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Jim Coles Helps Young Entrepreneurs Understand Intellectual Property Protection

Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Jim Coles speaking in a classroom.

Electrical engineering alumnus and patent attorney Jim Coles advised students in the Introduction to Entrepreneurship course to carefully weigh the options for IP protection.

When it comes to protecting intellectual property, Jim Coles explains, most people think that patents are the only way to go. The Rose-Hulman electrical engineering alumnus and patent attorney encouraged students in Bill Kline's Introduction to Entrepreneurship course to carefully weigh the options for protection versus the reasons why they are seeking protection to obtain the most cost effect and worthwhile protection.

People often believe they need to file a patent in order to secure their intellectual property, when in fact another form of protection might be better suited, and less costly, for their particular project or idea.

"They've just been told they need a patent," he says, "but that's not always true."

The first thing inventors and designers must consider are their reasons for seeking intellectual property protection. Depending on the answer, Coles told the class, a different form of IP protection might make more sense.

"Everybody is so focused on patents, they don't know about trademarks, trade secrets, and copyright," he adds.

Coles knew even before graduating from Rose Polytechnic in 1969 that he wanted to go beyond a career in engineering. He recalls taking a business law class that piqued his interest in the study of law. He then managed to snag an engineering job with aerospace company McDonnell Douglas, which paid him to attend law school. Having a robust engineering foundation made the young graduate an ideal candidate for tackling the complexities of aerospace contracts and IP protection.

"The high level of technical education permitted me to have the capacity to understand multiple fields. I was well rounded, from a technical standpoint."

Jim Coles Headshot

Jim Coles

There is one key difference, he adds, between his engineering studies and law practice.

"In engineering school, there was always an answer. There is never a clear answer in law. There is an ability to apply the law in a logical fashion. Logic has given me the ability to be a good advisor because I have a different way of thinking about things than other people do."

Now with Indianapolis law firm Densborn Blachly LLP, Coles uses his years of knowledge to provide intellectual property consulting services and to help clients with transactions involving intellectual property or technology. He is a frequent guest lecturer on the Rose-Hulman campus, serves on the institute's board of trustees, and is an adjunct professor teaching on the topic of IP transactions at Indiana University's McKinney School of Law. He was recently named 2016 Information Technology Law Lawyer of the Year in Indianapolis.