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S1 | #10 – Winning The Patent Wars w/ David Shaw

UMN David Shaw | Patent Wars

David Shaw was Intuitive Surgical’s Vice President, Legal Affairs and Chief Patent & Corporate Counsel (1999-2003) during the nascent stage of robotic surgery. His expertise in patent strategy, prosecution, and litigation helped Intuitive overcome early IP missteps to become the market leader with a present market capitalization of $80 billion.

David played a similar role at Kyphon (2003-2007) as Vice President, Legal Affairs General Counsel & Secretary where he helped the company defend the balloon kyphoplasty market it created and ultimately be acquired by Medtronic for $4 billion.

David received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from North Carolina State University, earned his J.D. from Duke University School of Law, and served two years as a Law Clerk to Federal Judge Raymond C. Clevenger, III on the U.S. Court of Appeals For The Federal Circuit.

David currently consults with private medical device companies on patent strategy and helps entrepreneurs patent and defend the breakthrough innovations transforming the practice of medicine.

David Shaw

Winning The Patent Wars w/ David Shaw

Our guest on episode ten is David Shaw. David is an expert in all things patent. David received a Bachelor’s degree from North Carolina State University in Chemical Engineering. He went on to get a Law degree from Duke University. David was a law clerk to Federal Judge Raymond C. Clevenger III. He went on to become an associate at the law firm Fish & Richardson.

David was the Vice President of Legal Affairs, Chief Patent and Corporate Counsel in Intuitive Surgical going back to 1999. He then went on to be the Vice President of Legal Affairs and the General Counsel for Kyphon from 2003 to 2007. After Medtronic acquired Kyphon, David began his consulting practice where he advises early-stage MedTech companies on patent strategy, litigation, diligence and so much more. David, thanks so much for being on the show. I appreciate you being on the show.

You’re welcome, Jeff.

The general structure of the show is we want to learn a little bit about you. In the second part, we’re going to get into patent strategy. The third thing is we’re going to go do vault and then wrap it up from there. With that in mind, I’d love to hear a little bit more about your background and where you grew up. Did you have any brothers and sisters? If you wouldn’t mind, please put it on a timeline for us.

I was born in England. I emigrated when I was fifteen when my dad got a job offer in North Carolina. We emigrated from North Yorkshire, England which is where I was born and grew up. That was quite a formative part of my early years because it took me way out of my comfort zone. Fifteen years of friends, familiar surroundings, everybody talks the same and everybody understands what you say when you speak coming to a new country that nominally speaks the same language but does not.

As a result, it taught me some of the skills that I unconsciously relied upon in my later years. It’s taught me the ability to adjust, adapt and face my fears of not knowing anybody and being in this culture that I had no idea about when I first came here. That’s my roots. I had a relatively small family, a brother and two parents and we all came over at the same time but it took me almost 25 years before I became a citizen of the US.

Something I’m proud of is the journey to get citizenship for someone who emigrates. It’s a journey that I wish every US-born citizen could go through. It teaches you a lot about the country and the group of people that we choose to be citizens of. It teaches you about history but more importantly, for me, at least as part of my journey, the swearing-in ceremony was awesome. That word is overused so much in our society but it was awesome.

There were people from 120 different countries who stood up when their country was called and the first guy that stood up was one man from Afghanistan. During my swearing-in ceremony, he was sworn in. They went through alphabetically, all the countries. 1/3 of the 1,200 people were from China and 1/3 were from India but there were 120 different countries represented.

The emcee in the ceremony, the State Department under Bush, interacted with people in the audience in seven different languages that are not typical. It wasn’t French and Spanish. It was Swahili, Japanese and Russian. It wasn’t a few words he said. He had a conversation with folks from these countries in their native tongue. It was such a proud moment to say, “This is the country that I’m becoming a citizen of.” I’m an American even though I don’t talk like it.

Thanks for sharing that. When you became an American citizen, if you moved when you were around 14 years old, 25 years later, were you in your mid to late 30s?

If that’s what the math says, yes. Honestly, at this point, my son reminds me almost daily that I’m getting old so maybe my dates are off but it was something like that. It was after I met my now wife and that was within the last couple of years so something like that. Let’s go with the early 40s.

If you can go back, you’re a teenager living in North Yorkshire. Your dad comes home and says, “Everybody, dad has got a new job. We’re moving to North Carolina.” What was that moment like for you?

We’ve had an introduction to North Carolina over the previous two summers. My dad had a long-term plan that he hadn’t shared with us but in the summer of ‘79, we spent two weeks in Charlotte, North Carolina having fun in America. It was nothing more than, “Let’s go for a quick vacation while dad’s working over there.” In 1980, we spent 6 weeks of our 4 summer breaks over in America in the same place in Charlotte. At that point, it wasn’t a complete surprise that something was coming because he was easing us into it.

What I remember of the moment is, “If that’s what you want to do, let’s go have an adventure,” but there was certainly some discomfort and trepidation as I started to think about what that meant. We came over. I immediately went to school for two days and they said, “This kid should not be in this grade. We’re going to bump them up to eleventh grade because he’s done everything.” I had turned fifteen that summer. I graduated high school at 16 because I was young for my grade and then I skipped 10th grade.

