It’s important to get people to understand that even if they have a patent, they’ve got to do more to start making money from it. The features on the PatSnap landscape help with that, especially the valuation feature. Everything we do starts with a PatSnap search.
Technology commercialization involves protecting your IP, promoting it to industry, and allowing a commercial entity to develop and sell products or services based on your IP. The commercialization process starts at any time: when you first have your product idea, when you have a pending or issued patent, or when you want to locate a company to license your idea. Let Melissa Silverstein Law assist you along the entire tech commercialization journey.
Could you tell us a little bit more about your role, and how you got to where you are today?
“I'm a patent attorney, and when I started law school, my daughter was one, but I said to myself that I was going to do it, and nobody was going to stop me, then the economy crashed in 2009.
"I moved back to El Paso, my hometown and didn’t think I would ever do patent law again, so I set up my own law firm. I signed the University of Texas at El Paso as a client of mine and I wrote all their patents for three years. I then became the Director of UTEP’s Office of Technology Commercialization, managing patent protection, marketing, and licensing for UTEP’s 150+ inventions. After a while, I thought why don't I wrap this tech transfer package up into something called ‘Tech Transfer To-Go’ and offer this service to small and mid-size universities without an in-house operation. This meant these universities could have high quality tech transfer services including patent protection, marketing & licensing, and social media management from the outside.
"That’s a major theme we’ve heard from these universities who cannot afford someone like me in-house. I'm still doing patent prosecution, but our main aim is to be a university's tech transfer operation from the outside.
"Right now, I'm on day forty-three at my new office, so I’m doing a variety of different tasks, ranging from building desks to writing patents, so it’s a free for all— no day is the same."
What are the typical challenges you and your clients face within your industry?
“In general, people don’t know what to do regarding the whole patent and tech transfer process. They have no idea what it is and just don't want to get involved. It’s important to me that I explain things simply, because I really want my clients to feel good about my services, but also understand exactly where they are in the process.
“I’ve also noticed a huge challenge around the old-fashioned law firms. People don't like hourly rates and retainers because how can small businesses and start-ups budget for that? I’ve found that these days, people want to shop like they do on Amazon. They want to be able to see the price and be able to compare it. That’s how my firm is set up, we charge a flat fee, which is based on my hourly rate, and people seem to really appreciate that. Being able to have that peace of mind knowing there is one price, and that they’re not going to get a hundred bills from some lawyer every month, makes them feel better.
“Regarding personal challenges, it’s been a hustle to work and sit down to do the work. I’ve had to understand that to make this a success, I must delegate. I have two former students working for me, and we work really well together. They work across Texas, managing their own units and they really like that kind of responsibility.”
What does success look like for you and your clients?
“Success to me, is when the patent process has been demystified for my clients, and they understand what the process means to them. It’s when they understand how they can use the landscape search, not only to see patents but to also identify potential licensing opportunities, and people they can connect with on social media — we think that’s pretty cool.”
How does PatSnap fit into your day to day role, and has it added any value to your work?
“We use PatSnap with most of our clients, even if they don't have patent portfolios. Some aren’t sure where to start so we’ll use PatSnap’s landscape tool to highlight their research areas, and we’ll give it to them for free.
“People love something visual, and something they can hold in their hands, especially when it comes to intellectual property because IP can often be intangible. Being able to hand them something like the landscape brings it to life. So, whenever I meet with a client, I make sure to hand them something like a landscape search, and they immediately see the benefits. I like to drop their patent or publication into the landscape, point it out and I say, 'look that’s yours, that’s where it fits in' and it's so cool to be able to do that.
“Everyone in my team has access to PatSnap, and it’s critical that everyone understands what to do with the landscape, especially our marketing person, who is managing all the social media accounts. The first place I tell people to start is the search, so they can get familiar with the surrounding technology areas, and who else is in the neighbourhood. It's also great to identify new keywords for our social media posts. We’re able to experiment and interchange all the new ones we find through PatSnap.
“It’s important to get people to understand that even if they have a patent, they’ve got to do more to start making money off of it. The features on the landscape help with that, especially the valuation feature. Everything we do starts with a PatSnap search.
"Anytime we’re managing the social media account for an inventor, or tech transfer office, we’ll do a search to see which assignees are in the area, and they can connect with them and send them relevant material. It’s also used by us to identify licensees and partners in specific technology areas.
"I think getting a sense of which other patents are out there is a very small part of how we get value from PatSnap. We love the marketing aspects, because it is really powerful to be able to visually share a clients tech space, or portfolio with them, it gets people excited.
"Before PatSnap, when I was in private practice in 2009 and 2014, I had to get used to using the free search tools, and it was a really difficult. Once I saw PatSnap, it was so much better."
Are there personal drivers behind what you're doing? Why is this so important to you?
“When I first started college I was a Fine Arts Major, and I've always liked art but I didn't see how I could get a decent paying job doing that. So, I switched to pre-med, and I was going to go to medical school, but then I had a conversation with my Organic Chemistry Professor and it was that one conversation that changed everything for me. He mentioned that I should check out patent law because he knew I wasn't convinced about medical school.
“I’d never heard of it, I had no idea what it was, so I looked into patent law and it seemed to really fit my interests in writing, reasoning and technology. I then decided to switch from pre-med, and go to law school. I said to myself, 'I'm going to go to law school and become a patent lawyer', and that's what I did.”