some other learning opportunity and what you pulled from that experience that you could share to a scholar who may be facing a similar circumstance? [00:34:55] Speaker C: Yeah, I guess a mistake that really had interesting and broad implications was a bad grade that I got my first year in law school, my property class, I got a C. And I mentioned that your first year in law school is extremely important, and I think it really changed the trajectory of my career. I didn't have all straight A's other than that, but it was certainly one that brought down my grade and probably pulled me from the on campus interview process for these big law firms. And I think that was I got there eventually, like I said, because I worked at a small firm and had the right opportunity to join a big firm, but that wasn't easy to do, and it created a lot of stress. It made a lot of different things difficult after getting that lower grade. But it also lit a fire under me. So I think I went to the professor afterwards and said, what did I do wrong? And they pointed out clearly where I went wrong. And it's hard because you work all semester long and it's one test at the end of the semester, and that's your grade, which is very different from any other class that I had, where you have homework assignments, you have multiple quizzes and tests after every section. And so you sort of know how you're trending well in advance of the end, whereas law school, you study and participate in class all semester long, and then just one exam determines your grade, makes for an extremely stressful test environment, and then you can make a big mistake like I did. Luckily, I was able to pivot and to get where I wanted to eventually, but it did make a big difference in my career sort of path. [00:36:48] Speaker B: I like that you went and talked to the professor to be like, hey, how can I tape from this? Where did I go wrong? What can I learn from in the future? I think that's a great strategy. Right? [00:37:01] Speaker C: Yeah. I mean, the exam is anonymous. They don't know who you are, and you participated all semester long. So the professor said he was shocked, but then he clearly pointed out the mistakes that I made, and I appreciated the mistakes that I made, and I tried my best not to make them again. And I really pulled my grades up high, which I think allowed me to eventually get that interview for that big firm job that came up before graduation. But, yeah, that was certainly an eye opening experience for me, that you slip and you can fall. And so even though I was trying hard, even though I was doing what I thought I needed to do, I messed up. And that happens. And I think it shows you you got to just keep on your toes and keep driving. My clients don't give me grades, but they can walk generally. They don't tell you if they're disappointed. And so you have to be on your toes all the time, and if not, you could lose them. So I think it's thinking about that even now, 15 years later or 17 years later, is important to think you can screw up and it can have a big consequence. And so I think always keeping that in mind is helpful. [00:38:32] Speaker B: Yeah, absolutely. Putting your best effort into everything you do, no matter how small. [00:38:37] Speaker C: Right, exactly. Yeah. And certainly the big ones. Right. So being prepared, doing your due diligence, being present is really helpful. [00:38:49] Speaker B: So you made reference in this scenario to kind of how it translates to working with clients. You've talked about filing patents, meeting with clients, doing all these things. Could you walk us very briefly through a day in the life of what it's like to be a patent attorney? [00:39:04] Speaker C: Yeah, sure. I mean, it varies every day. I assume most people's days vary, but I have a steady stream of responses from the patent Office that come back. So the patenting process is a very long process. Generally you can expedite things, but generally it takes two to three years to get patent application. And so something you filed two years ago will come back, and the patent office will say it's not patentable for XYZ. And so it will be reviewing those reports and those actions that come from the patent Office. And I work on matters that we file throughout the world, and so they'll come in from our foreign associates throughout the world. And I get quite a few emails. I get a couple of hundred emails every day. And so it's sort of triaging some of that. And depending on how important the product is, I might know my client is itching to get a patent granted on an important product. And so I might say, okay, look, this came in. This is what we need to react to and report that out to them. Others, I might just note the date and make sure I get to it shortly. And so it's a lot of triage of different things I need to work on. And then it's incoming new filings. So clients will contact me, say, hey, look, I'm presenting at a conference tomorrow. We have this new idea we've been kicking around, but we want to get this filed provisionally so that we're protecting our invention. And so I'll quick work with them to get something on file. There'll be longer term projects where maybe we already filed that quick provisional filing, or they've had a longer lead time to think about a more strategic filing. I'll be scheduling interviews with the inventors and with the business people to think about how they want to protect. And then I'll be dealing with the patent Office. And so I might have an interview scheduled with an examiner who's reviewing the patent application, who's rejecting it, and I might schedule a call with