In England, I was already doing calculus at fourteen. They didn’t know what to do with me so that was good and bad. It was good in the sense that it allowed me to continue to accelerate academically and I wasn’t held back very much in terms of what I could handle academically but socially, I was backwards. I was a 15-year-old hanging out with 17-year-olds who had been in an environment that was much more socially driven than I had been in the first place so that took a little bit of getting used to. I caught up socially in 2019.

You’re a tall guy. When I was fifteen, I was a pretty small guy. I can’t imagine being a junior. Have you already sprouted? Are you the smallest junior in class?

I was an athletically ungifted scrawny kid who wore big glasses, had goofy hair and talked funny to boot. It was an adjustment, let’s say.

UMN David Shaw | Patent Wars
Patent Wars: Litigation is not something to be celebrated. You don’t pull it out of the drawer first. Go into it very carefully with a tremendous amount of forethought.

It paints a picture for me. Some of the skills that you learned from that transition are not only being in a new country, having an accent, speaking a little differently using a different language and sometimes speaking proper English, you could say. When you learn some of these skills that ended up serving you in your career and later in adult life, what were some of those skills? How did you learn them?

I wasn’t learning the hard science that I use, particular grammar skills or how to write effectively. It wasn’t those kinds of skills. Those came later. The things that I’m talking about are tenacity. The ability to deal with circumstances where you don’t always fit in but finding a way to deal with that and thrive under circumstances that weren’t necessarily geared towards that when you come into a brand new environment and are surrounded by a lot of people you don’t know who they are and understand how they think.

It taught me the value of knowing myself, knowing what I stand for, knowing who I am, knowing what I value and what I don’t and knowing what I’ll put up with and what I won’t. All of those still apply. We’re all driven in business to succeed, face challenges and overcome those challenges. There’s a whole bell curve of different ways of facing challenges. Ethics comes into it as well. Some are driven by the ends justify the means and it doesn’t matter what method you take to get there as long as you get there.

I don’t know that I’m driven that way. I was at least determined early on that I want to find a path that feels right and that can nonetheless achieve great success because, in the end, I enjoy sleeping well at night. I’m sure we’ll come back to this in some of the things that we talked about but it was those kinds of early formative experiences. I don’t think about this every day but when I think about your question and reflect, that’s how I think about answering it.

Thank you, David. That’s an important lesson. It’s not just the outcome we achieved but sometimes how we achieve it is as important. It is nice to sleep well at night. I didn’t ask but I haven’t guessed. Your father moved the family to Charlotte. What line of work was he in?

He was a polymer chemist and the first person in his family who went to university. He was invited rather strongly by his father to stay in the family baking business. He decided that it was not the path that he would choose and it was not an easy decision for him. He was brave to essentially reject what all of the family had accepted as okay, which is struggling to get by through a bakery. He wanted something more for himself and ultimately for the family that he didn’t then know but later gained.

He went to university and ultimately got his PhD in Polymer Chemistry and then was working in a research facility in North Yorkshire when he realized that if he would stay there a couple of years later, the place would close and we would end up moving to the Northeast part of England, which is extremely industrial. We were fortunate at that time to live in the foothills of the moors, which were not industrial. He saw that coming so as a result, he became much more interested in finding a new opportunity, which turned out to be in the States.

Did he have an influence on you when you decided to pursue a degree at NC State in Chemical Engineering? Was it your father’s interest? Was that a big impact on you?

It was but in the following sense. If you were to look back at my life and the big decisions I made early on, I think of it as bowling. When you go bowling and you’re not a good bowler, you put up those guards against the gutters. The ball will never end up in the gutter and you bounce off these railings and somehow make it down and knock down some pins.

I think of my decision on how to go to university and what I was going to study as being a decision process. “What do you like doing?” “I like building things so I should be an engineer.” “What kind of engineer?” “My dad’s a chemist so chemical engineering. That’s what I’m going to do.” There isn’t too much gap between that story and reality. The good news, thank goodness, is I chose a difficult field.

As a result, my Chemical Engineering degree didn’t teach me the skills that I used. You don’t want to turn me loose on thermodynamics but what it taught me was how to learn a very difficult subject matter and become conversant in difficult principles and then apply them in a way that I could do so effectively. I thrived. I’ll never forget when I graduated from NC State. They have the cum laude, magna cum laude, summa cum laude and different levels of honors.

When I walked up on stage, my lead professor announced me as, “David Shaw, all kinds of cum laude.” I had no idea he was going to say it. His name was Dr. Mazlan and he was fantastic. I ended up learning and I learned well. I undertook a lifelong passion for learning different subjects and difficult subjects very well so that I can then contribute. I used to do it as an engineer but I now do it as a member of a business team or be it from the perspective of someone with a patent background.

