The Behind the Bench Podcast Welcomes The Patent Professor® John Rizvi

JUPITER, Florida—Josh Konigsberg, Partner and Co-Founder of Law Firm Marketing Pros, an award-winning digital marketing agency for lawyers, recently welcomed John Rizvi, Esq.,The Patent Professor® to the Behind the Bench Podcast for Law Firms. Rizvi, who has been working as a patent attorney for over 25 years, established his law firm, The Patent Professor®, more than 20 years ago in Coral Springs, Florida. Additionally, Rizvi has been an Adjunct Professor of Patent Law at Nova Law School in Davie, Florida.

Konigsberg begins the interview by noting that Rizvi has become a close friend, having been a longtime client of Law Firm Marketing Pros. He notes that Rizvi’s work as an adjunct professor led to the name, The Patent Professor®, which later became part of his branding. “I became known as The Patent Professor® around the law school,” Rizvi says. “It wasn’t until years later that I made the connection of how powerful of a brand that could be for my law firm.”

“We’re going to come back to that, but you’re 100% right,” Konigsberg responds. “I believe you’ve written books, is that correct?”

how powerful of a brand that could be for my law firm

“Yes, Escaping the Gray, a book specifically for innovators and entrepreneurs on getting out of their comfort zone and taking those risks and chances that lead to the kind of success that we all want. That was my first book. I wrote another book, Think and Grow Rich for Inventors, based on the classic by Napoleon Hill, except I took those themes from Thinking and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, and applied them specifically to inventors trying to bring a new product to market, because there are nuances that I think are important.

“My most recent book is, If You Brand It, They Will Come (not yet launched). It’s specifically for law firms on how creating a powerful brand can supercharge your law practice and give you incredible advantages over competing law firms. That’s something I’ve learned in my own practice and branding, and I do a lot of trademark work for other companies and lawyers. That’s a part of my practice that I’ve kind of now adapted specifically for law firms, because I think law firms are in great need of good legal advice, but also practical branding advice that they’re not getting.”

“What inspired you to become a patent attorney or an intellectual property attorney, I should say.” 

“I didn’t start off wanting to go to law school,” Rizvi explains. “I was an engineer. I first got exposed to intellectual property when we had a professor that was using crushed glass in roadways so that the highways would light up at night. That’s how I got initially exposed to the patent process. I happened to find out that there’s a specific career for lawyers who are also engineers. I always had this kind of dichotomy of talent in that I loved writing, and I loved arguing and government—subjects that most engineers loathe. I love reading but I also like math and sciences and calculations. I’m very analytical. When you have these two parts of your brain, one kind never gets utilized.

“Patent law is this beautiful combination of technical expertise with persuasion, writing, reading and all of the other aspects. It ended up being a terrific combination.”

“How did you get started on your own, because I know you were with a law firm in New York?”

“One of my regrets is that it took way too long to start my own practice. I think you speak to a lot of entrepreneurs and business owners, and one of the big regrets is that they held on to security for way too long before making the leap.

“I ultimately didn’t leave the big law firm until 2001. I spent almost five years at a huge powerhouse patent law firm, Fish and Neave in New York City. They’re the lawyers that patented Thomas Edison’s light bulb, Henry Ford’s automotive ideas, the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell, and the airplane by the Wright Brothers.

“This law firm is basically to patents and inventions like what Muhammad Ali is to boxing; such a powerhouse that it took a lot for somebody to leave to start their own practice. Most lawyers that left Fish and Neave went in-house at huge multinational corporations like Exxon or Motorola. When I left, the common question was ‘What law firm are you going to?’ And I said, ‘I’m not going to another law firm, I’m starting my own.

“Remember, this firm’s in New York City, and their view of Florida is quite different from what Florida has become. But this was around the time of the 2000 election fiasco where Florida was the laughing stock of the country with hanging chads. Starting your own practice is strange enough for somebody at this prestigious firm, especially for a non-equity partner, who wasn’t one of the founders, to break off. But to go to Florida to represent inventors, the feeling was, ‘There’s no inventors in Florida. Where in the world are you gonna get clients?’”

“It’s funny cause I get a lot of credit now that all the big law firms are moving to South Florida. We have a lot of New York law firms having outposts here, and Miami’s top in the country in innovative startups and events, but that wasn’t on my radar, and in fact, most of my work comes from outside of the state, not even in Florida.”

video conference calls

Rizvi notes how the prevalent use of Zoom due to the pandemic has changed everything for his practice.

