Technical advantage: Lawyer brings engineering background to IP law field

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Jacob Woolbright built on his background in chemical engineering to forge a career in intellectual property law.

“IP law allows me to apply my technical curiosity to help people and organizations protect their investment,” he says. “I have the privilege of working with brilliant people from some great teams, who are also passionate about their inventions.”

An attorney with Howard & Howard Attorneys PLLC in Royal Oak, Woolbright earned his undergrad degree, cum laude, in chemical engineering from Michigan Technological University.

“I've always had a passion for learning, and chemical engineering was a great platform to understand both the practical and the theoretical,” he says.

After interning with Webasto Product North America and with Alticor, he worked as a technical sales engineer with Hercules. He then decided to pursue a law degree, earning his J.D., magna cum laude, from Michigan State University College of Law, where he was a member of the Law Review.

“MSU Law is a great school that allowed me to stay close to my family,” he says.

After meeting patent attorneys who were passionate about their careers, Woolbright explored this niche.

“I knew the constant exposure to new and creative ideas was a perfect fit,” he says – and has since returned this favor by returning to his alma mater to provide career insights and advice to law students.

After working as a patent attorney for a large Cincinnati- based firm, he joined Howard & Howard in October 2010, where he concentrates his practice on IP law for clients ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 corporations. He focuses on IP procurement, technology-related transactions, and opinion preparation, with an emphasis on patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secret law. He advises clients on transactions involving intellectual property, including mergers, stock purchases, asset purchases, and licensing transactions.

While medical technology is his passion, Woolbright also handles industrial manufacturing, materials science, agricultural science, chemistry and chemical engineering, mechanical and electro-mechanical technologies, and software.

During his MSU Law days, Woolbright had a three-month internship with Keltie LLP, patent and trademark attorneys based in London, England, where he observed European Patent Prosecution efforts and learned much about European patent practice – from the European Patent Office to the diversity of laws among the European national systems.

“It was an awesome way to get a glimpse at the law in Europe, but more importantly the people. Those relationships have lasted to today,” he says.

The experience has given him the knowledge to counsel European and U.S. clients on a full-range of issues and to build solutions tailored to the needs of companies with a global presence.

During his time across the pond, Woolbright took the opportunity to tour the United Kingdom – and recalls hopping off a train at Pitlochry, a little village in the heart of Scotland where he came upon a local festival. 

“Perfect spontaneity,” he says.

He also visited several European countries, where his favorites were Slovenia and Portugal. “Off the beaten path, but great people and incredible food,” he says.

The Lapeer native now makes his home in West Bloomfield, with his wife Kelly, and 7-month-old son Hyde. Outdoor activities are a passion, including mountain biking, backpacking, canoeing, and exploring.

“A few years ago, we backpacked the Grand Canyon – and Yellowstone is next on our list,” he says.

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