AMIC expands our horizon with patent law and investment learning opportunities!

At yesterday’s AMIC lunch with industry seminar, students, faculty, and staff were fortunate to learn from Craig Fieschko and Brad Bodden about patent laws and angel investment.  

With over 160 years of history, known for achieving its clients’ objectives cost-effectively and speedily, and consistently recognized by U.S. News and other publications as one of the nation’s top law firms, DeWitt LLP has approximately 150 attorneys practicing in almost all areas of law. As a partner and patent attorney at DeWitt LLP law firm’s Madison, Wisconsin office, Craig, a UW-Madison alum, focuses on acquiring and enforcing United States and foreign patents, trademarks, and copyrights. “There are many advantages and disadvantages of patents. When deciding if you should apply for one,  please consider the advantages/disadvantages of patenting it.” Craig cautioned the audience, possibly like the time when he defended his thesis in the same room ERB106 many years ago.   

Advantages of patents:

  • Allowing you to stop others from copying, manufacturing, selling, or importing your invention without your permission.
  • Acquiring protection for a pre-determined period, keeping competitors at bay.
  • Utilizing your own invention.
  • Licensing your patent for others to use or sell it to provide an important source of revenue for your business. 

Disadvantages of patents:

  • Making certain technical information about your invention publicly available. It might be that keeping your invention secret may keep competitors at bay more effectively. A great example would be Coca-Cola’s recipe as a trade secret. 
  • Applying for a patent can be a very time-consuming and lengthy process. 
  • Paying costs whether you are successful or not. The profit-making potential should outweigh the time, effort, and money it takes to get and maintain a patent. 
  • Defending your patent: taking action against an infringer can be very expensive. 

With over 28 years of experience at American Family, Brad became an active Wisconsin Investment Partners (WIP) investor in 2015. He started work as a WIP co-manager in 2020 and now manages eight companies in the portfolio of 50+ companies held by WIP. Brad shared the evolution of WIP, founded by a former visionary WARF director, as Wisconsin’s Angel investing network, which contributes to our region’s entrepreneurial economy by making seed- and early-stage investments in various industries and disciplines. WIP’s portfolio consists of 91 companies spanning multiple business sectors, including biotechnology, life sciences, information technology, healthcare information technology, advanced services, and manufacturing. 

Speaking directly to the audience, Brad provided a WIP investment case study involving Pyran, a UW-Madison College of Engineering (UWCOE) faculty spinoff and a potential AMIC member. Pyran’s founder Kevin Barnett founded the company while studying at UWCOE. WIP initially decided not to invest in Pyran but later stepped up to support its pilot project. Therefore, a high-tech startup’s founder needs to be technical and business savvy because “today’s ‘no’ does not mean a ‘no’ next time when you ask for it again!” When our AMIC director Xiujuan suggested that Brad steer his entrepreneurs to utilize UWCOE’s state-of-the-art facilities for R&D development, Brad considered it a great idea since we both desire to advance Wisconsin’s economy via public-private partnership and entrepreneurship.    

We thank professor Paul Voyles for recommending this seminar’s strategic topics and the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) for sponsoring this inaugural seminar series. See you at our concluding lunch seminar with CAMECA and comforting Chinese food next Wednesday!