Patent for success: Getting there first with intellectual property

Joni Stern never thought she’d be working in the intellectual property rights domain. But her life changed when she joined NuVasive, a $1.5 billion Sorrento Valley medical devices firm with three patent attorneys on staff and plenty of innovative ideas for the surgical treatment of spinal disorders.

In her role as Intellectual Property Administrator, she helps facilitate the process of patent prosecution from application to registration.

Before joining NuVasive almost five years ago she had no background in anything related to patents.

“I came from the biotech industry where I worked with a bunch of scientists developing scientific software,” she said. After a short time at NuVasive, she enrolled in UC San Diego Extension’s Intellectual Property Certificate program.

“Now I can jump in without needing constant guidance,” said Stern, who came to San Diego some 30 years ago from New York. “It gave me a higher level of confidence, plus better insight into the field. It’s also a transferable skill set.”

She cited instructors Bernard Greenspan and Hani Sayed as being especially inspiring. It has encouraged her to consider becoming a Patent Agent.

“At this point, I don’t want to go through three years of law school,” she said. “But to be an agent, you independently study the material and take the exam. It feels more attainable.”

Looking back, Stern now has a fuller appreciation of why it’s best to be first with patents.

“I never bought a Pet Rock, but I think about the person that first came up with the idea,” she said. “Whoever it was, I hope they had a patent.”


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