Case Study: A Second Life in Patent Law

Mike Ervin didn’t seek a career in patent law, it found him.  In 1970 Ervin took his Ph.D. in chemical engineering and went to work for DuPont, the science-based products and services company.  For the next 21 years he worked in various positions and divisions throughout DuPont including research and development, manufacturing management and at the executive leadership level.   During his tenure with DuPont and as Vice President of R&D for Imaging Systems and Medical Products, Ervin came to know the intricate workings of patents and the patent filing system both at home and abroad.

After retiring from DuPont in 1992 and returning to his home state of Texas, Ervin embarked on a second career going to work for an Austin-based technology startup.  Within the first six months, the company found itself in the midst of a patent infringement lawsuit that would take more than seven years to resolve with litigation spanning the world including Italy, Germany and Japan.

Given his past experience with patents earned during his time at DuPont, the Austin startup appointed Ervin Intellectual Property Officer where he worked closely with the legal team to handle patent issues and litigation on the international stage.  This quick-fire indoctrination to the inner workings of international patent law prompted Ervin to study patent law at night, while earning on-the-ground patent litigation experience during the day.

“My retirement was short-lived when I decided to take a position as VP of Engineering and Manufacturing at a fast-growth, Austin-based startup,” said Ervin.  “I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d eventually undergo a professional rebirth, first passing the USPTO Bar exam and then eventually starting my own practice helping small businesses and entrepreneurs navigate the complex world of foreign patent filing and the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).”

The lawsuit was settled favorably for the company, which was soon acquired by a larger company – providing M.A. Ervin and Associates with its first client.

“I enjoy working directly with small business owners and solo inventors vs. attorneys at big corporations,” continued Ervin.  “I’ve deliberately built a law practice that is dedicated to cost-effective patent protection for companies with less than 75 employees. This client size and concentration allows me to be an integral member of the team and offer the company expert, patent prosecution capabilities that directly impact the company’s goals.”

Scalability the Key to Success

Ervin’s clients were aggressive about foreign filing and he soon found that being a one-man resource can have its limitations.  Ervin was not only doing substantive work such as drafting PCT applications, but handling the foreign filing paperwork and administrative processes for his clients as well.  He knew he had to find a solution that would help him streamline administrative tasks, free-up time to focus on revenue-generating work and most importantly enable M.A. Ervin and Associates to scale and grow.

“I knew there had to be an easier way to handle the abundance of paperwork required for foreign filings,” said Ervin.  “I took to the Web and quickly found inovia, which promised to provide a simple, reliable and affordable alternative to the traditional method of entering the national stage.”

Created in 2002 by patent attorneys, inovia offers a global instruction platform,, that creates value for clients by reducing the cost and complexity of foreign patent filing.  Today, more than 1,000 companies, law firms and universities have used to simplify PCT national phase entry, European patent validation and patent translations.

Time is Money

An inovia user since 2006, today M.A. Ervin and Associates has filed around 100 foreign cases through inovia.  Using inovia’s back-end document generation and docketing technology, Ervin estimates that he has cut administrative time by more than 50 percent, enabling him to redirect his time to revenue-generating activity.

“While the bulk of my client work involves domestic patent drafting and filing, I am approached by many clients who are seeking international patent protection. Having the ability to enter the national stage easily and work with trusted agents throughout the world to effectively manage deadlines and my case portfolio allows me to scale my business.”

inovia’s “1-click” quote capability has also proven to be a successful tool for attracting new business and providing prospects with accurate cost estimates for foreign filing.  Simply by inputting a PCT or EP number, the platform automatically gathers the numbers of claims, pages and words to produce an accurate quote, allowing users to more accurately budget and compare costs in each country.  Within minutes, users can also place their order and track it online to know when their case has been instructed and filed.

“Using the inovia portal to generate accurate quotes is another huge advantage – it saves a tremendous amount of time and legwork and accelerates the new business process, helping the firm bring in new clients and new revenue quickly.”

For patent expert, registered patent agent and The Business of Patents editor-in-chief Mike Ervin, inovia has proven to be a winning relationship.

“I routinely recommend inovia to others in the Austin legal community,” shared Ervin.  “I couldn’t operate without the ability to file foreign and inovia has enabled me to do this and so much more.”


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