Engineering expertise

Patent attorney enjoys seeing how things work

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Given a model train set at the age of 10, David Nay had the locomotive entirely disassembled within a month to try and figure out how it could move around the track by itself.

“I’ve always had a desire to know how things worked,” says Nay, a patent attorney and shareholder of the Quinn Law Group in Novi. ‘Trying to answer the question ‘how?’ drove me toward the field of engineering. I thank my dad – who has his master’s degree in mechanical engineering – for at least attempting answers to many of my questions.”

A Northville native and graduate of Detroit Catholic Central High School, Nay earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan, where his studies provided broad exposure to automotive technologies including fuel cell powertrains, electronics packaging for hybrid engines, and automotive seating design. During graduate studies, he concentrated on electro-mechanical design and computer interfacing with mechanical systems.

After earning his master’s degree, a chance encounter with a patent attorney opened Nay’s eyes “to a dynamic world where you get to converse with passionate creators about how their amazing devices operate,” he says.

“Work never grows stale or boring, and the focus changes month-to-month. This dynamic environment was exactly what I loved about college, and I was excited to hear I could live it for the rest of my life.”

Heading to Michigan State University College of Law with the goal of becoming a patent attorney, Nay found MSU Law easily the most challenging experience of his life to date.

“I began law school as an engineer that dealt with formulas and diagrams. At the time, I was a slow reader, and even slower when reading convoluted legal opinions,” he explains. “Thankfully, law school is a shock and a challenge for everyone, and the best friendships seem to be made in the fire. I had a great time with a lot of great people and would not change a thing.”

Law school, where he served as a Managing Editor of the Michigan State Law Review, showed Nay there are two equally valid sides to every debate – compared with engineering where things are more black and white.

“I learned people often speak out of passion and don’t take the time to really understand where the other side is coming from – the other side is not necessarily wrong, they might just be looking at the facts from a different perspective,” he notes. “MSU did a great job of having a diverse student body that brought many different viewpoints to the table.”     

While it may have been a slow adjustment for the former engineer, law school taught Nay to listen to and consider all sides of an argument before reaching an opinion or conclusion.

“This seems to be a valuable skill that’s applicable to all aspects of my life,” he says.

After graduating magna cum laude, Nay worked at a large general practice firm where he prepared and prosecuted patent applications in a broad range of mechanical and electro-mechanical technologies, including robotics, electronic control, non-contact positioning systems, medical devices, and hybrid engines.
He joined the Quinn Law Group in 2010, and focuses on all aspects of IP law, with a specific emphasis on patent prosecution, IP portfolio management, advanced design counseling, and risk management/mitigation. He has counseled clients and assisted with opinions in various due diligence, freedom to operate, invalidity, and non-infringement matters, and has represented both plaintiffs and defendants in patent infringement litigation. A member of the Michigan Intellectual Property Law Association, he has been named as a Rising Star by Super Lawyers, and a Top Lawyer by dBusiness Magazine.

The bulk of Nay’s work currently involves protecting inventions in golf clubs and sporting equipment, surgical devices, and automotive technology. He currently represents a variety of clients across the country, including both large, Fortune 500 corporations, as well as local startups such as Sentio LLC.
Nay has worked with Wixom-based Sentio for more than six years, ever since the surgical diagnostic manufacturer first operated out of a basement in Royal Oak. The company – which last year was ranked by Ocean Tomo as one of the most innovative businesses in Metro Detroit – created an FDA-approved surgical diagnostic device that helps a surgeon avoid contact with nerves during surgery.

“It’s been a great experience to see the company grow from a great idea into a business with worldwide sales,” Nay says.

Nay and his wife make their home in Novi, where his most recent project has been to automate much of the lighting in the house.

“I’m a nerd, and proud of it,” he says with a smile.

He is also a big fan of college sports, particularly U-M football and basketball.

Nay has built houses with Habitat for Humanity, and served on the beautification team for the “Life Remodeled” project for Cody High School in Detroit, an effort to fix up the old high school and beautify the surrounding Cody-Rouge neighborhood.

“I enjoy community service that is uplifting,” he says. “In both cases we were building and creating a new world for people. Cool experiences. It’s great to work shoulder-to-shoulder with people that need a helping hand.”

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