You learn how to speak about and study difficult topics through chemical engineering. At the time, it sounds like they were the guardrail where you were like, “As long as I pursue this, I should be fine.” Where was the inspiration to study law and ultimately get into Duke University law school? It’s one of the best in the country.

It is a good school. It certainly trained me well. I don’t want to make a meal out of this but this was the journey in a nutshell. When I got out and graduated with my engineering degree, the first thing I did was spend three months in the northernmost part of Australia as part of a series of expeditions. It was called Operation Raleigh but the idea was you get young folks from 40 or 50 different countries and bring them together in an environment that they’re not familiar with and they focus on community service and scientific exploration. There was one more but I don’t remember what it was.

It was an adventure and a way to give back to a local community. I spent a month on an island in the Torres Strait between the northernmost part of Australia and New Guinea on the island of Moa. We built homes for the indigenous folks there. That was 1 of the 3 months that I spent. The reason I’m telling you that is that right before I left to go on that trip, I was in the mode that I had been in when I first went to university, which was, “What do I do? My dad’s a PhD. I’ll go get a PhD.”

I had been interviewed at Berkeley, the University of Minnesota and Caltech. It turns out that those three were the top biochemical engineering programs in the country at the time. I was on the path to getting a PhD. During those three months when I stuck my head out, pulled my head out of the sand and started looking around thinking about life and what mattered, I realized, “I don’t know if I want to spend another seven years in a lab. Why am I getting a PhD?” I have a lot of introspection about starting to get out of my shell and seeing some of the big, wide worlds.

As a result, I called up one of the companies I’d interviewed with when they came on campus and it turned out it was Exxon. I said, “I changed my mind. I’m wondering if you still have a job for me because I’d like to go and get some experience in this field, in which I got my degree to figure out whether this is what I want to do.” They said, “We’ve got a job down here at the refinery in Baton Rouge. How do you feel about that?” I said, “Great. I’ll be there when I get back.”

Always look for a path that feels right to you. The end doesn’t always justify the means. Click To Tweet

I became a chemical engineer called a Refinery Process Contact Engineer for about two and a half years at Exxon in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. My job was to oversee what is called the pipe stools, which are the 100 or 200-foot tall distillation columns that processed a ridiculous number of gallons of oil per day. It was in the tens of thousands. If not, the hundreds of thousands. That’s what I did. I did it because I didn’t want to become a PhD but I knew that I didn’t want to do this long-term. It was a job that would allow me to start to think about what I wanted to do.

The impetus to change to go get an advanced degree, which I knew I always wanted was the Exxon Valdez at the reef. That destroyed me. I said, “I am working for a company that is causing such massive environmental damage when I consider myself to be somewhat plugged into being environmentally conscious.” I said, “It’s probably time. I’ve been here long enough. What do I want to do?” I knew I didn’t want to leave behind my love of technology so I didn’t want to do something that divorced me from technology and that side of knowledge.

I enjoyed business but an MBA didn’t feel right for me at the time. I was part of a leadership organization at NC State so I called up my advisor and we were kicking around some ideas. He said, “You should go see a guy.” It turns out he worked in Charlotte and I was then in Baton Rouge. I won’t tell you his name but he was in this leadership organization. He’s a patent attorney and he loves it. I went to go see this guy and I remember his name but I want to respect his privacy. We had a conversation and in his office is where the angels sang.

I said, “I love the idea of becoming a lawyer but not just any lawyer. I want to be the best dang lawyer that I can be and I want to do it in a field where I can contribute something of value.” I thought that was patent law so I ended up applying to a series of schools. I had emigrated to North Carolina so I was eligible for a North Carolina scholarship.

I went to Duke on a 50% scholarship for folks who had ties to North Carolina. I was a BS Womble scholar. That was the name of my scholarship at Duke and I ended up getting a Law degree there. The irony is that Duke at the time and they have since remedied this but their IP wasn’t a particular area of focus. You went to Duke to get a good education on how to think and communicate but you didn’t go there for a good education on patent law.

If I could clarify, when you say Duke University’s IP, their curriculum and instruction were maybe not the top or was it the university’s internal R&D, licensing and patent program?

It was back in the early ‘90s. I got out in ’92. There may have been one IP course that you could take. It was not an area of focus in the curriculum. There were several engineers in my law school class and this was a bit of a gripe that we had. At Duke, I am happy to say as since remedied that in spades and I understand that they have quite a healthy IP program, not only in trademarks and copyright but also in hardcore patent law. I didn’t want that to hold me back.

What I wanted was a strong degree in how to think, communicate and write which were skills that I would use but I then went for a two-year clerkship at the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. That court is where I cut my teeth on hardcore patent law because the Federal Circuit handles all of the patent appeals that come out of all of the district courts in the States. It is essentially the Supreme Court of patent law or be it the Supreme Court can review the Federal Circuit decisions, which it does on occasion.

One of my best friends was a partner at O’Melveny. He went to Duke University and also did a federal clerkship. We don’t have to get into all the details but when he talks about his career, he always goes back to being a clerk and how formative that was. I can imagine it takes the law that you’re studying and how to think, read, communicate and write and you see it all in practice. For you, was that a formative experience?

