Conquering counselor: Brewer Science researcher-turned-lawyer battles for patents

becky2-1.jpgBecky Rich started her career at Brewer Science in research. But it was a fortuitous day for the company when it was able to lure her back after she returned to school to pursue her law degree.

The accomplished Intellectual Property Manager won praise from Brewer Science leaders in September for the important part she played in winning a $10 million landmark intellectual property (IP) theft case. While that was a significant achievement, she’s turning the lessons learned in trial into further company-wide improvements.

“IP affects nearly every aspect of business. Whether it’s in R&D or new manufacturing methods or new business directions, I’m always learning about new things in order to better do my job,” she notes. “I don’t know that I have a typical day. I spend some time working with inventors on new technology, preparing and filing provisional patents, documenting trade secrets, and working with our outside IP counsel on patent and trademark applications and office actions. I also spend quite a bit of time working on IP-related contracts and other aspects of our company relationships with customers, suppliers, and partners.”

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Rolla (now Missouri University of Science & Technology) with a B.S. in chemistry, Rich immediately started work with Brewer Science as a summer intern, quickly advancing to full-time Research Associate in the New Business Group and tackling CON-TACT planarization, embossing, and “some early bonding stuff.” While working in R&D, she noted the difficulties common in smaller, yet high-tech, businesses that didn’t have in-house patent expertise. Between 2005 and 2008, she broke from work to earn her J.D. from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law, then rejoined Brewer Science as a Patent Agent a couple of years later. She has since transitioned to her current status protecting the company’s invaluable processes, materials, ideas, and innovations.

In the challenging lawsuit, Rich helped win last year, a court decision found a former Brewer Science employee, his wife, and their company guilty of stealing trade secrets and selling knockoff products to unsuspecting customers that were misled as to their quality and origin.

Lately, though, the most challenging part of her work has been dealing with difficult examiners during the patenting process. “It can be really frustrating when they refuse to consider your argument and you know they’re wrong, but your only option is to appeal them, which, of course, costs money and time,” she explained. “On the flip side, when you finally do get an allowance on a patent that had one of those particularly difficult prosecutions, it feels good.”

In the coming years, she looks forward to Brewer Science becoming more connected and automated. “As we streamline existing processes, more time will be freed up to work on new projects to better protect and get more value from our IP,” she says.

Rich’s battles continue outside the courtroom as well. She competes in powerlifting and strongman competitions, as well as rugby.

  researchlawrugbypowerliftingBecky Richintellectual propertybrewer science
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