Like a lot of your colleagues, you have an academic background in engineering. However, unlike many of your colleagues, you truly enjoyed being an engineer and spent quite a few years as an inventor. What made you choose the legal side of inventorship?

I always enjoyed science, and my “heroes” growing up (in the ‘80s) were MacGyver and the Quantum Leap guy, so I knew that I wanted to become an engineer. While completing my engineering degree at Case Western Reserve University, I did two long co-op programs that gave me incredible real-world experience in materials science, which was my passion. After graduation, I landed a job at an atomic power lab in Pennsylvania where I worked on a special project with NASA to develop a nuclear-powered spacecraft. After the project was cancelled, I continued to work on the Navy side developing nuclear reactor core materials, but my wife and I wanted to move back to Cleveland to be closer to family and friends. I took a job at a leading friction materials company in Cleveland where I worked with some amazing scientists to develop novel carbon-carbon composite materials for the racing and aerospace industries. 

Friction materials are unique animal. Dozens of different types of materials can go into a friction compound, so you must have a wide range of materials knowledge. I experienced first-hand the time, effort, and most of all patience, that it takes to develop a new material. Edison famously said he didn’t fail 1,000 times but found 1,000 ways that did not work. After about 7+ years and finding several hundred different ways of how not to make a friction material, I realized that I might not have the same virtue of patience as Edison. While some of my materials were promising – and ultimately did make it to market - I realized that I wanted quicker successes in my career.   

A major stimulus for my change to IP law was that I had the opportunity to work on my own patent application for an invention my co-workers and I developed. I was always an excellent writer and took it upon myself to draft the patent application. The patent attorney we used at the time was impressed with my work, which confirmed for me that this was a promising career path. Plus, as my wife will tell you, I love arguing the opposite side of any topic, even if I have no business giving my input. Home decorating is a good example!

With that in mind, and with the support of my amazing wife, Beth, I decided to pursue my law degree in the evenings from the University of Akron, while continuing to work as an engineer full-time and spending as much time as possible with our two boys, John and Max.

What do you love most about being an IP attorney?

I truly value the time I spent with some amazing scientists during my engineering career. I have such deep respect for the effort and devotion it takes to create something new. Helping these scientists and engineers protect their important contributions is what I love most. 

I’m also still very much an engineer at heart. I sometimes still miss getting into the lab and discovering new things. Working with inventors helps satisfy this need because I get to geek-out and learn about new discoveries through their eyes. What’s more is that I get to learn about so many different fields of technology and the nuances of inventions, while still being an important part of the innovation process. I get to work with really smart and passionate people, and help bring their work over the finish line. I still get excited every time a patent gets granted! My work as an IP attorney has given me the gratification of achieving successes for many people, while still getting to flex my engineering muscles, so it’s been the best of both worlds.

What made you choose to work for Renner Otto?

I did very well in law school, graduating second in my class, but having worked for a large corporation as an engineer I wanted to take a completely different path. So I started my legal career at a very small boutique firm in Cleveland with only two other attorneys. That firm ended up being too small to suit my needs. After touring Renner Otto with a friend who worked here, it appeared to fit everything I was looking for.

Renner Otto is a large enough firm to establish a solid work culture and knowledge-base, while also being small enough to be agile and flexible when it comes to growth. We don’t just stick our heads in the sand and keep churning out the same type of work over and over again. We constantly look for ways to be better, from how we draft patent applications to how we argue a case based on what’s current in the industry or law. For us, it’s not just about delivering the client a patent application, but rather it’s about creating a piece of IP that’s enforceable and has greater value for our client.

Although it sounds cliché, our relationships with our clients is what I think truly makes us different than most IP firms in our industry. Our primary focus is on building relationships and understanding the client’s underlying needs. Our desire to produce the best possible work is completely genuine, and we go out of our way to help our clients, which I think is why we have some of the longest lasting client-relationships in the business.

What do you do when you’re not geeking out over technology?

My wife and I have two boys - John and Max - who are 14 and 11 years old, respectively, and they both play soccer so I spend a great deal of time attending games and practices. My wife works for the American Cancer Society and she’s also a recent breast cancer survivor, so we spend a lot of time volunteering for the organization and giving back as much as we can. We’re pretty avid travelers and are looking forward to rescheduling our postponed trip to the Greek Islands post-pandemic. Other than that, we spend as much time outdoors as possible in Macedonia where we live, or spending time with our 3rd “child” - our 2-year-old cat named Pepper Potts (obviously we’re MCU fans as well).