It was unquestionably. I was so incredibly fortunate. Bumbling through life, I originally signed on for a one-year clerkship, because even though I was still quite young, I thought, “I’ve already worked in an industry for three years. I need to go get a job and get back into the workforce. I can’t play around for two years on the court.” I signed up for a one-year clerkship with Judge Clevenger. What an amazing gentleman in so many ways. I was so fortunate to have been under his wing for a year.

Halfway through that year, I realized the mistake I made, which was, “I should have stayed on that court for as long as humanly possible.” It was such a formative experience. I became Judge Clevenger’s first two-year clerk because he was gracious enough to say, “Why don’t we keep you around for another year?”

I ended up getting a two-year clerkship through the grace of Clevenger. It was a truly remarkable experience beyond the first year because I became the senior clerk. That is a whole bunch of different experiences beyond what you get just by your first year there. It was a very important part of my formative years as a patent attorney and then left the court and went out into private practice.

Did Judge Clevenger have some of those tenacity skills and the ability to thrive in difficult situations that you were developing since moving to the US? Was that something you saw in him as a mentor?

I don’t know that I saw the ability to thrive in difficult situations. I don’t know that there were particularly difficult situations that we face albeit there were difficult decisions to make and we’re walking and working closely with other judges on the court and their clerks as well. What I remember most about Judge Clevenger was not only a brilliant mind who was driven to contribute whatever he could to the law and the court but I also saw somebody who had a tremendous balance in life.

It was the way he enjoyed what he did, the love and passion that he had for his little clerk family in the way in which we laughed, enjoyed each other’s company and made it a fun environment. It was how he celebrated life outside of the court. He wasn’t a spring chicken but he sucked the juice out of life. As a result, in many ways, he affected me as I grew older in ways that I hadn’t appreciated but I tried to do the same. I am a better attorney, partner in business and entrepreneur when I am balanced in life. If that balance gets out of whack, I need to get back into whack.

On occasion, you get sucked into projects that require it. When you come from a place of balance, you’re able to dive in deep when you need to and come out to the other side as healthy as ever. Even though those dives sometimes, especially in litigation can take a couple of years. I am fortunate in being able to work every day at it but also being able to live with some balance in life where it doesn’t take me down a path where I become less effective. That’s how I think about it.

What a great lesson. If you don’t mind me telling you this compliment and all the years that we’ve worked together, I’ve noticed that in you. I’ve always admired the way you make time for these trips. You travel and go to these amazing places with your family. You’re still easily one of the hardest-working people I’ve ever met. I see that balance in you and it’s no surprise as an entrepreneur. It’s not an easy equilibrium to achieve. For me, it’s fun to hear that that’s where some of that balance came from. I appreciate you sharing that.

UMN David Shaw | Patent Wars
Patent Wars: When an examiner finally understands the purpose of your technology, they shift from being an obstacle to someone who can bring the patent to life.

Thank you, Jeff. That’s a great compliment. It’s important. If I can help, forget the stuff we work on together and all the important things that each of us does in our companies and lives. I have tried over the years to help folks who I see are unbalanced to realize that there are different ways of going about it. I’ll tell you a little anecdote, “Name doesn’t matter.”

An accomplished attorney is at the top of his game in a different field. He’s not a patent attorney. We were having dinner one day after working on a pretty mission-critical project for a decent-sized client and I was asking him about his practice. One of the things he said to me was, “I’m always available, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. My clients know that they can pick up the phone at any time of day and night and I will be on the other end.” I looked at him like he was a madman. I said, “Why do you do that?”

We got into this interesting conversation about balance. Coming out of that conversation, he realized that maybe he should start to rethink how he had structured his practice because of the kinds of things that we talked about that he had given up as a result of the approach that he was taking. I shared it with him. I said, “I am going to be there when my clients need me but my clients also understand that if they call me at 3:00 in the morning that I am hardly going to be effective. They also know not to call me at 3:00 in the morning because they know I will be available when I say I’ll be available and I won’t otherwise.”

Hopefully, it helped him. It did but there are several different conversations I’ve had over the years helping young attorneys, as well as experienced attorneys and seeing, “Maybe the balance is out of whack a little bit.” It does not detract from what we can achieve and the successes that we can all benefit from but it makes life a little bit richer.

I love what you said because, for high-achieving people or professionals that aspire to achieve great things and success, the words that you’ve used are tenacity and drive. For me, at least, they connect with me 7 days a week, 24/7. I can imagine that attorney having a sense of pride as he shared that with you. It also feels sad to hear that because if you’re that available for your work, what are you not available for?

The takeaway for me is that a lot of what we do, in different ways for a living, is to extend longevity and health span. I hope that I’m fortunate enough to live a long life. I’d like to work a lot of those years and there’s a sustainability component where it’s a long run. You can’t sprint the first 5 miles of the marathon and hope to have any gas left in the tank. That’s an important lesson.

