Patent attorney uses engineering expertise to assist clientele


 By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News
Patent attorney Matthew Szalach—whose areas of expertise include machine elements, automotive design, and electro-mechanical systems—can thank a boyhood passion for model cars for setting him along his career path.
When still in grade school, Szalach visited the prototype engineering labs at General Motors, courtesy of his friend’s father, a GM engineer. The boys built their own car bodies by vacuum molding plastic around wooden models.  
“We also learned how to weld and got a tour of portions of the design studio. Seeing how cars were designed and built was fascinating to me and left a lasting impression, so the interest was sparked at an early age,” says Szalach, a principal with Harness, Dickey, and Pierce in Troy.
As an adult, and armed with undergrad and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, respectively, Szalach started his career in the auto industry working in advanced engineering, vehicle dynamics, and manufacturing. 
“I really enjoyed working in and around the design studios at General Motors and Chrysler,” he says. 
“To this day, I love getting a peek at new vehicles and new vehicle technologies when working on patent applications for vehicle manufacturers and suppliers.”
But the day-to-day life of an engineer held little appeal. 
“I wanted to work in and around technology but wanted to experience something that would allow me write more, would provide me with different experiences, and would allow me to work in a variety of different fields,” he says.  
He set out to earn his J.D. from Wayne State University Law School by taking night classes, day classes, and classes over the summer.  
“Wayne Law afforded me the ability to gain practical experience while working as a law clerk and patent agent at Harness, Dickey, and Pierce,” he says.  “I was essentially able to fit my class schedule around my work schedule.”  
Patent law with Harness Dickey is a great fit for Szalach, providing the opportunity to use his engineering degrees on a daily basis while still practicing law. 
“I’m able to rely on my engineering degrees and prior work experience in engineering when working with clients,” he says. “As a result, I’m able to more readily understand my client’s inventions and can adapt to different technologies.”
He regularly works on patent applications in refrigeration and refrigeration control; automotive components such as seat-adjustment mechanisms, and restraint systems; footwear and other athletic products; implants and medical devices such as shoulder and elbow prosthetics, and spinal plates; and optical sights for weapons—and considers himself fortunate to work on a wide range of technologies and for truly innovative companies.      
He is currently involved in two post-issuance review proceedings implemented as a result of the America Invents Act (AIA).  Namely, Szalach is working on two inter partes review (IPR) proceedings before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board in which he is defending the validity of two of his client’s patents.  
“These proceedings are relatively new and are a nice mix of patent prosecution and litigation,” he says.  
A native of Sterling Heights, Szalach and his wife Kathy make their home in Rochester, with their three children, Patrick, Emily, and Ella. In his leisure time, he enjoys running, biking, golfing, travel, and spending time with his family. He also serves as treasurer of the Board of Directors for Lighthouse of Oakland County, the single largest nonprofit provider of emergency food and housing to low-income families in Oakland County.