Ryan Falk is very pleased that he pursued a career in the intellectual property law field and feels that it provides him with “the best of two worlds. “On one hand, it allows me to lean on my technical background in mechanical engineering as I work with new inventions and technological innovations. On the other hand, I rely on my legal training to counsel my clients on how to best protect their intellectual property.”
Although, Ryan Falk is pleased with the career path he has chosen in intellectual property law, he took a much different path to the legal profession than most attorneys. He wasn’t initially drawn to the legal field. Instead, he enrolled into an undergraduate program in mechanical engineering.
“I always liked math and science, so I followed my father into mechanical engineering,” Falk says, “and I had every intention of pursuing an engineering career. However, in my junior year, I looked around at my peers and realized I processed information a bit differently and had different interests than many of them. Most of my peers would thrive in a lab setting or other research environment and I realized that wasn’t what I wanted.”
Falk’s professors assured him that real life experience in the field was much different than the classroom setting. “I was required to complete an internship to graduate, so curiosity compelled me to stick it out.”
He spent the first six months of his internship with a company that manufactured and tested circuit breakers. “I didn’t really enjoy the work I did there,” Falk says. “I moved to another manufacturing company but felt similarly out of place. I had hoped the internships would draw me back into the field, but they just confirmed the fact that I needed to pursue another career.”
Since he was close to completing his five-year engineering program, Falk decided to push through. “I didn’t want all of the time and effort I had invested up to that point to go to waste. I still had an interest in working with science and technology and hoped to find a career path that would allow me to build upon the foundation I had established in completing my engineering degree but go in a different direction.”
As the result of a chance conversation at a funeral with a distant relative, who was a patent attorney, he found his place in IP law.
Defining Ryan Falk
In 2000, Falk enrolled in law school at Case Western University School of Law. Following his first year, he spent a summer at the law firm of Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP as a summer associate. The offer extended into his second summer and eventually, upon graduation and passing of the bar exam in 2003, he joined Calfee as a first-year associate.
According to Falk, it was Calfee’s general practice services that first enticed him to join the firm.
“I wanted the chance to explore other areas of the law to make sure that intellectual property was the right fit,” he says. “Calfee provides a lot of freedom and the ability to craft a professional practice that best suits your strengths and interests. That’s exactly what I needed.”
With the flexibility to find his niche in the legal field, Falk was able to determine that intellectual property law was the right fit for him. “I was able to use my background in mechanical engineering and apply it in a way that manufacturing and lab work never would’ve been able to fulfill for me,” he says.
Today, he is a partner in Calfee’s intellectual property group. His practice has evolved to encompass many areas of intellectual property law, including patent and trademark prosecution, freedom to practice counselling and opinion work, and many transactional related aspects of IP such as licensing and due diligence support for mergers and acquisitions.
“I feel blessed,” Falk says, “that Calfee and my client base have allowed me to develop a very diverse practice that touches upon nearly every aspect of IP law.”
On Mentors & Influential People
Chuck Lyon, the founder of Calfee’s intellectual property section, is one of Falk’s greatest mentors. Falk describes Lyon as someone who has a unified vision.
“He always made us feel like a team,” he says. “Throughout my career there have been many influential figures and mentors, including John Cipolla, Raymond Rundelli, Tim Connors and Dan McMullen. “Any success I’ve achieved has been through the help and sacrifice of others. I’m truly blessed to have the opportunity to have learned from and worked with such amazing people.”
Among the most influential people in his life, Falk counts his parents and his wife as very important figures.
“My parents are incredibly hard working and sacrificing people. They instilled a work ethic and really focused not on the results, but rather on how you reached them. They emphasized the importance of fully applying oneself and that the results aren’t always going to be what you want – but as long as you did your best, that’s what really matters.”
His wife, Melissa, is the only reason he can be the successful, thriving attorney he is today. “She makes room for and understands the flexibility this career demands,” Falk says. “She centers me and reminds me of what’s truly important.”
Behind the Scenes
According to Falk, one of the greatest perks to intellectual property law is the complexity of the field itself, which in turn offers a wide array of diversity for work. “I love the field of intellectual property because it offers a diverse, comprehensive workload,” Falk explains. “A lot of the issues are interrelated as well.”
Some of this diversity is illustrated by a typical day in Falk’s practice. “Just today,” he said, “I helped counsel a client in selecting the name for a new hotel, helped another client complete the purchase of various software assets, counseled another client regarding certain patent rights relevant to the manufacture of a new appliance component, and negotiated an agreement between two trademark owners establishing the terms on which their respective uses of a similar trademark could coexist. I love the variety this field brings. No two days are ever alike.”
As with most technical fields of the law, intellectual property is always evolving with a vast array of rules and regulations to keep abreast with. “It can be daunting,” Falk says. “Even intimidating at times, but I love the challenge.”
As many of the firm’s clients conduct business outside of the United States, there is also an international component to the job. “Each foreign country has its own set of intellectual property laws and regulations that are constantly changing. So we need to remain knowledgeable of legal developments around the world as well.”
It is these very challenges, however, that make the profession so rewarding, Falk says. “I always enjoy being able to help counsel a client through a complex issue and assist them in achieving their desired result.”
In retrospect, Ryan Falk is completely happy with his decision to pursue a career in intellectual property law. Would he have chosen a different path from his background in engineering? Absolutely not. In fact, the unique path he took to the legal profession proved to be a blessing in disguise.
“Patent law specifically, requires an undergraduate degree in a math or science field,” Falk says. “It is the only area of law that I know of that requires a separate bar exam to practice and you need a technical degree to sit for it. I didn’t know it at the time, but my engineering degree was setting me up for a unique and fulfilling profession and I draw upon the foundation it created every day. I’m so pleased everything worked out the way it did.”