It also reminds me of something we haven’t touched on but this takes us a little bit more into one of the more focused purposes of this conversation, which is the patent strategy and stuff. The part that I wanted to touch on briefly is I focus solely on med-tech or medical technology. I’m not a patent attorney who does everything in patent law. What I do is everything in patent law within a relatively narrow field of medical technology. I chose to do that consciously.

When I got out of court and went into private practice, I was a young attorney at the bottom of the pile. They talk about stuff rolling downhill. You’re catching it all. You get sucked into litigation reviewing documents twenty hours a day and doing all these things that you’re not about the balance of life. Balance comes later.

Right then you’re in the thick of things. What I realized quickly is I did not enjoy coming into a team as a hired gun solving the narrow problem that they hired me to solve as part of this big legal team and then we move on to the next fight. I always caught myself thinking. It’s an intense experience when you go into litigation.

As a result, I was getting to know the engineers and the companies that we were representing well and understanding what they were concerned about technology-wise, what they were working on and what they were trying to solve. All of a sudden, I don’t get paid to think about that anymore because the case is over and we moved on to somebody else.

I always thought, “I wonder how Richard solved that problem, if they got over that technical challenge or if the technology was able to get into a clinical trial.” I always wanted to know where the business was going. I realized quickly that I like to build things. I’m not talking about sheds, although I build those as well.

I’m talking about viable businesses and technologies that can benefit patients. Not just me toos but technologies that change the practice of medicine to benefit the patient and improve the quality of life, the people that we all ultimately care about in this particular field, which is the end-user. Our neighbors, our family, our friends and folks who need medical technology to improve their lives.

I get an immense amount of satisfaction doing what I do in the small area that I do that permits the technologies that I work on, ultimately, to succeed in the hands of the brilliant people who take it into the clinical trial and beyond. If I can do my piece, protect it so that others don’t steal it, stop it from ever seeing the light of day and by helping others see the value in it so that they fund it. I’m talking about patent prosecution, FTO, defending other people’s patents and due diligence.

If I can do the part that I do, then the companies that I work for succeed and ultimately benefit the lives of patients for the better. That’s what drives me. The rest of it is fun. All the strategy, the in-the-trenches work and the late nights thinking about how we solve this problem are the fun pieces. The real gratification comes from contributing in the way that I can and working with incredibly smart driven tenacious business teams and helping them succeed.

It gets me up in the morning and gets me excited about each day. Your team is an example of that. You know the folks on your team and how hard you’ve worked to get where you’re going and the journey is, by far, no means over. I wanted to get that context because everything that I talked about, in terms of this specific subject matter that you introduced at the beginning of this conversation, I look at it through that subject matter lens of being concentrated within the medical technology field.

I’m glad you shared that and thanks for the context. As we transition to the do’s and don’ts or patent strategy 101 for the healthcare entrepreneur, could you speak about once you realize that you didn’t want to be a hired gun and took your first role in the industry? Those were two of the most game-changing technology-driven companies in the last years, Intuitive Surgical and Kyphon where we met. Can you speak about what you did there, what you thought of that experience and how that led you to have your practice partnering with many healthcare companies?

Let me see if I can bring those who are reading into how I got to where I got to. I work for myself as a consultant and over the last years, I have supported two dozen different startup companies but I originally leaped from private practice. I worked at the law firm of Fish & Richardson for about four and a half years. Early in that process, because I knew that I wanted to go in-house, I took on a patent prosecution docket, litigation docket and diligence docket. It’s FTO-type work.

The more you learn how to destroy a patent, the better you can write a patent that will survive the challenges to come. Click To Tweet

At that time, I believe I was the only person to have all of that within the firm. You had litigation specialists and patent prosecution specialists. I said, “I want to do both.” It made it busy for a while but I wanted to learn the mechanical skills of prosecuting a patent. I wanted to learn how to destroy a patent, which I learned in litigation. The more I learned how to destroy a patent, the better I could do the job of writing a patent that would survive the challenges that would come if it turns out the patent became valuable.

I then leaped outside of private practice into a little medical startup company working on technology to treat stroke. Within about a year, I had done everything that I needed to do to set that company up for sale. I had done all the FTO work and written opinions. We prosecuted the patents to protect them and have done FTO searches.

I’ve done everything to package that up and the technology failed. It did not succeed. It turns out it failed about three months after I left but right at that time, I could see that there were technological challenges that I would become a bit of a passenger because there wasn’t so much for me to do anymore. If they go back to the drawing board, all this work has already been done.

Right around that time, Intuitive Surgical was looking for a chief patent counsel. This was back when Intuitive was still a private company. It was $2 a share for options. It was trying to survive. I was hired as their chief patent counsel. It was an incredible opportunity. It was one of the most intense professional experiences I’ve ever had.

Within three months of joining Intuitive, we had filed five interferences against another company that we ended up buying but it was the robotic surgery pattern wars between Intuitive Surgical and a company called Computer Motion. I wrote a set of claims in a continuation application that I prosecuted with the help of our outside counsel through to issuance on which we then sued Computer Motion.

