In March I wrote about the new AOP-VETS program in Article One Partners Announces New Veterans Program. The program was a success and on May 16th, AOP announced that Iraqi war veteran, Jason Maples was the winner of its first ever AOP Vets Program. Jason was one of more than 20 other Veterans who participated in the six week program consisting of intensive education and training in patent research, web-based career learning sessions and competitive research projects. Not only did he win a $2,500 cash reward for his success in the study he partook in but also was awarded $5,000 for his overall performance. I had the pleasure of sitting down to talk with Jason recently and following is our exchange:
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Renee: First let me start by saying thank you so much Jason for your service to our country. I have the utmost respect for the brave men and woman who have or do serve our country and I wanted to personally extend my own heart-felt thank you to you.
Jason: Thank you.
Renee: You’re welcome. I’d like to start by asking you, if you don’t mind, how long have you been in the military.
Jason: I joined right out of high school, so I joined in 2000 and I stayed in active duty until 2004. So that’s 4 years full time. Then afterwards I worked at Moffett Field as a reservist until 2008. So 4 years full time and then 3 and some change in the reserves.
Renee: How did you hear about the Article One Vets Program?
Jason: I didn’t really hear about it so much as I stumbled upon it. I know about Article One Partners. I know what they do and I was Googling them and it came up on the search results list. Because I am a veteran I think it organically knew that I was interested in things pertaining to veterans. Somehow in the Google search results it came up and I saw that it said for veterans so I clicked on it and I read it and I couldn’t not sign up for it once I saw that it was about teaching me patent research, there was a money prize award and it was for veterans only. And since I’m a veteran and I know what patents are and I know who Article One Partners are I couldn’t turn away.
Renee: That’s great! I’m glad you didn’t and I bet you are too!
Jason: I am glad. I found it on the last day before the application deadline.
Renee: Now I want to ask you about the program. I know that sometimes when Veterans come home from war they have difficulty transitioning back into civilian life. You were in the Iraq war as was my brother and again I thank you for that and I am glad you made it home safe. Do you feel the training that you received during the program will help you continue to move forward into Civilian life?
Jason: They gave us two types of training. First the career training where they taught us how to market ourselves to people who might be hiring but don’t necessarily know what veterans have to offer. They see the military experience on a resume but they don’t necessarily know what that means or understand what skills that experience comes with. So they might not want to hire a veteran because of what they think about military people from television and movies. Or they might not know all of the good skills and benefits that being in the military gives people as applicants. So I learned a whole lot about this from law firms that talked to us about their recruitment processes, that there are a whole lot of people who are looking for veterans and that we should leverage our military experience to find opportunities.
Now on the other side, they showed me how experts do prior art research in the patent field by walking me through it, and having Dr. Nikko Quevada explain how he does it as an expert. They then had me do the research myself and graded me on how I did which taught me that prior art searching was something I could do that I had not realized I was capable of before.
Coming from the military I had this belief that I would get trained and my training experience was like a certificate that would allow me to do things. So when I got to civilian life I thought that I had to have a degree in something to be able to go do it. And that is how it is generally, but something like the Article One Partners’ Vet Program showed me that I had the experience, knowledge, and attitude to do good work and persevere. It didn’t really matter if I have a diploma or certificate in some special field as long as I know the information. It showed me that I could do more than I thought I could and that I should be leveraging my military experience.
Renee: You mentioned something that I think is very pertinent to point out. You stated that a lot of people look at people in the military and see things the way they see it on TV and in the news. First of all, I think you would be very happy to know that for majority of American civilians, as far as military veterans go, that is the furthest thought from their minds. In fact, I had the pleasure of speaking to Cheryl Milone today and she stressed that when they look at military veterans, what they see is people who are intelligent, detail oriented and disciplined. I think a log of military men and women, especially those who go into service directly out of high school, don’t see in themselves in that particular light. Do you think the program has helped you with your own perception of yourself as far as what it is that you can accomplish in life?
Jason: It did. It has given me more confidence in my abilities and what I know. But there is a sense at least I have a sense that people are afraid of veterans because of issues of violence associated with PTSD and there is a negative stigma around us. And just listening to the law firms talk about how they prefer veterans and hearing that at the USPTO 19% of the staff are veterans, they have a huge veteran preference, that made me feel more open to telling people I am veteran, to talking about it when I am applying. Because the way I usually conduct myself is I don’t bring up my veteran status at all and I don’t bring up that I was in Iraq until it is a direct question and I answer truthfully. So I think this has changed my perception and how I go about telling people about my past.
Renee: Thank you so much for sharing that with me and I apologize because when ever I talk to veterans I get a little emotional, so every now and then you’ll hear that in my voice and it’s genuine.
Jason: I have the same experience of getting emotional when I’m talking about Veterans.
Renee: I do. Luckily I have not had to endure loosing anyone but I have had family that have had PTSD and have had different things to deal with as the aftermath of those experiences, so I apologize if I get a little choked up. I the stigma you mentioned and the fear of it is escalated by the media, but I can assure you that majority of us here in America do not feel that way about Veterans. Majority of us, like myself, have the utmost respect for you. In fact I cannot walk past someone who I know has been in the military at some point in their life without stopping to shake their hand. So hold that proudly!
