Ever the consummate professional, South Orange resident Kinza Hecht showed up to be interviewed in a tailored suit with heels to match. She is not a doctor nor a lawyer (yet). Kinza does something professionally I have never heard of before: she is a patent agent and she practices something called “patent prosecution.”
Think of all those inventors who appear before the “sharks” on the popular reality TV show Shark Tank. When they say they have patent protection or a patent pending –it typically requires a professional with experience to successfully navigate that process with the Federal government.
A patent is a “license conferring a right or title for a set period, especially the sole right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention.” That’s why the government has to make sure each application is carefully evaluated to ensure the product warrants one.
Many large law firms offer patent procurement services, and Kinza had 10 years of patent prosecution experience at several notable firms before going out on her own and starting her firm about 6 months ago. The road she took to get to this point is incredibly noteworthy.
Kinza was born in Pakistan and immigrated to the US when she was 9 years old with her family. She met her husband-to-be while attending college at Rutgers. But after the tragic events on 9/11, her family moved to Canada.
Kinza earned a degree in Electrical Engineering but found getting a job in the field was quite a challenge when she returned to the East Coast. Her husband-to-be had a summer internship with a law firm in Manhattan and asked if they needed help; that was Kinza’s entry to a profession she had never heard of.
Because of her engineering degree, Kinza was able to work on electrical, computer and mechanical-related patent prosecution. As she worked, Kinza also studied for the notoriously difficult Patent Bar exam. She studied and passed on her first try and launched an incredible career that included obtaining patents for global leaders like Google, Siemens and AT&T.
To receive a patent, an invention must meet certain benchmarks. It must be novel (truly innovative) and not obvious. Much of Kinza’s practice includes drafting arguments as to why an invention meets these criteria. For example, if a client applies for a patent application that faces arguments that two references that pre-date the patent application could be combined to result in the claimed invention (an obviousness-type rejection), it is Kinza’s job to prove otherwise or make appropriate changes to overcome the obviousness-type rejection.
Life at large law firms can be quite challenging for women. Few make it to the top (i.e., partnership), which can be very unmotivating for new recruits. Kinza worked for a decade in this challenging environment until she had her son and became disheartened by her firm’s policies (or lack thereof) towards working moms.
That’s when she was bitten by the “entrepreneurial” bug and went out on her own, launching her own patent firm, Hard IP LLC. She had developed a good rapport with the tech clients at her previous positions and got a referral for her first big client, Quirky, a community-led invention platform based in NYC.
Hard IP was hired to manage Quirky’s entire global patent portfolio and to procure new patents. The currently all female firm opened May 2016 and has already expanded to include two patent clerk “trainees,” including a recent law school graduate from George Washington University. After all, no one graduates with a degree in “patent prosecution” so Kinza is teaching them the process.
Kinza aims to grow the firm to include clients in the pharmaceutical field as well as many more in the tech sector. Hard IP LLC’s advantage over the large law firms is its nimbleness, quality service and especially its competitive fees, which are a fraction of its competitors’. Hard IP operates as virtual firm with no offices and very low overhead, allowing Kinza to pass on tremendous savings to her clients.
So let’s see…Kinza moved to South Orange three years ago. She had a baby about two years ago. When faced with inflexible workplace policies, she started her own company 6 months ago. She is young, incredibly accomplished, innovative and definitely not obvious. One might say Kinza Hecht is patent-worthy herself.
Hard IP LLC