We got a jury verdict of infringement and validity and went to the phase of trying to get an injunction against it. We prosecuted the claims along with our patent prosecution outside counsel to issuance, those claims issued. We then sued Computer Motion and asserted those claims successfully through a successful jury verdict of validity and infringement. We were then into the injunction phase against Computer Motion.

I took the raw materials of what intuitive had filed long ago and ended up going through the full gamut of patent activities using the skills that I learned at Fish. That was one piece of the battle against Computer Motion. Computer Motion ended up suing us on ten other patents. We had fights in Europe and I was responsible for all of this.

Long story short, when I joined Intuitive, it was in a position of essentially inventing the technology of robotic surgery. Until that point, by not having done a good job at all of prosecuting its inventions to successfully own the patents that mattered, we took the company from that point through to where Computer Motion and Intuitive finally said, “Does it make sense for us to fight here? Computer Motion, you understand that you cannot own this space even though you have all these patents because you’re losing the interferences and starting to lose your patents.”

As a result, the two companies got together and the rest is history. It was an amazing journey to have been on for five years when I was Chief Patent Counsel and Corporate Counsel at Intuitive. They’re the brightest guys that I’ve ever met. These were world-class recognized robotics engineers that I was supposed to be able to converse with. Not only converse with but understand, critique, point out the flaws of their reasoning and make for a product in the court and patent office system that allowed us to gain traction. Also, it ultimately puts the company in a position where it could own the market space. It wasn’t easy but it was a hell of a journey.

That must have been amazing. You’re running point from a patent litigation standpoint of the equivalent of the Cold War of robotic surgery.

It ended up being a win for everybody. Litigation is not something to be celebrated. It is a business tool. It is something that you don’t pull out of the drawer first and you have to carefully go into it with a tremendous amount of forethought. Recognize that I don’t care how well the litigation might go in the early stages. In the end, there is a huge business risk. Make sure that the business understands the risks and strategy, goes in with its eyes open and then you work hell for a successful outcome if that’s the path that ultimately is right.

It does have its benefits, especially when you’re representing a small company and the big companies are trying to kill it. Unfortunately, I’ve been involved in a few bet-the-company litigations over the years and the good news is that my companies have fared quite well so I’m proud of that. There is one small anecdote that I will share with you. I won’t tell you the person who said this but they paid me a tremendous compliment after a particularly successful day in the fight on Intuitive’s part.

After he told me this compliment and what it meant to the company to have achieved what we achieved, I cried. It was for the first time in my life professionally that I had. It wasn’t through happiness or sadness. It was through realizing that the stress that I had been carrying for so many years had finally paid off. It was a natural reaction.

Reflecting on that moment many decades later, it is a sign of an extremely rich professional journey to have laughed and experienced true joy, the depths of sadness and cried and the full range of human emotions. If you can do that in a career, you’re probably not doing anything wrong but it is truly life-enriching to have experienced all of that in life and also in my professional career. Maybe it’s a silly anecdote but it’s something I certainly remember, let’s put it that way.

What I love about that is everybody is at different stages of their lives and careers but in this discussion alone, we’re tackling big concepts. How do you have balance? How can you be a judge like Judge Clevenger that sucks all the fun, joy and love out of life so that he can be so much fun to be around? This is the difficult side of the coin. What’s not mentioned there is taking on four dockets in Fish & Richardson.

There was a period of tremendous investment in yourself, your skills and abilities which was not easy. That wasn’t the time to have the balance of life but by putting in that effort early, you could then tackle some important challenges armed with skills that you had earned not at a time of balance. Only because of that investment of energy, time and focus could you experience this full range of emotions that only people that try to do great things that hardly ever know that degree of satisfaction. That’s difficult if you’re in your twenties trying to start your career.

Let me throw out another anecdote because I truly believe this. Let me talk about patent prosecution for a moment. You file an application. Let’s focus on the US Patent Office. You work with the patent office, go back and forth, trade papers and do all these things. Ultimately, you try to get a patent. Hopefully that patent is valuable. I’ll tell you the story and I want to come back to that point a minute about getting a valuable patent.

UMN David Shaw | Patent Wars
Patent Wars: Your counsel must be proactive. They must get ahead of companies that are going extremely fast and clear the space you can invent into.

I am 100% convinced that the patent prosecution when you set aside all of the rules that you need to abide by, all of the particular disclosures and how the mechanics of how claims should be written is simply human relations. How do you help that examiner understand what you’re trying to say, get excited about what you’re saying and buy into the story that you’re so excited about and hope that he or she goes home to their spouse at night and says, “Let me tell you about something that happened. There’s this neat little product and company?”

How do you get them excited about what you’re excited about? To me, that is patent prosecution. It’s a little bit different way of thinking about it than how I learned it because I learned it from people who almost didn’t like human interaction. They thought you back papers back and forth and have a certain way of writing the paper. It’s arcane, mechanical and oftentimes, it’s ineffective.

When I started doing this and I was so excited about what I was working on, I said, “I want to get that other person who’s thinking about whether to grant me a patent excited about as well. The way I’m going to do it is I’m going to go talk to them. I’m going to go sit in their office and tell them why I’m so excited.”