them to walk them through the background of the invention, why it's different, and how we can come to some agreement about the claim scope that we're going after. I'll have colleagues that will reach out to me. They're working on a new litigation, and they need me to do a read of the technology. They might not have the background that I do. And so they might reach out to me and say, hey, look, we're working on this medical device. Can you help us analyze these claims that are being asserted against our client? And so I may work with them that's my general day. Obviously there are other things that I work on, but that will fill up my day pretty quickly. [00:41:56] Speaker B: Yeah, that sounds like it. And I know I've emailed you and you're usually pretty quick on response, so that's wild hearing about that many emails in a single day. [00:42:06] Speaker C: Yeah, I live a lot in my inbox, and I try to be responsive because, like I said, clients have a lot of urgent needs. And I joke with my wife that she's a dentist and I have more emergencies than she does. These patent emergencies come up, but clients oftentimes need quick advice because either a deal is going through, they're closing tomorrow, but they're worried about this third party patent. Can I get a read on it? Or like I said, there's a disclosure that's planned tomorrow or our product that's launching has been leaked. We need to quickly file a patent application on it. And so there's a surprising number of fires that come up throughout the day, and so I need to be able to react and respond and triage pretty quickly. [00:42:57] Speaker B: I cannot even imagine that. [00:43:00] Speaker C: Yeah, but it's exciting, right? So it's good. I do wish I spent a little less time on emails, but that's the way it goes. I think all of us probably wish that. [00:43:09] Speaker B: Oh, absolutely. It sounds like it keeps you on your toes. So I have to wonder. Part of our mission statement is creating opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. And you mentioned you taught sailing in your youth. How do you unwind? How do you find some balance in your life that is not work? [00:43:27] Speaker C: Yeah, I have two little kids now, and so that's sort of my balance and that's my downtime, so to speak, now. And going on hikes and biking with them, learning how to bike ride and swim, that's been extremely fun. I used to be a big rock climber. I do that less now, especially this past year with COVID because the easy thing to do was to go to a gym to get practice. So that's sort of been on hold. I like to work out. I wake up in the morning and get my workout in before I start work. And thankfully I put in a home gym just before COVID hit, and so that's been a nice sort of escape for me. [00:44:10] Speaker B: Obviously. You are currently one of our board members for the Scholar Alumni Society Board. So you're involved with the college as a volunteer, which we greatly appreciate. Are you involved in anything in your local community where you live? [00:44:22] Speaker C: Yeah, I'm involved with Neighborhood Bike Works. We help youth in Philadelphia through bike riding. I was on the board for a little while and I had to step back when my kids were born, but I'm still a volunteer. Kids learn how to fix a bike, and we teach them bike mechanic skills, and they can actually earn credits by participating in the program. And once they earn enough credits, they actually get to keep the bike that they've worked on and then they advance on to other programs. We have a ride program and then a race program that they can graduate into, and then some learn how to become a mechanic and we place them in different bike shops throughout the area. So that was one of my passions, is working with them. It's an extremely rewarding organization. I love biking and I love helping people, and so it couldn't have been a better fit for me. I think when my kids get a little bit older, I'll hopefully join the board again at some point, but I really enjoy working with them. Another is back on my feet on the advisory. The Philadelphia Advisory Board for back on my feet. And we help people who are struggling with homelessness through running, which sounds sort of odd and seems like something that a lower priority item for people who are homeless is running. But we partner with local shelters and work programs and essentially provide a social network for people who are in these struggling with homelessness and create a rapport with them. We walk with some of the initial members, get them up to running, and next thing you know, if they're running on a regular basis at 05:00 in the morning or 530 in the morning, then they can probably get a job and we help connect them with job resources and training. Been it's a fun project as well. [00:46:20] Speaker B: That is phenomenal. I actually did not know that prior to right now. And really some innovative ways of making an impact both from structural economic perspective for these folks as well as the health and wellness side of it. That's a really cool blend. [00:46:35] Speaker C: Yeah, it is. It was surprisingly effective. Obviously COVID put a wrinkle in things, but it was founded in Philadelphia and now it's a nationwide organization. I think we're in 13 different cities throughout the US. And it's been really interesting to see how effective it is. [00:46:55] Speaker B: Absolutely. So we're kind of coming towards the tail end of our chat here, so I'm going to have some rapid fire quick questions for you to answer as we wrap up. Is there anything that I should have asked you about but hasn't fit into any of the