Attorney brings chemical industry expertise to his work on patents

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

When Steven Hays was in high school, widely publicized breakthroughs in bioengineering and biomedical engineering, including the implantation of the Jarvik-7 first permanent artificial heart into a patient, led him to earn an undergraduate degree in cellular and molecular biology from the University of Michigan.

“Attending U-M was a great experience from a cultural, academic and intellectual perspective,” says Hays, now an intellectual property attorney with Howard & Howard Attorneys in Royal Oak. “I still enjoy heading back to Ann Arbor as an alumnus to attend football games at the Big House and basketball games at Crisler Center and to visit the campus and local restaurants.”

After graduation, Hays worked in the chemical industry in the field of automotive coatings. His job as a chemist at Akzo Coatings included reviewing patent applications and issued patents relevant to Akzo’s core technologies. 

This sparked his interest in obtaining a law degree, and he headed to New Orleans to earn his J.D. from Loyola University School of Law with the goal of becoming an intellectual property attorney in the areas of biotechnology and chemistry.

“My parents were originally from the South, and I lived outside of New Orleans when I was very young,” he says, adding that Loyola University offered students the opportunity to study both civil and common law.

While in law school, he worked as a law clerk for an attorney who represented NFL players and otherwise had a general practice focused on civil and criminal matters.  Hays was also able to work with low-income clients on a number of criminal and civil matters as part of the law school’s law clinic and street law program.

Before joining Howard & Howard in 2012, Hays was a partner at a Pittsburgh-based general practice firm and was primary outside counsel for both a Fortune 500 chemical company in the areas of substrate protection and automotive OEM coatings, as well as for a Michigan-based biotechnology company in the area of medicinal chemistry. He also was the plaintiff lead counsel in a patent infringement lawsuit for a Fortune 500 automotive supplier in the Eastern District of Michigan where the case settled in the plaintiff's favor.

Hays has helped inventors obtain patents on a wide variety of interesting inventions – everything from assay kits to hair growth compositions to viscous clutches for automobiles to chemical compositions for use in the automotive and semiconductor industry.

“I enjoy my job because I get to work with inventors to obtain, protect and enforce their intellectual property rights in a wide variety of cutting edge technologies related to biological, chemical, aerospace and mechanical applications,” he says.

Earlier in his career Hays’ law firm was involved in TrafFix Devices, Inc. v. Marketing Displays, Inc., in which the U.S. Supreme Court decided the legal question as to whether trade dress protection could apply to the subject of an expired patent.

Oral arguments for the case were held the same week as those in Bush v. Gore, the Florida recount case that was instrumental in deciding the 2000 U.S. presidential election. Years later Hays and his wife had the opportunity to meet Al Gore at a luncheon and the two briefly discussed both cases.

“He asked how our case was decided, to which I indicated that we ‘won on the law but lost on the facts,’” Hays says.“Mr. Gore quickly replied that he ‘lost on the law and lost on the facts.’”


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