How a Science Background Built an IP Expert

How George Romanik’s background in engineering has shaped his legal—and management—practice

George Romanik’s career is anything but boring. “There’s a thought that handling intellectual property can be routine, and that keeps people from becoming interested in it, but it affords a lot of variety in the job and touches all aspects of a business,” he says. “There’s a never a dull day.”

Romanik is the associate general counsel in charge of Chemtura’s intellectual property matters. Romanik handles developing technology, trademarks for new products, and cutting-edge developments. Romanik says any lawyer who wants to acquaint themselves with business strategy can start by working on a company’s intellectual property practice.

Before he attended law school, Romanik studied chemical engineering and spent six years at Mobil Oil. As oil prices dropped, he worried about the future of his job, so he decided to study law.

After graduation, he worked at United Technologies, where he drafted and prosecuted patent applications. “It was a good fit for me, and I spent over twenty years there,” Romanik says.

While there, Romanik worked on a joint project with Uniroyal Chemical, which would eventually become Chemtura. When Romanik joined the company in 2012, he was already familiar with its product lines. Working with Chemtura gave Romanik a chance to refresh his chemical engineering credentials.

“My background as a chemical engineer helped in a lot of ways,” he says. “For one, you know a fair amount about chemistry. Although I wouldn’t call myself a chemist, I understood the nature of it all and can get along,” he says.

In addition, his connections within the industry and ability to engage with customers has improved his ability to work as a business partner as much as an in-house attorney.

“A lot of our products in the specialty lubricating area are products focused on military applications, and I know about that from my work at United Technologies,” he says. “There’s a lot from my prior life that makes this a really good fit for the responsibilities I now have.”

In 2013, Chemtura decided to outsource a portion of its information technology organization, and Romanik was tasked with ensuring a smooth transition. He worked with the Information Technology leadership team to select vendors for outsourcing. It took two or three months, but Romanik and the IT team eventually chose a vendor that Chemtura continues to work with today.

As recently as last year, Romanik worked with Chemtura and another company to license a combination of patents. These patents cover technology that Chemtura may use in the future. “It took a lot of focus on the Chemtura side between the business team, the tech team, and within legal and finance, but it is a project viewed as being very successful,” Romanik says.

Romanik’s workload covers the latest in Chemtura’s initiatives and products. He also works as a business partner and advises the information technology team on software licenses, procurements, and service engagement.

“Anything that relates to intellectual property within the company, I handle—patents, trademarks and copyrights, and the contracts that relate to intellectual property,” he says. “It’s the never the same day twice.”

CHEMISTS IN LAW

Though Romanik isn’t a chemist, he’s one of many scientists to enter the legal profession. These specialties are popular choices for scientists who become attorneys.

1. Go In-House
Chemical, life sciences, and technology companies look for attorneys who understand their products. Particularly in intellectual
property, these lawyers protect products and understand manufacturer needs.

2. Environmental Law
Manufacturers, special interest groups, waste disposal companies, and construction firms all seek attorneys for representation and protection, particularly to work with the Environmental Protection Agency and federal and state agencies.

3. Patent Law
Whether in a firm or in-house, attorneys with science backgrounds are invaluable in writing patent claims and securing intellectual property.

Source: American Chemical Society