NJ Discover Spotlight: “Just When You Least Expect It, You’ll NEED an Intellectual Property Lawyer; Meet JOHN MALDJIAN, Esq. by Calvin Schwartz
December 21, 2020
My established journalistic tradition; Firstly, explain how the story eventuated. This is a resounding case. Intellectual property never appeared on my radar or life’s exigencies. Then, a few months ago, someone close to me wrote a published story in an anthology. I was a proud relation, so I blasted the news on social media. The very next day, the winds of communicative socialization blew in from the west coast; a Hollywood producer saw my social media post and wanted that property to develop. What ensued was a week of exhilaration, disbelief, confusion, desolation, trust and mistrust. Lost in this abyss of lack of support and knowledge, and people to turn to, was my own ineptitude in being able to advise and consent. Did we ever need an intellectual property lawyer! A week of anguish succumbed to a state of cluelessness. And gone with the wind was any Hollywood opportunity. How I wish John Maldjian was in my consciousness just a few months ago. Could’ve. Would’ve. Should’ve.
And how did John Maldjian arrive on my journalism desk? Longtime friend, Mia Rosano, the Business Affairs Leader of Maldjian Law Group LLC recently contacted me. My claim to fame in our enduring friendship was hanging out with Mia and Senator Bernie Sanders on the concrete steps of a church on a side street on Manhattan’s upper West Side. Picture on my LinkedIn profile.
Mia’s question was whether I’d be interested in interviewing John Maldjian. Instant incandescent light bulb. I needed to finally know an Intellectual Property Lawyer-Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights.
Love Zoom. John and I zoomed this morning and a few weeks back. Great commonality and synchronicity yielding fascinating discoveries. The matrix of our bond; Rutgers alums.
John grew up in Interlaken, New Jersey; a small town adjacent to Asbury Park. He describes his household as “curious.” “My dad grew up in Atlantic City, was in the Army Air Corp in World War II…. After the war chose to become a mechanical engineer because he was always curious about ‘things’…. Wanted to go to Villanova but he had to wear a propeller hat (He had enough of that during the war), so he went to Penn…. But this all made me mechanically inclined,” John said.
John got into electronics and as a young boy, and with his father’s help, actually built an electrical circuit that could simulate “all sorts of weird sounds.” “I think it had one of the first integrated circuit chips in it, either a 741 or 555,” John remembered. (It does exist; just Googled). “I took frequent walks with my dad, talking about the universe…. We all have a piece of the stars in us, he would tell me…. It was the first time I realized we are all one.” Journalism and interviewing are a “funny” thing. John’s last statement about us all being one is a special mantra of mine. Therefore, I felt bonded with John beyond; precursor to a unique interview. Heavy stuff.
Energy swirled in John’s early life. He wasn’t sure what to do so he learned to unicycle and walk on stilts and found time to build a barn with his dad during one summer. Finally, after graduating with high honors (and the school “spirit” award) from St. Rose High School in Belmar, New Jersey, he enrolled at Rutgers University, College of Engineering. He majored in electrical engineering, graduating with a BS EE degree and working as an engineer. My curiosity peaked how the journey to law materialized from his electrical engineering world.
“As an engineer at Fort Monmouth, it took years to field a system. We had to design it, source it, grant a contract, get it built, test it, and then field it. By that time, the system was practically obsolete…. It frustrated me…. Then on the beach at Loch Arbour, one summer day, I met up with my brother’s friend who became a patent attorney so he could get to see all these new ‘toys’ first…. He got to see inventions, cutting edge technology and protect it.”
That was the spark. John looked for a law school that specialized in patents and found a top school at Franklin Pierce Law Center (now University of New Hampshire School of Law.). “I loved everything about it…. basic law course in contracts, torts, constitutional, etc. and then electives in intellectual property law courses. I made it to the top of my class, which is what I wanted, to be the best IP lawyer I could be.”
He graduated in 1995, worked for an IP law firm in Westfield, NJ, practicing all aspects of intellectual property law. “It was a wonderful experience being there. I learned so much from the partners and senior associates there.” I love drifting off topic; call it digressing, egressing, progressing, so I went completely off and asked John about the movie (and book) the “Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,’ which was written by Rebecca Skloot and film produced by Oprah Winfrey; notable for its science and dealing with ethical issues of race and class in medical research. John responded lawyerly. “It’s different today; there are issues with HIPPA and inalienable constitutional rights. That hopefully wouldn’t happen to a person these days.”
“The commute to Westfield from the Jersey shore was hard, so I got a job at Tyco Telecommunications (now TE SubCom) in Eatontown as in in-house IP attorney. It was an exciting job at an exciting time. While I was there, we fielded the Tyco Global Network (TGN) which was an all-fiber optic, worldwide, undersea, telecommunication network. The company was totally vertically integrated, including our own fleets of ships dropping fiber optic cables and repeaters in the oceans and seas around the world. I was managing the IP portfolio for the company, in charge of getting patents for the brilliant engineers and scientists there.” But there was so much more John wanted to do and he felt strongly about going out on his own. “By 2007, I was several years into working again in private practices and seized upon the opportunity to start my own law firm with a fellow Frank’s law school graduate, Maldjian and Fallon LLC, which in 2010, became Maldjian Law Group, LLC when Jon Fallon left for another opportunity, and I never looked back.”