“There’s no way anyone could predict what video conference calls would do for law practices.I can practice nationwide. But until clients were able to use Zoom and had a comfort level, it was hard to get out-of-state business. Most of mine was through referrals from lawyers who knew me and my work, but other than that it was difficult.

“Now we have clients that are no longer afraid of Zoom calls. In its early days, the user had to download an app on their cell phone. It was problematic; we had to have a pre-meeting to help them use Zoom to download the app and a lot of them resisted.”

He observes that luck plays a pivotal role in his success, between the internet, Zoom and the pandemic, South Florida exploding with technology clients, and technology exploding all over the county.

“You’ve also been very aggressive with your marketing,” Konigsberg says. “That has also fueled your growth. What is your unique selling proposition?” 

“Our mission is to help inventors and entrepreneurs and small businesses protect their ideas so they can profit from them. It’s an underserved market, because a lot of the established patent firms are ignoring startups and individual inventors. Most of the time they get second-rate legal support because these firms will help them with their ideas, but not expect that idea to become a commercially viable product. They look at individual ideas as almost vanity patents, and would assign them to junior associates or people that they’re training to work on these patents, whereas the partners are the ones that would focus on established large clients and their work.

“At my firm, that’s not the case at all. We have former patent examiners and experienced engineers and lawyers assisting all clients. We don’t treat individual inventor ideas any different, and we have Fortune 500 clients as well. But there’s no distinction at our firm and our focus really is on the startup. Because that’s where I think most of the innovative new ideas are coming from.”

“That’s great because they need that type of support. I love it. What motivates you to be successful?”

A huge part of it is the disparity that I see in the representation clients are getting, and some of our early successes with individual inventor patents that have changed entire industries. That’s given me this fire of making sure every idea is protected as if it’s going to be the next world-changing idea. We had an individual inventor Alex Gomez, who was a medical school dropout that came up with this surgical lens defogger for operating rooms. Essentially, when doctors were operating, lenses on their instruments would fog up.

“Before Alex’s idea, the solution was to dip it inside a flask of water or run it under a sink, and then put that instrument back inside the patient once the lens was clear. Alex came to my office and said, ‘John, this is nuts. This is introducing bacteria into patients.’ It’s dangerous, and the doctors don’t care because all the patients have signed these waivers, unfortunately that lawyers like me have drafted that say all operations come with a risk of infection.

“And you basically sign off on that. It doesn’t have to be that way; you can have an antiseptic way of cleaning the lens that doesn’t introduce bacteria into a patient. And he brought this prototype to my office. Two years after I filed for that patent, he sold this idea to Medtronic for one-hundred million dollars.

“This was 15 years ago. I remember former colleagues at my prior firm and others like treating it almost as a lucky break, a once-in-a-lifetime patent. A few years after that, we had Troy Faletra, another individual inventor, whose boat sank nine miles off the coast in South Florida and he ended up having to swim to safety. He came up with a throwable life raft. Typical life rafts were either the donuts that take a ton of space or some kind of full-size raft.

“He created this tiny football-sized raft that you can throw at huge distances about as far as you can throw a football, and as soon as it hits the water it actuates and blows up into a full-size raft. It’s a necessity. He’s the mother of invention.  The Coast Guard created a special category for his idea. He won the Miami Boat Show Innovation Award. He created an entire industry and entire companies based on selling these. And it’s saving lives.”

Next, Konigsberg shifts the focus to branding and asks Rizvi about the most valuable intellectual properties a law firm should protect.

law firm should protect

“Certainly their name. If they have a unique logo, they should protect that, but also a lot of law firms overlook that they may have a great funnel or a great email campaign that they don’t realize how incredibly powerful it is. They don’t file for copyright protection, and they don’t secure trademarks for their logo or brand. It ends up severely hurting them.

“How many people can name the lawyers behind The Ticket Clinic? You just know that if you get into a car accident, that’s what you look for. I have clients who refer to me as The Patent Professor. We have checks written out to The Patent Professor® instead of John Rizvi, because of how memorable the brand can be. So that’s a huge oversight on law firms in terms of not picking a name that can be protected legally under trademark law. And if you do happen to pick a name that can be secured using trademark law, not doing anything with it, not securing the name until you see a competitor out there directing your potential clients over to their firm.”

Click below to watch the full interview.

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