questions so far? [00:47:11] Speaker C: I guess one thing I wanted to mention, given this is what I help do with the Schreyer board, is mentoring. And part of the reason why I wanted to be involved with the organization is that it's really important to find mentors and to be a mentor. [00:47:33] Speaker B: And. [00:47:33] Speaker C: The next step past that is to be an advocate for somebody. And if you're lucky enough to have an advocate for you, you'll really appreciate why it's so important. And I was really fortunate to have that in my current firm. And I had two colleagues or two mentors that were advocates for me and helped me succeed in my career and eventually become partner. And it's not just sort of giving you advice here and there, but it's really helping opening doors, like going proactively out of their way to introduce you to people, to go to bat for you, to advocate for you and your career. And it's amazing how helpful it is. And I've learned that through the volunteer programs that I've done too for Neighbor Bike Works and Back On My Feet, that you can really make a difference for somebody by stepping in and not only giving some advice here and there, but really making connections and helping opening doors and opportunities for people. And so given Penn State is such a huge university and alumni mean, that provides a lot of opportunities to both find that advocate and be an advocate for somebody else. And so I really would make a pitch for looking both for finding your advocate and being an advocate for somebody. [00:49:05] Speaker B: I wholeheartedly agree with that. I think that is a really strong both piece of advice and also a call to action for our scholars because one day they'll be in your shoes where they have that opportunity to open doors. Mentoring is one stage and I love that, taking advocacy for your mentee to the next level. So one final time. You've dropped just nugget after nugget of wisdom throughout our conversation today. Do you have one last final piece of advice that you can leave off with? [00:49:35] Speaker C: No, I don't. I guess it's sort of tried to say is find something you like doing and do well at, you know, there's such smart people in Shriers and it's why I stayed at Penn State and why I really enjoyed my time there and why I come back now to volunteer and to be a part. Make sure you stay in touch with your classmates. It's one thing I didn't do a great job of doing but not only will it help you in your career, I guess depending on what you do as far as networking, but you enjoy them now. I assume most people do. So I think it's easy to get really focused on what you're doing next and obviously you stay in touch with your friends, but don't forget to stay in touch with some of your classmates and professors and mentors because it could be helpful later. [00:50:43] Speaker B: I think that is very strong advice, especially given the technology that we have available today to maintain those networks regardless of where you end up in the world. [00:50:54] Speaker C: Yeah, I think it's easy. You think you're linked to them or connected to them in LinkedIn or social media, but more and more that's meaningless, I think, to a lot of people. So reaching out and having a personal connection with somebody is going to go a long way to maintaining that relationship. [00:51:14] Speaker B: Absolutely. And I think so much of whatever industry you go into, whether it's law or anything else, relationships make a world of difference. [00:51:23] Speaker C: Yeah. And even if you're not in a service industry like mine, where you have clients that you need to develop, having that network is going to be important for at least your job opportunities. And so it's very likely that you're going to change jobs throughout your career. And so having a strong network, regardless of what you do, is going to be helpful. [00:51:45] Speaker B: Absolutely. And so just want to wrap up with a really fun question. If you were a flavor of Berkeley creamery ice cream, which would you be? And most importantly, as a scholar alum, explain why. [00:51:59] Speaker C: Yeah, I think my first instinct was to have a really terrible flavor so that I could stay at Penn State as long as possible without being eaten. But I think I'd be cookies and cream because that's my family's favorite. [00:52:16] Speaker B: Well, I don't think there's a bad flavor, so I think your answer is a very good one. John, I really want to thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. I hope for those listening, that they were able know, really digest some of these wonderful pieces of advice. Thank you so much for hopping on the show today. [00:52:34] Speaker C: Absolutely happy to do it. Thanks for having me. [00:52:43] Speaker A: Thank you, scholars, for listening and learning with us today. We hope you will take something with you that will contribute to how you shape the world. This show proudly supports the Shrier Honors College Emergency Fund benefiting scholars experiencing unexpected financial hardship. You can make a difference at raise. psu.edu forward slash Shrier. Please be sure to hit the relevant subscribe like or follow button on whichever platform you are engaging with us on today. You can follow the college on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn to stay up to date on news, events and deadlines. If you have questions about the show or a scholar alum who'd like to join us as a guest here on following the Gone, please connect with me at scholar alumni at psu.edu. Until next time, please stay well. And we are.

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