I’m so glad that this has affected you in such a positive way! Do you plan to participate in more studies?
Jason: I do. I also signed up to take the California Bar Exam this year. So that aside I am going to try and do more studies. I don’t have a science or technology back ground but by doing the program I know a lot more than I thought I knew, especially about consumer goods and things that I know about through life because of my age. I was able to look at a lot of the patents that came across for the studies and just suddenly know that the patent was bogus, that it can’t possibly be a new idea in 2013 because we used to do this a decade ago.
Renee: Exactly and that is unfortunately what a lot of inventors think. Because they don’t see specific product out there in the market they think it’s brand new and never been done before. I think it’s really neat that you have had the experience to do this because I think majority of people who don’t know what Intellectual Property is do not realize the depth of how patents affect their everyday lives.
In fact prior to my meeting IPWatchdog founder, Gene Quinn, who incidentally is also my husband, I really knew nothing about intellectual property. But over the years of working with him, I find that no matter what I’m doing and no matter where I go I am always looking for patent numbers and looking for interesting things that have been patented or have a patent pending status. I’ve gotten well versed enough in the topic to be dangerous and now whenever I speak to people about what intellectual property is and I start answering basic questions, I always have to make sure I tell people I am not an attorney and I cannot give legal advice. So don’t be surprised if that happens to you too.
Jason: When I a paralegal in the military, it was one of main things they taught us was to not give legal advice and to try not to come off as an attorney.
Renee: Exactly. And if I can give you an advice from a non attorney point of view, no matter what the question is that any one asks me now, the first thing I do is tell them specifically that I am not an attorney. So that’s my little bit of career advice for you moving forward. Now I’d like to ask as a result of the program, where do you see your career going. I know you said you wanted to take the CA Bar Exam.
Jason: After getting out of the Army I went straight San Jose City College then I went to San Jose State University then I transferred in to Santa Clara University School of Law. I got my law degree and then spent another year getting my legal Masters degree in Intellectual Property. I was going to take the bar exam but I have a lot of problems with having to be someplace at a certain time where there is a lot of pressure on me and I have to take a test in a room full of a lot of other people. So I wasn’t looking too forward to taking the bar exam. But one of my professors in law school was an adviser to this company called Lex Machina in Palo Alto. She helped me get an interview with them and I’ve been working there since.
The cool thing about the AOP things is that now that I know I can do patent research as well. I am more confident that that is an ability that I can build up and be good at. If I take and pass the CA Bar exam and I can do patent research then that means there are more things I can do in more places.
Renee: Excellent! There were different things in the program such as the competitive research projects, the web-based career learning, and the training in patent research. What do you feel was the most valuable aspect of the program that you can take with you moving forward?
Jason: For me the part of the program I got the most out of was the expert training on how to do prior art research. I didn’t think I’d be able to do it because I don’t have a science background. But going through the process with an expert, having them show me how prior art research is done and that I could do it myself, made me realize that it did not have to be something I would not even try because I didn’t think I could do it. So I saw that it was something that I can actually go do and that was a big thing for me.
Renee: So that took away the fear that you had.
Jason: Yes, or the cold feet. I didn’t think I had what it took to do patent prior art research because I didn’t have a science degree.
Renee: Well apparently you do have what it takes.
Jason: Yes. Apparently my searching skills and attention to detail was enough to find the stuff I needed to be able to win the competition.
Renee: Well congratulations for winning the competition. I think that is phenomenal and I am so happy to share your story with the readers of IPWatchdog. Is there anything else that you wanted to share about your experience with the Article One Partner’s Program?
Jason: I thought it was really nice how they gave feedback on the stuff I submitted. So I submitted five references for every study I did and they sent me back feedback letting me know how well I did and if I had questions I’d ask the questions and they’d give me feedback. So I really learned a lot on how to do prior art research. I feel comfortable participating in future studies and not just like I will be sending in a bunch of stuff they will just throw away. And I also got a lot out of the USPTO telling me that 19% of their employees are veterans. I would never have applied to the USPTO office because I thought I would never have a chance against all of the other people who applied. But if they do have such a strong preference then maybe I do stand a chance.
Renee: Jason, I can’t thank you enough for your service to our country, for participating in the program and for taking the time to speak with me and share your story.
Jason: Thank you.
MORE ABOUT JASON
Jason served as an Army Corporal with the 1st Brigade Combat Team and the 3rd Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart, Georgia during Operation Iraqi Freedom as both a military paralegal and as the driver and person in charge of the health and welfare of the embedded news media teams. Prior to then, while in Kuwait, he learned to drive the S-5 (the Civilian Liaison Officer) and towed a broken hummer’s worth of journalists behind his HMMVV with a rope, taking them to places of interest to report what was happening.
As a paralegal Jason facilitated courts martial, administrative discharges, non-judicial punishments, the recording law of war violations by Saddam’s forces, and the tracking of 15-6 investigations which are internal fact finding missions made into every loss of life, whose discoveries are used as the basis for the letters sent home to families. He mainly moved with the Headquarters unit of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, except when on special missions for the journalists. He spent most of his time in and around Baghdad, being with the first group to push through it to the Baghdad International Airport, then relocated to the Al-Faw Palace, and eventually settled down in the Ministry of the Interior building until they were sent home.