“I’m going to show them the technology, what we’re working on, tell them what we’re worried about in terms of what the company is trying to achieve and what I’m working on in terms of a particular application relates to what I’m so excited about in the business.” That has had real success. I’ve experienced this several times.

When you have an interview with an examiner where they start to understand this is a real company, it’s a real technology, it has a way to benefit patients, benefit their quality of life and you get to the moment where they say, “That’s interesting,” you shift them from, “How am I going to be an obstacle to preventing this company from getting its patent,” to, “How can we help you get this patent?”

I am starting to lose track of the number of times in interviews when we simply talk with them and help them understand what’s happening, where the examiner starts to suggest ways in which we might improve the claims, improve our protection technology and avoid a potential infringement headache, where the examiner becomes part of the team rather than an obstacle that you communicate with through somewhat staid writing.

I don’t know if I can describe it any differently and maybe the way I’ve described it isn’t effective but I truly believe there is a diamond in the rough once you realize these are folks trying to do their jobs as well and they would love to get excited about something so let’s give them something to be excited about even if it’s in patent prosecution. It’s a different way of approaching it that I have found quite effective.

Your passion and why that’s so effective goes back to the fact that you get so much satisfaction out of helping technologies that are going to serve all these patients succeed whether it’s going to a clinical trial or getting through diligence to raise the next round. It has a lot to do with how satisfying that is for you. I recall distinctly that it was 2010 or 2011 when you shared that advice with me, specifically to our patent portfolio.

For the readers, it’s a great example of somebody who practices what he preaches. To me, from a pattern recognition standpoint, the best FDA regulatory consultants always take the same tact because we have something in med-tech and life science that’s so special and unique. The solutions we’re building are there to drastically improve people’s lives and reduce suffering and pain. It’s so easy for anyone to connect to whether it’s a patent prosecutor, a regulatory or an FDA examiner. That’s an important takeaway.

I want to be respectful of your time, David. If you were to say to the startup, maybe they’ve raised a seed round and patents are going to be a big part of them protecting and building value, what are the top three things they should do? What are some common mistakes that you see entrepreneurs make early in the entrepreneurial startup journey?

The first answer I’m going to give you is to comment on the role that I play for all the companies that I represent. It is 98% medical device startup companies that I work for. The reason my business model works is because of a few things. The first is when you’re a little medical technology company, it oftentimes is the case that you are inventing a space that is already occupied in some way, shape or form.

There are other companies with potentially fundamental patents or patents that are close to what you’re doing. You’ve got a better mousetrap but it’s not like you’re inventing in one populated space. If that’s the case, then getting sophisticated quickly about IP early on can save so many headaches later. What do I mean by that? When you’re a little startup company, oftentimes, you can’t afford in-house counsel.

If you can’t afford an in-house counsel, you can afford somebody who maybe has a couple of years of experience and they don’t have the experience of decades of fighting the fights and going through the different challenges than an experienced IP counsel does. You bring in somebody and they say, “We’ve got in-house patent counsel,” or maybe they don’t have in-house patent counsel, they only have external patent counsel. That leaves that company exposed.

If they have an inexperienced in-house counsel, that counsel isn’t going to see half the things that he or she should see. It’s not through the lack of effort. It’s simply through lack of experience. If they only have outside prosecution counsel or outside counsel, the problem is that outside counsel gets paid to do what they are asked to do.

It is an exceedingly rare outside counsel who is proactive, who starts asking questions in areas where they’re not paid to ask questions to figure out the bigger picture and issue spot for the company to get ahead of headaches that they will be hired to solve once the headaches occur. You want counsel to be proactive. You need counsel to get ahead of these companies that are going at an extremely fast clip and essentially clear the space that they can invent and bring their technology into so that they are not left with a huge headache.

A huge headache that becomes so expensive when for example they are infringing other patents to which they don’t have an answer or other companies see the value they have created and immediately knock their technology off. The patents have lagged the development of technology so badly that they don’t have the patents issued to be able to protect what they’ve created and they lose them before they ever owned it.

My business is focused on providing little companies that can’t afford in-house counsel. It’s the ability to work with experienced quasi-in-house counsel. I don’t go in as an employee. I go in as a consultant but I also charge a fraction of what some of these outside counsels charge. I take equity in the company to bear the risk with the company. I don’t like getting paid if I don’t have skin in the game and I bear the same risks as the company, which is why I operate under that type of business plan.

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What it provides the little company is somebody who, unfortunately, bears the scars of the experiences that have given me at least some wisdom in this space to be able to start to see what this little company needs. Some situations present themselves over and over in these little companies but there are also unique sets of circumstances that come up in almost every single company, which makes this so interesting.

With that in mind, what’s one of the common mistakes that these companies make? They don’t have somebody experienced who is proactive. That’s the first one. Get that person. The problem with having a pure outside counsel who isn’t invested in the in-house counsel role, which is the bridge that I span, is that they don’t know half of what’s going on in the company but our IP impact.

