After more than 12 years in private practice in intellectual property law and related legal fields, Professor Shahrokh (Seve) Falati, a lifelong learner, is back in the classroom—this time in a teaching role.
Professor Falati joined the faculty last summer as Albany Law School's Director of Programs for Patents, Technology Transfer, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and immediately designed the course Entrepreneurship Law in Emerging Technologies. "The idea was to put students in teams, and these teams would get face time with a real entrepreneur," he said.
Each team was paired with a hand-picked Idea Champion—innovators who were identified by Professor Falati in collaboration with both the Research Foundation for The State University of New York (RF SUNY) and the University at Albany. The students were tasked with identifying key legal challenges of their real-life new technology entrepreneurs, each of whom had marketable ideas.
Professor Falati monitored all student-entrepreneur communications, but made it a point not to interfere. "I wanted the students to learn to develop their own styles, particularly in what questions to ask and how, and the overall process of asking, listening and gathering information."
This past fall, one of the teams assisted an Idea Champion with a new weather forecasting technology, which aims to have large energy companies as future clients. Another team worked on the legal issues of an innovation that involved assisting patients, including the elderly, who are not able to easily move their bodies.
Professor Falati expects one of his contacts from the Boston area, the inventor of the popular Taggies children's blanket, to participate as an Idea Champion this coming fall. "I wanted her to be involved in my class because she took a story from beginning to end over a 10-year period—she had a baby and saw a need in the infant market for a particular simple product, and ultimately developed something, patented it, made a huge success of it, and then sold her business. What happens when you have an idea like that, how you develop it, protect it, and make money is part of what I want to teach our law students."
"My goal is to walk the line of being careful not to take potential clients away from current members of the private practice bar, but at the same time better prepare our students to be members of that practicing bar through exposure to real-life innovation-driven entrepreneurs and the legal issues they are facing."
"What happens when you have an idea like that, how you develop it, protect it, and make money is part of what I want to teach our law students."
Professor Falati also teaches Trademark & Unfair Competition Law, Intellectual Property Law, and Patent Law. He received outside inquiries about the Patent Law class and is exploring ways to open it up to non-J.D. students who want to become patent agents.
Currently he is mentoring a Ph.D. chemist and a Ph.D. engineer and helping these tech-trained individuals prepare for the United States Patent and Trademark Office's patent bar examination. In the past year, he also mentored two other individuals (a master's biologist and a Ph.D. mechanical engineer) who recently passed the USPTO patent bar exam. "They both were so excited to have passed this difficult exam, and even though they did the work, it was nice of them to each thank me for the little bit that I did in guiding and answering questions."
Regarding the Ph.D. chemist and Ph.D. engineer currently studying for the patent bar with the aim of sitting for it by early 2018, Professor Falati explained, "For their own reasons, they want to transition toward an area where they combine their significant technical backgrounds with this new area in patents. That can be a career path. A registered patent agent can do many of the things—not all the things, but many of the things—that a patent attorney can do. And so, by extension, without needing to go to law school, these highly technically trained individuals can transition to a career in law. I try and help them with that because I feel at times they see me as someone who managed to do that and that is why they gravitate towards me."
Earlier this year, Professor Falati was elected to be the 2017 President of the Eastern NY Intellectual Property Law Association. He also joined and became a member of the IP & Innovation American Inn of Court last fall. Prior to joining the faculty, he worked in private practice in New York, focusing exclusively on representing clients on IP-related matters at the large, prominent law firms of Jones Day and HRFM. He has represented many university researchers, including a Nobel laureate in medicine, startup companies developing new technologies, and larger established corporations. He still maintains a limited private practice, and as he puts it, "I do my best to stay connected to industry and private practice at least in some capacity, and use this where I can to help our students. Without going into detail, students have greatly benefited from this and several were interviewed by my industry contacts. One received an attractive job offer at a large company as a direct result".
He is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh (B.Sc.), University of Bristol (Ph.D.), and was a Fellow in Medicine for three years at Harvard Medical School/Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, before going to New York Law School (J.D.). His Ph.D. and Postdoctoral Fellowship, both in the field of blood and cardiovascular disease, produced a number of high-impact publications. One of these was a result of a team effort in which he lead a team of Scientists at four prominent institutions in three countries (U.S., U.K, and Canada) to tackle a difficult question involving blood (he was later invited by leaders in the three international teams to present the results on behalf of the international group at a large conference in Sydney, Australia). Professor Falati is admitted to practice law in New York and Massachusetts, before the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, and as a registered patent attorney before the United States Patent & Trademark Office.
When asked about his first year teaching at Albany Law School, he replied, "One of the things I've really enjoyed has nothing to do with my expertise. It has everything to do with other people's expertise and our students. Our students, because I have to say, I enjoy the teaching, the student interactions and the vitality and energy on campus. It is uplifting. Also, I would say that Albany Law School has provided me an opportunity to engage not only with our students, but with my fellow colleagues on the faculty who have different areas of legal expertise and viewpoints. The talks, the large number of events at the law school, the teaching, the meetings, and the experiences as a whole have been richly rewarding and enjoyable."