It’s very easy for me to give the link to Maldjian Law Group LLC https://mlgiplaw.com/ What continues to fascinate, which requires highlighting, is the diversity in backgrounds in the firm. John of course has a degree in electrical engineering from Rutgers. William J. Connelly III has a biology degree from Syracuse and a J.D. degree from St. John’s University School of Law. Micah Goldsmith is a computer scientist from UNLV with a J.D. from California Western School of Law . Stephen Plotkin graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Michigan and Cornell Law School. Lisa Bianco is Senior Intellectual Property (IP) Paralegal, graduate of SUNY (BS, Business Ad) and Mia Rosano, Monmouth University (BA, English). I joked with John that our alma mater, Rutgers, plays almost all of those schools in basketball.
Tone of interview grew serious again. “I talked often with my dad about the environment, recalling how frugal my dad was with materials and recycling even before that became a word… I began to ask myself how can I help, thinking about the future of solar energy, spurred on by crisis in oil and gas in the 70’s, climate change…. Yes, the 50’s was the Golden Age of engineering, but I worry about polluting Earth, e.g., industrial wastes and plastics lasting forever; those involved; seemingly little concern for our planet…. Looking back, I was a bit ahead of my time in my thinking, awareness not to hurt our Mother Earth.”
How spirited I was now Zooming with John. I mentioned my attending the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970. He talked about reducing carbon footprint. His voice pitched up. “As a patent attorney, I can protect innovation in environmental technology.” I added how much the future holds with innovation. We both had seen a documentary on the mind of Bill Gates and the work he’s doing globally with environmental innovation. John spoke about incentive-based recycling, reclaiming used oil and re-using sludge. As a caring journalist, environmentally, talking with John Maldjian had entered the nirvana stage. He was ‘with-it,’ caring, and beyond knowledgeable. “In our law firm, we want to encourage sustainable-thinking, projects, and like-minded clients.”
Next, John spoke about wanting to attract people (clients) who want to solve potable water problems. I interjected the seriousness of shrinking water tables and countries fighting over water.
Since I did my due diligence as a journalist, I studied Maldjian Law Group LLC and saw the myriad of intellectual property concerns in almost all areas of technology. What resonated with me on a personal note was ‘Nutraceuticals.’ More commonality discovered. We both love supplements, helping the body heal itself. Talk segued to cholesterol. He was so on top of the latest science; we compared our daily ingestions; mine going back to when I was at Rutgers Pharmacy School when Richard Nixon was President. Somehow, our Zoom morphed into a talk of the Asbury Park music scene; we knew so many of the same musicians; again, jointly marveling at our synchronicities and connectivity. And of course, we talked about the Garden State Film Festival in Asbury Park.
John is a board of trustee member of Preferred Behavioral Health Group (in Monmouth and Ocean Counties). I researched them the previous night. Their work, scope and dedication, besides being so desperately needed these days, blew me away. John smiled and nodded approvingly.
My mind was immersed in questions that somehow related to my own personal pursuits and explorations, but extremely valid in our general dispensing of legal information. Perhaps the last sentence was a euphemism for asking for legal advice within the confines of an interview. I asked about patents being territorial for the United States only. John added, “We work with foreign agents…. We try but there are no guarantees overseas…. China was not supportive but has been trying to recognize foreign nationals…. But overseas legal work is very costly…. A patent can cost from $20,000 to $30,000, cradle to grave here in the US only, but if you go overseas to obtain patent protection, it could be five to ten times that amount.”
John spoke about PCT international application to defer the foreign filing fees for a certain amount of time. PCT stands for the Patent Cooperation Treaty, an international patent law treaty finished in 1970; “a unified way to file patents and protect inventions in each of the 140 countries; an international searching organization.” John’s comments about PCT reminded me about a recent story I did on Ben Ferencz, a Nazi war crimes prosecutor at Nuremberg, Germany and a pioneer in the establishment of the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands. Of course, John knew all about Ben, even describing him physically as a very short man. All this time spent with John so impressed me. But his depth, range, grasp, even of distant particulates of history and relevant applications of law really held me in awe.
“By the way Calvin, we file PCT applications here at the firm.” I joked, that I was comfortably passed notions of inventions. There was a certain air about John, an incredible knowledge base, soft-spoken but so willing to share. So, it was time to ask a legal question that I’ve been carrying around for decades amidst my 250,000 journalistic pictures taken. I’ve been afraid to post these on social media. He laughed, sensing my hesitancy to ask. “Photos taken of a famous person, if there is a reasonable expectation of privacy-e.g., while the person is in their home or a fenced backyard, cannot be used; otherwise, if in a public setting and for journalistic purposes, it’s fair game… well legally known as ‘fair use’ in copyright law and right of publicity law.” It’s like I was with Black’s Law Dictionary.
I am a wordsmith. Words come easy. But hard to describe my elevation, appreciation, respect, for a very exceptional IP lawyer in the person I’ve been interviewing. There was a warmth and genuineness. I’ve seen most of the legal movies, know the stereotypes. But he is an original. I hope I’ll need him soon.
I spoke, “I like to close interviews through the looking glass. John, what are five things in life you can’t live without?” A smile, deep breath, smile gone. “Love, curiosity, learn something every day, family, and giving back.”
“Fill in the blank, Before I leave this earth, I won’t be happy until I blank?” A few seconds of closed eyes, knowing immediately what to answer. “Until I know that I have made a positive impactful influence on some aspect of people, life, and the earth.”
I rest my case.
Calvin Schwartz December 20, 2020
Maldjian Law Group LLC https://mlgiplaw.com/
NOTE: John Maldjian also appears on YouTube “Conversations with Calvin; WE the SpecIEs” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAjGtBFH6kA&t=32s