Top gun: IP attorney served as a pilot in Air Force, National Guard


 By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News
Eric Jones flew high in a 20-year career with the U.S. Air Force and Michigan Air National Guard—and now flies high as an intellectual property attorney and shareholder at Reising Ethington in Troy.
While he’s not much for tinkering and building for himself, Jones did earn a degree in mechanical engineering at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where he was on a design team for aerodynamic flow-separation experiments under a NASA research grant. After graduation, he spent a year as a mechanical design engineer at Texas Instruments in Dallas, working on thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles.
“I enjoyed solving problems related to the packaging of electronic components for operation in harsh environments, but I also learned that I’d much rather have been designing the interesting electronic components rather than just packaging them,” he says.
Fascinated from a very young age by the space program—especially the manned space flights launched in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Jones set his sights on a career in aviation. He was drawn to the U.S. Air Force, not only for the full-ride college ROTC scholarship, but also for the opportunity to get into the flight test program and become a test pilot, giving him a shot at being an astronaut.
“Having learned that astronauts do very little actual flying, my goal shifted toward getting into combat aviation—becoming a fighter pilot,” he says. “Instead, I was first selected to be an instructor pilot and assigned to a pilot training squadron where I enjoyed 12-hour duty days training student pilots in aerobatic and formation flight in supersonic high performance jet aircraft.”
Jones, who later left the Air Force training squadron to join an Air National Guard fighter squadron, took part in deployments to Saudi Arabia, Australia, the Philippines, Guam, England, and Norway. He also provided platform instruction in jet engine technology, avionics, aeronautics, navigation, flight controls and weapon systems, and most recently served as a Mission Commander and Flight Commander in an F-16 fighter squadron in the Michigan Air National Guard. 
He has been was honored with “Top Gun” awards for his performance on certain events in air gunnery competitions within the Michigan Air National Guard’s 127th Fighter Wing. He also received Distinguished and Top Graduate Awards from the USAF T-38 Pilot Instructor Training School (PIT) and Distinguished Graduate award, USAF Fighter Lead-In Training (LIFT).
His favorite in-flight activity, however, was training for air-to-air combat.
“It’s the most physically and mentally challenging and hilariously fun thing I’ve ever engaged in,” he says. “Nothing else in my experience has ever come close.”
After leaving the Air Force, Jones had been attracted to the National Guard by the prospect of being able to fly fighter aircraft part-time while, at the same time, attending Wayne State University Law School and starting a civilian career. 
“I originally thought being in private practice would be a good flexible means of supporting my Air Guard flying habit,” he says. “I soon learned that the building and maintenance of a successful IP law practice—and the raising of a family—leave far too little time to maintain the highly perishable skills of a fighter pilot, which is why I eventually took an early retirement from the Guard after only 17 years of service.”
Jones initially got interested in a law career after hearing his brother’s stories about representing clients as a trial lawyer—but he was drawn specifically to patent law primarily by market forces.
“I knew my engineering degree would qualify me to do the work, and in an environment where law schools were cranking out increasing numbers of lawyers every year, lawyers with engineering or other technical degrees were still in short supply,” he says. 
“What I enjoy most about IP work is that I get to work with highly motivated creative people—engineers employed by my larger clients, and entrepreneurs excited about launching and growing their businesses.”
Jones joined Reising Ethington in 1991; and while he spends the majority of his time in the Troy office, he spends a week or so every two months in the firm’s Dallas area office. 
Focusing primarily on patent and trademark prosecution, Jones also handles patent and copyright licensing matters as well as patent, trademark, and trade secret litigation, and has helped dozens of organizations acquire and enforce patent, copyright, trade secret and trademark rights and negotiate licensing agreements. He has authored articles and spoken on issues having significant impact on intellectual property rights, including, “The ‘Regards’ Test of 35 U.S.C. § 112 2,” and “The Obvious Advantage,” both published in Intellectual Property Today.
“Probably the most significant reason I’m able to enjoy my work as an IP attorney is the high level of respect and trust I have for each one of my partners,” he says. “It was an easy transition from the Air Force in part because the attorneys I work with in my firm and other IP firms are on the same intellectual level and have the same focus and drive,” he says. 
The discipline of the USAF background carried over into his legal work. In fact, his experience as a fighter pilot even helped Jones to land his biggest client—the same defense contractor that builds the fighter aircraft he used to fly.
“I was able to approach this client as a former customer with a good working knowledge of their products,” he says.
But some of Jones’ most fascinating cases have been patent applications for neuromodulation systems developed by Cerephex, Inc., formerly Great Lakes Biosciences. The company has developed a non-invasive cortical electrostimulation system that, in a double blind study, has proven to be highly effective in reversing the symptoms of patients suffering from chronic central pain processing abnormalities such as fibromyalgia, he explains. The system, now in the final stages of FDA approval, tailors neuromodulation signals in accordance with feedback signals obtained through electrical recording techniques such as EEG or PET, which represent brain activity in an affected site. The neuromodulation signals are targeted to the affected site using non-invasive electrodes capable of delivering the neuromodulation signals through skin and bone tissue using a special technique developed by Cerephex for overcoming the electrical impedence encountered when transmitting electrical signals through such tissues. 
“Once this system is approved, it will have a tremendous impact on millions of people who suffer from central pain issues like fibromyalgia and phantom pain,” Jones says.
In his leisure time, Jones enjoys skiing in Vail and Whistler, and counts weight training, playing guitar, trail running, and Israeli Krav Maga self-defense classes amongst his interests, as well as mountain biking on trails around Oakland County. He also enjoys travel, especially recent vacations in Akumal, a small town in Quintana Roo, Mexico on the Mayan Riviera.
He teaches in Nicaragua two to four times a year, with two friends—a former pastor and a dental surgeon—from a church he and his wife attended in Del Rio, Texas, where they lived while Jones was an Air Force instructor pilot at Laughlin Air Force Base.
“We get together to teach a sort of a mini seminary program in five one-week modules spaced three months apart, to pastors who can’t afford formal seminary training,” Jones explains. 
“We’ve been at it for 5 or 6 years now and have all fallen in love with the country and the people there.”
Jones and his wife, Jennifer —a fitness trainer who also teaches ballroom dance -have been married 30 years. Their son, Kelsey, is a recent graduate from William and Mary and is following in dad’s footsteps, interviewing with Air National Guard units for a position as a fighter pilot. The couple’s daughter, Sarah, just graduated from Grand Valley University and is looking for an employment opportunity where she can use her French and Arabic language skills as well as her training in international relations. 
A member of Kensington Community Church in Troy for 15 years, Jones plays guitar, about once a month, in one of the church’s Lake Orion campus bands.
“I never pictured myself playing in a church band, but it’s been a tremendously rewarding experience,” he says. “The Kensington audition was the toughest I’ve ever been through, and the players, including many professionals, studio musicians, and a few Detroit Music Award winners, are by far the most talented, selfless, and dedicated I’ve ever worked with.”