By: Brandon Ward
From sunup to sundown, patent attorney Jason Mock stays busy in the world of intellectual property. Mock, currently a senior counsel at Foley & Lardner, works on patent prosecution, counseling clients, doing due diligence in transaction, and supporting litigation cases.
All of this leaves Mock with a big challenge: time management. “There’s pretty much always time pressure for every project,” said Mock. “Some of them might have time frames of three months that go by quicker than you expected. Some of them might be things that you’ve got to get an answer to tomorrow. [Time management] is foundationally important. I don’t know that you could really do this job without it.”
This type of sunup to sundown work is nothing new to Mock, who’s had a lot of practice in the art of time management. He’s a Triple Dawg, earning one bachelor’s degree in applied biotechnology and another in agricultural and applied economics, plus a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical and biomedical science. He also earned a J.D. from The George Washington University Law School in the evening while working full-time during the day.
One of Mock’s favorite things to be involved in is inter partes reviews (IPRs) and transactions involving IP.
IPRs came into existence in 2013 and are administrative proceedings presented before a panel of administrative law judges, in which a third party can attempt to invalidate at least one claim of an issued patent. These judges have backgrounds in technology or science as well as law. This makes it easier to argue legal concepts like novelty and obviousness, particularly in complicated areas like pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.
“You come at it from a slightly different angle than you might if you’re delivering it to a lay person that’s on a jury,” Mock said. “And the proceedings are also tremendously quick.”
Mock and his firm worked on one of the first IPR proceedings involving a patent directed to an antibody therapeutic. After invalidating one patent, they were able to help the two parties reach a deal.
Mock worked on a major transaction involving a Japanese pharmaceutical company acquiring subsidiaries from another large pharmaceutical company. After months of effort, he and his firm were able to assist the two parties in assessing the intellectual property to hopefully reach a successful deal that could be worth a little over $3 billion.
“That was a grind of a process with lots of long days of reviewing portfolios and doing due diligence,” said Mock. “It was really pretty cool.”
Like many students, Mock didn’t know what he wanted to do when he arrived in Athens. He knew he liked science, but a pre-med track held no interest for him.
“I took a seminar class my first year that was about alternative careers in science, and they talked about pharmacoeconomics and science writers and patent law, and a handful of other things that you could do with a science background without going into medicine,” Mock said. “The patent law one kind of stuck out to me.”
What he was really interested in was business. Mock had friends in the finance world and might have ended up there had he not found patent law. “Patent law gives you an amalgam of really getting to see tons of cutting-edge science,” Mock said. “The things coming across your desk are the newest, latest and greatest things. So you get that exposure to all this new cool tech, but you’re using it in a way to facilitate business development. At the end of the day, that’s what all this is.”
Mock’s brother worked in a UGA lab for an entrepreneurial professor and introduced Mock to one of the patent lawyers in Atlanta that had helped with the professor’s work.
The lawyer advised him that patent attorneys have two routes to choose: prosecution or litigation. Litigation only requires a law degree, but prosecution requires more specialized education in a STEM area.
“Depending on what you want to do in patent law, there are different expectations,” said Mock. “For instance, you not only have to take a state bar like any attorney would, but there’s also the patent bar. That’s a federally administered test, and the qualification is not a law degree, but rather a technical degree. It has to be chemistry, biology, genetics, some form of engineering—you need to go through a STEM-type program to sit for that test.”
So, Mock made the decision to enroll in the pharmaceutical and biomedical science Ph.D. program and pursue patent prosecution.
During Mock’s last year in graduate school, in 2012, he found UGA’s Technology Commercialization Office (soon to be renamed Innovation Gateway), and that gave him the foothold he needed in patent licensing. After reaching out to TCO Director Derek Eberhart (now associate vice president and executive director of Innovation Gateway), Mock applied and was accepted into the internship program, where he got firsthand experience in university technology transfer.
He was able to get hands-on experience and understand important questions, like: “Is this going to be something that could be licensed? If so, who would license it?” His day-to-day work included due diligence analyses, conducting prior art and patentability assessments for new technologies, and reviewing invention disclosure forms.
“That was something that I otherwise wouldn’t have come across for years,” said Mock. “But now on a routine basis, whether it’s a company or a university that I work with, most of them have invention disclosure forms, the same kind of thing that the university has when somebody thinks, ‘I think I have an idea that could be patentable.’ It was really helpful just getting a toe in the water and figuring out what all this stuff was.”
Soon Mock was ready to jump into the deep end. He spent one year in the Atlanta office of a national law firm serving as a technical specialist after finishing up his Ph.D. While on scholarship at The George Washington University Law School, he worked as a clerk and associate at Foley & Lardner LLP. Mock has spent eight years with the firm and aspires to one day be a partner in the firm.
“I knew from working with him that he was very capable and very motivated. I had no doubt he would do really well,” said Eberhart. “He was one of the early interns and one that I spent a lot of time personally mentoring, so it’s been especially gratifying to see his success.”
Mock believes Innovation Gateway has a lot of good things to look forward to in the coming years. “A lot of people would be surprised to know how much innovation actually goes on at the university level,” said Mock. “A lot of blockbuster drugs came out of universities first and were licensed by the companies that go on and get most of the credit for it. But universities play an integral part.”