Chemical reaction


Intellectual property attorney draws on scientific background

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Paul Engel "stumbled into" chemistry at De La Salle Collegiate in Warren, and not only found he had an aptitude for the subject, but also found the first rung on the ladder to his career as an intellectual property attorney at Howard & Howard in Royal Oak.

Engel continued up the ladder earning a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Michigan State University and a master's degree in chemistry from the University of Detroit Mercy, before becoming a project leader at National Starch & Chemical, where he provided technical solutions and moved new adhesive technologies to market.

He also worked at Sika Corp. for several years in numerous positions, including chemist, research scientist, and production manager, developing and manufacturing acoustic and structural materials and products for automotive, industrial, building, and construction markets.

"I loved the variety of tasks associated with R&D," he says. "In industry, you follow an invention through its entire life cycle. Each phase of product development comes with a unique set of challenges, which made my time challenging yet rewarding."

When he looked to the next step, a career that would continue to maintain a high level of engagement and enjoyment, patent law was the natural answer and an excellent fit with his background.

While in industry, Engel had witnessed many companies shift their IP strategy away from trades secrets and towards filing patents; and also witnessed many companies move R&D and manufacturing out of the United States.

"This combination made me realize IP law was going to be an important part of doing business, globally and in the U.S. for a long time," he says. "I felt my background, in combination with a law degree, would make me a very valuable resource for businesses moving forward."

Making a career change in his mid-thirties was a risky business for a married man with a family. Engel found the perfect solution by working full time in the intellectual property law internship program at Howard & Howard under mentor David LaPrairie, while attending Cooley Law School in the evenings.

"I knew that, if I could make it through the intern program, I could hit the ground running after graduation from law school," he says.

His two favorite Cooley classes were Criminal Law and Evidence.

"I found criminal cases to be very entertaining. I distinctly remember thinking that how 'crazy' the criminal law cases were," he says. "Having been a reader all my life, I found the fact-specific cases very enjoyable to read."

Juggling family life, work and law studies, the time flew by, until Engel received his J.D., cum laude, in 2012, with a concentration in intellectual property.

"I look back on it, sometimes I can't believe our family made it through," he says. "I had to de-program myself after four high paced years. It took a while to learn how to enjoy free time on the weekend I was so used to making every minute count that any down time would cause me anxiety."

Named a Michigan "Rising Star" last year, Engel draws on his technical background to bring value to the legal side. He has legal and technical experience with a diverse array of material technologies, including polyurethanes, silicones, elastomers, thermoplastics, and other polymeric materials as well as with various chemical process technologies, including organic synthesis, compounding, extrusion, injection molding, and other processes. His practice focuses on obtaining and enforcing patents and trademarks, with a particular emphasis on patent preparation, prosecution and opinion work in the chemical and mechanical arts.

"I like helping our clients and have a good understanding of what they need after all, I was on the other side of the table at one time," he says. "I've always been very interested in science and technology. Ironically, I'm exposed to much more chemistry and technology as an IP attorney than I was as a research scientist.

"IP law can be particularly difficult to navigate, which makes it quite rewarding for me to be able to counsel and guide businesses."

Engel and his wife Jennifer and children Reagan, 11, and MaCall, 5, live in Rochester, where Engel is involved in the Holy Family Regional School Dad's Club and its Facilities Board. In his leisure time, he enjoys skiing, golf, and coaching softball.

Published: Mon, Aug 01, 2016