Milena Sukovic is a patent attorney at Marshall, Gerstein & Borun. She leads foreign and domestic patent prosecution in a broad range of electrical and computer system technologies. She has a J.D., an L.L.M. in intellectual property, a B.S. in electrical engineering, and experience as a communication systems engineer at Motorola.
1. How has the practice of law changed from when you first got into it?
With regard to patent law, technology seems to be changing at a faster rate, especially in the area of systems engineering and information systems in particular. Consequently, it seems that more companies are realizing the value of starting a patent portfolio to cover technologies in the area of software such as, for example, in the area of interface technologies.
To provide some guidance on a topic related to this trend, the Supreme Court had recently been asked to rule on a case that generally asked the question of – what is eligible subject matter for a patent application, i.e., the Bilski decision. In Bilski, the Supreme Court, somewhat anticlimactically, avoided defining what is eligible subject matter, besides stating that an abstract idea is not eligible subject matter.
However, the fact that the Supreme Court avoided defining what is eligible subject matter may prove to be the best for society, as it gives the individual inventor, working in the arts that are the most cutting edge, the opportunity to make the initial decision as to whether to apply for patent protection. Inventors in the newest arts should not be dissuaded from applying for a patent as soon as possible.
As an aside, in addition to the public disclosure that is achieved via a patent application, another benefit of such disclosure may be transparency of how some complex systems operate. For example, one invention I would have liked to have seen patented is the financial system’s credit default swap idea. Maybe if the inventor of this idea had explained it on paper via a patent application, then more people would have had the opportunity to understand what risks were being taken, and maybe the problem would have been identified sooner. Contrary to my traditional belief, it seems that the people in the finance industry might be the most innovative of all (half-joking).
2. What advice do you have for law students?
Think about why you want the law degree. Will it be worth it? See how real attorneys live and work.
3. What are the challenges of maintaining a work-life balance?
It helps to be organized and have as much control of my schedule as possible, but life and work are both unpredictable and complex, so flexibility is most important.