Mr. Maples, who was part of the original invasion into Iraq in 2003, was one of more than 20 other veterans, ranging in age from 17 to 54, who participated in the study. Not only did he receive $2,500 for his success in the research projects that AOP calls “Studies”, but he will also be receiving an additional $5,000 for his exemplary performance overall.
The Studies, which were meant to provide participating veterans with hands-on experience in patent research I can proudly say has been a great success. In fact you may have already read my interview with Jason So in continuing coverage of the program, I had the distinct pleasure to speak with the CEO and Founder of AOP, Cheryl Milone about her views on the success of the program.
Renee: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. I’d like to start by asking you, how was the idea for program actually born? Where did the idea come from? Whose idea was it? How did it come about and how did you get it to where it became?
Cheryl: It’s been discussed for some time. I tend to, on a personal level, just have tremendous respect for Veterans, and I think a number of people do in our company. We hired a researcher who was our best researcher in the company on a full time basis. And he is a Veteran. The collective experience of people at our company and perhaps maybe our culture – tends to identify those that we have a lot of respect for. And that is just a common theme among different employees at every level. So when the notion of working with a specific community to provide information about patents and this type of work to potentially give them economic benefits, while also tapping into communities which may not traditionally think of patent research, this community just naturally came up.
And it’s also an opportunity because it is really computer work or there can be some physical work, but it’s a matter of maybe going to a library. But there isn’t physical labor involved in this pursuit. So it also occurred to us in the case where someone might have limitations in doing physical labor, this might be a valuable for them to think about this as a career choice. And then finally, the view of the company is the quality level intellectually in a disciplined matter of Veterans has gotten to be at the highest echelon within our society. And, therefore, they would probably have a very good chance of being successful in this kind of work, because it requires intelligence; it requires systematic approach. And those qualities, we believe are very prevalent in those who choose to serve in our military.
Renee: Excellent. And the other thing that someone had said – and I’m not sure who had said it specifically, but someone had said that if you want to talk with someone who is most affected by the current technologies today, it’s our military folks ‘cause they’re out there using it. And I just think it’s wonderful because it’s a way to give back to them, as well.
Cheryl: As a company, we’re really blessed to be able to participate in activities that are meaningful for people. The best thing that we can do as a company is give economic benefit to people who can benefit from it. And based on a type of work that is probably more suited to certain descriptions of people – in this case, of course, I believe the decision to go into the military, the kind of training that people in the military get and the likely personality – very smart, very systematic, very disciplined, curious, there’s a lot of intelligence work, being able to quickly understand and combine data in order to form a conclusion. Those are all qualities that can be – support a very successful researcher in the patent space.
Renee: Yeah, and I agree. And that’s why I jumped right on this, because I agree with that assessment wholeheartedly. Were you pleased with the number of participants that were in this study?
Cheryl: Oh, very much. We were very appreciative of the support we received from the private sector, from the USPTO and, most importantly, from those who chose to take their very valuable time and work with Article One. So we couldn’t have been more pleased about the interest and the participation.
Renee: That’s excellent. Do you think there’s going to be future programs, or future Studies like this?
Cheryl: Sure. These are areas that are very important on the community side and we would love to do more of them. And we’ve learned a lot from this experience. It’s also been very exciting for us to see those in the program go from not knowing anything about this area to not only being successful in this particular objective, but learning about patents, which then can be used for their own entrepreneurship and their own success in business, if they choose to do other businesses.
Renee: Am I to assume that you had men and women both young and old participating as well? I saw that the winner was in Iraq, which is fairly new. But I saw that you also had at least one Vietnam War vet. It sounds like you had a nice mix of folks that had participated, which is really good.
Cheryl: Yes, that’s true.
Renee: Excellent. What’s your ultimate goal for the program?
Cheryl: I would like this to be an area that Veterans can consider as a potential career choice, both for achieving compensation on our platform, but also regardless of what business area they may want to go into. For example, starting a company or working within a company. Patents touch everything and the exposure to the patent system by this work, even if they choose a different career, it’s still going to be very valuable because patents are so pervasive in our lives today. And I want to help people if we can in the public and, in particular, in this case, those who we are – really owe so much to, to gain an understanding of patents. I think it’s very valuable to them, in general, in addition to this being a potential good career fit for them.
