Bringing A New Dimension To The Practice Of Intellectual Property Law

Monday, April 5, 2010 - 01:00
Brian A. Cocca

Editor: Dr. Cocca, would you tell our readers about your technical background?

Dr. Cocca: My technical background lies in immunology and molecular biology. After receiving my Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA, I earned my Ph.D. in immunology from the MCP Hahnemann University (now Drexel University) School of Medicine in Philadelphia, PA.

As part of my doctoral training, I studied the genetic and structural basis for the immune system's antibody response against DNA and phospholipids (cell membrane components) in the autoimmune diseases Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) and The Antiphospholipid Syndrome (APS). In healthy subjects, the body's immune system ordinarily does not produce antibodies against DNA or phospholipids, but in patients with SLE and APS, it does.

I studied the molecular structure of these autoimmune antibodies and the genes encoding them, and reverse engineered the antibodies to gain insights into what initially triggered the immune system of these patients to turn on its own body. My research identified apoptotic (dying) cells as a candidate source of autoimmune antibody response in SLE and APS patients, and top-tier peer-reviewed journals published these results. Other professionals have extensively cited my publications.

The combination of my coursework and thesis research has given me a detailed knowledge of immunology, cell and molecular biology, and biochemistry. My patent law experience has added a solid knowledge of formulation chemistry, medical diagnostics, and medical devices to my scientific background.

Editor: How has your training and experience in biomedical research assisted you in your practice of patent law?

Dr. Cocca: My graduate studies and research experience have helped me in both the human and technical aspects of patent law. In addition to my knowledge of the subject matter, I have an understanding of the challenges of research and the pressure on scientists to make advancements. I believe that scientists are often the unsung heroes of many life sciences companies.

My technical knowledge allows me to converse easily with inventors and scientists, and to understand the invention or technical issue at hand. I rapidly gain the trust and respect of the inventors with whom I work, and their high level of comfort with me translates into a very positive professional relationship and, in many cases, a friendship. Having this level of trust with inventors facilitates the flow of information and significantly enhances the quality of the patent application, office action response, or opinion the client has asked me to produce.

On the technical side, my research experience has sharpened both my problem-solving and technical writing skills. My research mentor and my thesis committee taught me how to analyze critically and devise solutions to complex problems encountered in my research. In addition, my mentor was stricter than an English professor in terms of the detail, organization, style, and grammar he required for my publications. I never forgot the lessons learned from those who taught me about science and technical writing, and in fact, I build upon them every day in my legal practice.

I use my technical writing skills to draft high-quality patent applications for my clients. Patent applications with a well-organized and detailed specification behind them, which are the product of good technical writing, tend to fare better during examination.

I use my problem-solving abilities to advise clients on achieving their patent goals. Unique and challenging issues arise for clients every day, including receiving difficult Office Actions from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, inventorship disputes, FDA regulatory hurdles, and activities of competitors, among others. Each of these issues has implications for a client's patent and business strategies, and requires thorough analysis and innovative solutions. Creative thinking helped me to overcome roadblocks in my thesis research, and I have drawn upon that experience time and again in helping clients navigate around the patent impediments to their business success.

Editor: How will your knowledge base fit in with Stradley Ronon's Intellectual Property Practice Group?

Dr. Cocca: My addition to Stradley Ronon's Intellectual Property group rounds out our collective knowledge in the core technology areas of mechanical, electrical, computer, chemical, and biological arts. My knowledge and experience significantly expands our technological expertise to include biomedical and pharmaceutical inventions of all varieties. This also means that our group has the ability to synergize with respect to mechanical or electrical technologies that have a biologic or pharmaceutical component, such as drug-eluting medical implants, biomolecule-coated devices, and diagnostic systems and devices.

Editor: How will Stradley Ronon's clients benefit from your capabilities?

Dr. Cocca: Stradley Ronon's clients will benefit from my technical expertise and my customer service philosophy. My broad and diverse scientific knowledge coupled with my patent experience in many different technology areas, including those outside of the biological and pharmaceutical fields, makes me a well-rounded patent attorney from the perspective of a life sciences client.

I have drafted and prosecuted patent applications for proteins, antibodies, genes, vaccines, transgenic organisms, plants, pharmaceutical formulations and delivery systems, diagnostics, medical devices, detergents, nanotechnology, and wastewater treatment systems, among others. I am familar with the obstacles, advantages, and strategies for facilitating the prosecution of each type of invention through the U.S. and international patent offices, and I draw on this knowledge to give clients realistic expectations and help them to meet and exceed their business goals.

My legal mentors, many being former in-house counsel, have taught me to actively seek to understand the unique business goals for each client. To this understanding, I join my familiarity with the patent issues that generally confront a start-up, mid-size, or large life sciences company, or a research foundation or university, which I have gained from working closely with each type of client. I believe that no two clients are alike, and therefore I give each client custom-tailored service that focuses on their needs and situation.

Stradley Ronon's clients will receive top-quality science and customized, top-quality legal service. On top of this, our clients will receive my brand of customer service, focused on treating them like a person, not a corporate representative, and focused on making their superiors happy with them. Every Stradley Ronon client is my most important client, and I stand firmly behind those words.

Editor: What do you see as the dynamic between patent attorney and client?

Dr. Cocca: Often, clients can be made to feel as if their patent attorney is simply their outside counsel, when ideally they should feel as if their patent attorney is their teammate. Many patent attorneys do in fact see themselves as outside counsel, and interact with their clients only at arm's length. In practice, however, a good patent attorney should consider himself a full team member.

As a teammate, patent attorneys should act as trusted advisers who take the time to learn and understand each client's technology, as well as the client's business and marketing goals, regulatory goals, and intellectual property goals, and work to keep all such goals aligned. Patent attorneys can and should provide a unique skill set of both technical expertise and personalized service to their clients.

Stradley Ronon's intellectual property attorneys and support staff represent a dedicated and people-oriented group, willing to really become a trusted teammate for their clients. The attorneys work closely with clients to exceed expectations, rather than just get the job done.

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