Chemical reaction: Patent attorney draws on previous experience in the science industry

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Prior to his career as a patent attorney with Howard & Howard Attorneys PLLC in Royal Oak, Dan Chojnowski spent more than 8 years in the chemical industry, gaining extensive experience with corrosion resistant coatings, automotive refinish coatings, thermoformable coatings, thin film technology, dry film transfer techniques, and analytical instrumentation.

This science background is a boon in his legal practice that is split between global patent procurement and portfolio management, opinion preparation and counseling clients on avoiding their competitor’s intellectual property rights.

“Having industry experience is very helpful,” he says. “As a patent attorney, it’s my job to extract information from our inventors. Having personally developed products has enabled me to ask focused questions and relate with the challenges in developing and launching a new product.

“I’ve also been actively speaking about patent law topics at technical conferences, such as coating conferences, across the country. Having an industry background has helped establish credibility.”

Chojnowski enjoys drawing on his science background on a daily basis, as well as constantly learning about new technology and developing strategies to best protect the particular invention and its corresponding commercialization plan.  

Interested in science from childhood, Chojnowski headed to Western Michigan University to earn his undergrad degree in chemistry.

“I knew I would enjoy it, and job prospects for chemists were traditionally positive,” he says.

Detroit-area jobs in this industry tend to be industrial-chemistry focused, and Chojnowski first landed a job at Magni Industries, a paint company based in Detroit. As an analytical chemist, he did optimization and failure analysis studies for high performance, corrosion resistant coatings.

“I remember thinking, ‘How much chemistry can actually be involved in paint?’  Well, it turns out there is an incredible amount of science that goes into formulating a high-performance paint,” he explains. “I always enjoyed the challenge of trying to solve a problem, when the answer is not immediately apparent.”

Chojnowski worked full-time at Magni and later as an international product development chemist at AkzoNobel Coatings in Troy, where he developed coatings for automotive and consumer electronics markets. During this time, he took evening classes at Eastern Michigan University earning a master’s degree in polymer/coating technology. His thesis involved surface modification of nanoparticles to create solvent free nanofluids, and developing methods to study their resulting rheological properties.

During his time at AkzoNobel, he worked with a patent attorney, and his interest in the law—and specifically patent law—was piqued.

“Prior to this interaction, becoming a lawyer was something I hadn’t even considered,” he says.

In 2012, he joined Howard & Howard as a full-time intern in the intellectual property law internship program, while attending Wayne State University Law School in the evenings.  

“The intern program is an invaluable, but not easy, experience,” he says, adding that he enjoys the strong sense of camaraderie among many of his fellow IP attorneys who came through the same internship program. “Howard & Howard is genuinely unique in that its intern program is truly designed to train you to be a well-rounded patent attorney. It allowed me to hit the ground running immediately upon becoming an attorney.”

A native of Buffalo, N.Y., Chojnowski now makes his home in Gibraltar, with his wife Kelly, son Kaden, 7, 18-month-old Lucy, and a Boston Terrier named Goose.

In his leisure time, Chojnowski unwinds with fishing trips on Lake Erie for walleye and perch.

“I also enjoy throwing the remote at the television while watching the Detroit Lions, woodworking, and smoking meat—in fact, I’ve told I smoke the best beef brisket south of Anchorage, Alaska,” he says.

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