Renee: Absolutely. I read in your press release that Mr. McFerrin, who was post-Vietnam Navy Veteran and a librarian, has decided that as a result of the study, this might be a very good potential career for him. I believe he is looking into becoming either a patent researcher or even a patent agent. And I think that’s phenomenal. Based on what I see in the press release, it doesn’t even seem like that was a consideration for him. So that’s got to be refreshing in and of itself to know that you are pointing these folks who have given so much of themselves for our country into a new career option and new direction for them.
So what are your future plans to try and increase participation? Did you find out how folks had found out about the program and are you going to explore different avenues to try to increase the visibility so that more of those Veterans that may not necessarily heard about it this time will be reached the next time around?
Cheryl: We did a lot of outreach to various organization and we made some terrific contacts. We suggested Veterans were, in a sense, networking in the Veterans organizations to how best to spread the word. And also this is going to be a great trigger for Veterans who may hear about a program and feel that they just don’t know how it would work. Well, we were able to show now that it did work. And those who had not been exposed to this potential career before are now considering it. So it makes it a more real opportunity, I think, the next go around.
Cheryl: And like the Veteran community, the leadership in various organizations like the USPTO and Veteran organizations were just outstanding. So like anything, it does take some time to build relationships. And we’ll continue to do that and look for an organic growth in the next go around. I think also we see a tremendous camaraderie between individuals who are Veterans and the notion of them letting their contacts know about this opportunity has been really heartwarming because the notion that when running a company like Article One, we’re able to impact individual’s lives to the point that we’re interested in having people that they care about get involved. It is the most rewarding part of the company. And we sort of pinch ourselves around here that we can actually have that level of impact, because everybody who chooses to work with us, in particular these Veterans, are really taking a leap of faith that this is a platform that can provide the support for them to reach their goals, and when they do reach them to compensate them for it. It’s a pretty magical situation for us, and we really feel very lucky to be able to do this and the kinds of people that we meet, and the stories that we hear are really incredibly gratifying.
Renee: Yes. And coming from a family of quite a few military men, I have to say that I commend you guys for doing this. I commend Article One. And, like I said, as soon as I heard you were doing this program, I wanted to be a part of that.
Cheryl: Aw, Renee – that’s so nice of you. Thank you.
Renee: I think it’s amazing. I think for all they give to us, we should give back for to them. One last question for you: if there are people who either did not get involved in this study or were not able to, are you collecting contact information for future Studies? And, if so, where are people going to give that information to you?
Cheryl: That’s an excellent question. Our executive, Vince, who I’m sure you’ve spoken to before, really has driven the whole program. Vince, is there a place where Veterans hearing about this too late to have participated can log in their information so that we have it ready for the next program?
Vincent: Yes! We have a recording of all the career-learning sessions that are in accession that HP Robbins, Kaplan Miller, the USPTO, and Life Technologies. We have a recording of all those sessions. And we also have recordings of all the education and training webinars that we did. So if there are Veterans who are interested in learning more about opportunities within the IP industry, we can send them the recordings, even now that the program has concluded.
Renee: So where should they go? Should they go to a particular web page? Should they email someone?
Cheryl:They would have to register on our site and they would still have to – and then we’ll follow up with them individually.
Renee: Okay – great.
Vincent: Under the referral field, they can input that they are a Veteran and that will allow us to track registration from the Veterans community.
Renee: Well, I’ll make sure that they know that. Was there anything else you wanted to add to this?
Cheryl: I would just say that we really think of our community as a family. And it’s just an incredible honor for us to welcome the members of the Veteran community into this family. And our goal is to try to take what, in my view, is an increasingly complicated system in the patent system which, unfortunately, in its complexity, may be becoming more difficult for the public to understand. It’s our goal to simplify it and to support the public to understand, not only to confront some of the challenges that happen today, but also to have an opportunity, in this case to work in the field and in other areas of business to understand the value of patents in redirecting the system back to innovation as much as we possibly can.
Renee: That’s great, because I think there’s so many people that don’t how patents affect their everyday lives. And now that I’m married to a patent attorney, I’m always looking for patent numbers. And it’s amazing how many ways that it does touch our lives every day. Well, I can’t thank you enough for your time today. And I would like to share with the Veteran Community, those that are interested in being part of future Studies, to contact you through the web site.