- Associated Press - Thursday, September 11, 2014

CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) - After just five years of private practice as a patent attorney, Stewart Myers can’t really claim to have seen it all. But he’s seen an awful lot of things he never expected to see. Among the useful - yet unlikely - products created by Myers’ clients are these:

- The Tree Piece Helmet, a natural-fiber piece of protective headgear made from wood and lined with cork. Handcrafted from carefully selected pieces of wood, the helmets are beautiful as well as functional.

- The Snapsie, a one-piece baby garment that is the infant equivalent of a hospital gown. Designed by a nurse, it snaps at the shoulder to provide easy access for pediatric caregivers.

- The Wine Bra, a repurposed piece of intimate apparel that supports a wine glass instead of, well, everything else. The inventor was inspired by her mother, who was going through cancer treatment and needed help to hold a water glass.

“That’s half the fun of this job,” said Myers, whose one-man Corvallis firm is called Willamette Valley Intellectual Property Law. “You never know what’s going to walk in the door.”

Myers began his legal career in the corporate licensing group at Intel. But he quickly realized he’d much rather be working across the hall, in the high-tech heavyweight’s patent division.

“I was fascinated by it,” Myers said.

He decided to go into patent law but found the transition harder than he’d expected. First he had to go back to school for a second undergraduate degree, this time in computer science (he already had a bachelor’s in psychology but needed a hard science background for patent work). Then he had to sit for a specialized bar exam.

“Patent law is the only area of law where you have to take two separate bar exams to practice,” Myers said.

One reason for the extra education is the need to precisely articulate the novel aspect of the invention that makes it worthy of protection by the U.S. Patent Office, which gives inventors up to 20 years of market exclusivity before other companies are allowed to make their own versions of the product. At the same time, the description should be general enough to cover variations on the basic theme.

Describing new inventions is a delicate art, according to Denny Rowe III, a technical writer who’s been working closely with Myers on patent applications for about three years now.

“I like to tell people you have to be exactingly vague,” Rowe said. “You have to divulge what the invention is, but not to the point where somebody could change a minute detail and have a new patent.”

Rowe, who’s majoring in geology at Oregon State University, plans to attend law school after getting his bachelor’s degree and become a patent attorney himself.

About 75 percent of Myers’ practice is patent work, with trademark and copyright cases making up the rest. And while he gets jobs from as far afield as Salem, Medford, Bend and the central Oregon coast, most of his clients come from right here in Corvallis, which he calls “a very inventive community.”

But as much as he is fascinated by the clever and offbeat inventions that walk in his door, what he really finds motivating is the heartfelt passion of the inventors themselves.

“It’s very inspiring,” Myers said.

“A lot of times people see their invention as their legacy almost - you’re helping them protect their work. Sure, you get people who just want to make money, but a lot of times you get these people who just have an idea and they love it and they want to be able to pass it on.”


Information from: Gazette-Times, https://www.gtconnect.com

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