Bill Hulsey of Hulsey IP Law Talks about Patent Protection Internationally
Where are you from originally?
I am originally from Memphis, Tennessee.
What university did you go to?
I attended Rhodes College to receive a degree in theoretical mathematics. Then, I joined the U.S. Navy to train in its Navy’s Nuclear Propulsion Program and then serve as a submarine officer in the construction and deployment of Fast Attack nuclear submarines. I later obtained a masters degree in economics from the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, Virginia, where I focused on the economic factors causing entrepreneurial companies to aggregate in places like Austin, Palo Alto, and the Boston Route 128 Corridor. Finally, I received a law degree from the Vanderbilt School of Law in Nashville, Tennessee with the intention to serve entrepreneurial businesses. These days I find myself at many universities teaching IP and entrepreneurial classes.
What brought you to Austin?
I was an associate at the Baker & Botts law firm and
wanted to come down to Austin to start that firm’s IP practice and to serve entrepreneurial companies in Austin. That was back in 1993. Since then, I have continued to work here, starting my own firm in late 2002.
What is your passion and strength?
My passion is to help companies succeed in an IP-intensive and competitive marketplace. I believe that I and the other IP professionals in our firm have a special focus and ability to serve entrepreneurial and emerging growth companies. Our strong technical capabilities—all of us are first electrical, nuclear, biomedical engineers or physicists—give us the ability to communicate at technologically deep levels with your clients. I have a very strong passion and strength, I believe, in helping young engineers and law school graduates become practicing and highly competent IP professionals. All of this is about growth and development.
What need does it fulfill?
Well, I would say that my passion and strength in focusing on growth and development allow me to take a long view in the service of our clients as we participate in the ups and downs of their entrepreneurial efforts. It also allows me to take a long view with young professionals and to be proud of their many achievements as they prosper and grow.
What exactly do you bring to startups?
Over twenty-five years of working with startup companies and over thirty years of working with some of the most technologically complex technologies of the day. I also bring a deep desire to see our clients achieve their market objectives. I also bring a team of young and aspiring professionals committed to seeing their clients well served.
What type of startup would benefit from your strengths?
A startup seeking to commercialize a technology in one of the fields of energy technologies and applications, bioscience and biotechnologies, electronics devices and systems, environmental technologies and processes, software/Internet technologies and processes, or aerospace technologies. These are IP-intensive companies, generally, and are a good fit for our law practice. Over the years we have been of significant service to companies in these fields to develop IP assets and navigate IP situations as they enter, grow and mature in these markets.
What was the most challenging aspect of starting up a business?
I think that from a legal services point of view, startup companies have a need to protect two things. They need to protect their IP, but they also very frequently or generally need to protect their checkbook. Protecting their IP generally calls for obtaining patent filing dates as early as possible and as inexpensively as possible. But, they should plan for IP expenses to grow as the company grows and becomes more successful. This growth, however, should track or match the revenue that the company generates from selling its products and services and licensing its technology. Keeping this relationship between IP investment and company revenue in “right relation” is an ongoing challenge, but well worth the effort.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?
Use the domestic and international IP systems. These systems and the laws that support them are established and operated for their benefit. The state and national governments know that entrepreneurs power our national economy. They have made sure that the IP systems serve their needs. Because of this, entrepreneurs need to know what is in place for them and how to avail themselves of these business tools. Also, check out the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office tutorials, as well as those of the World IP Organization and the European Patent Office. These are on the respective websites and can be of immense benefit to company business and technical leaders.
What Austin-based resource have you found to be the most helpful and why?
I think that two resources in Austin are most valuable for entrepreneurs. They are different, but very tightly connected.
One is our amazing University of Texas. There is not enough time to discuss all that UT does to support entrepreneurs and business here in Austin. But, the IC2 Institute, TechLabs, the MSTC Program, ATI, and all of the technical and professional schools support the local, state, and national economies. This resource in the heart of Austin is great treasure.
The other resource is our excellent Austin Chamber of Commerce. The work of Mike Rollins, Susan Davenport, and Erika Sumner, as well as a large number of other Chamber staff and volunteers, make economic development in Austin the envy of the nation. You know, Austin was named the second most innovative city in the U.S. last year and frequently wins many other such awards or recognitions.
The University of Texas and The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce play important roles in our being so recognized.