The second, I’ve already alluded to. The IP protection must track and in my view, stay ahead of the development path for the technology itself. If the company comes along, it’s got a good mousetrap and it’s a $5,000 to $10,000 product and they can get through with a minor clinical trial and it’s not a PMA where they’ll be stuck with the FDA for a decade and they get on to the market. The IP guys have said, “We filed an application. Where is it? Where’s the patent?” “It’s still in the queue. It will be picked up in about a year.” “We need to protect it because people are copying us. The patent office is slow.” That isn’t good enough.

We have to find ways of protecting the company as quickly as possible and within the context of the company’s evolution, to make sure that when the company sits up and says, “I need to protect what I’ve done because other people are stealing it,” you can say, “That’s great. We’ve already got this and that and the other. We’ve stayed ahead of it.” The good news is that there are many more tools that you can use to try to do that.

One of the examples is track one, the fast track. It’s how you can push through patent prosecution quickly, at least in the US office and then you have the Patent Prosecution Highway abroad or be it OUS prosecution. Prosecution outside the US is typically slower. The third mistake folks make is, “We need to use the diss track one, this fast track. We need to push the patents through.” Using the fast track within the patent office is a massive double-edged sword in the following sense.

The fast track doesn’t fast track you to a patent. It can just as easily fast-track you to a final rejection of your patent. It simply accelerates the prosecution process. The challenge is how you use the tools that the patent office has given us to fast track to the issuance and not to a final rejection. That’s what we do every day. There are a lot of strategies associated with how you do it.

The highest-level lesson there is you have to make sure that you don’t try to bite off such broad claims within a fast-track application, that the patent examiner is uncomfortable with the fact that what you’re trying to push through is patentable to you. You also don’t want to go so narrow that you end up with a patent that isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Getting commercially relevant protection, even though it’s not quite as broad as what you otherwise might be able to gain through later prosecution.

There’s a sweet spot that all companies should aim for and they oftentimes don’t do that. I learned that lesson very early about a year into Fitch and Richardson. A client came in and they said, “I’ve got a patent.” It was a golf club patentable thing when I did golf clubs. He came in with a golf club and came up with his patent. “This golf club is from a major manufacturer that has stolen my idea. I want to know what I can do.” I was the junior guy on the team.

It turns out, nobody else can make the meeting. I went in there and this was my first one-on-one meeting with the client. I looked at the patent. I have a feeling I knew why no one else made the meeting because the message to the client was, “Your patent doesn’t cover your invention. The way the patent was prosecuted, you can’t go after the company that stole your idea.”

It was a classic example of a patent prosecutor saying, “I need to get a patent,” without understanding what was valuable, what they were trying to protect and what ultimately would prove valuable to protecting the true idea. They got a patent and I am positive, the person, the prosecutor that patents felt good, “Yay, we got the client a patent,” but the patent was worthless. I learned that lesson early.

I learned that lesson too on the client-side. In the early days of a startup, capital is scarce and you’ve invented something that you think has value. I saw outside counsel, what’s it going to cost to file a provisional patent or a non-provisional patent. Responsibly, the attorney at this firm said, “It will be less expensive to do a provisional and you have a year, you can continue to develop it. When you convert it to a non-provisional, you can pull in some of the updates of the R&D Development.”

That sounds great. We did that and started prosecuting. In the prosecution phase, in the context of the fast track, if you start too broad, you get narrowed quickly. This concept of outside counsel is going to do what you ask them to do. They’re going to be mindful of billing for their time because that’s their firm’s business model. They’re incentives to build for the firm and provide value. We were fortunate to be working with you at that point.

By the end of it though, you could end up with an issued patent that you feel great about. What I’ve been taught is you got to go to that final page. Don’t get too caught up on the pretty drawing on the cover of what has been issued. If someone’s not watching your back and making sure that what the ultimate claim that’s allowed and is issued, if that doesn’t cover your commercial embodiment or where the space that you want to protect, you don’t have much.

I can’t tell you the number of times, since that first lesson with a golf club, that I have been asked to come into a company to say, “Take a look at what we’ve got.” You look at what they’ve got. You need to have a tough conversation to say, “You have invested tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in a portfolio that is essentially worthless.”

“Let me tell you why and what you haven’t done, why the claims that you have are so easy to design around and why you can’t go after the company that’s eating your lunch in the marketplace because whoever was trying to pay attention to this wasn’t paying attention.” It’s hard when you have that conversation with a CEO and the engineers. The engineers say, “We’ve got a patent on this.” You say, “Yes, but having a patent isn’t sufficient oftentimes.”

There are a couple of other points that I want to raise that fall into the category of being responsive to your question, Jeff. The next one is diligence. These little companies are oftentimes charged with raising funds. Oftentimes, the patent prosecution counsel, even other counsel doesn’t plug into the lifeblood of the process of funding the company to allow it to continue to do what it’s doing.

Here’s why that’s a big mistake. Counsel comes in and says, “I’ve heard of this fast-track thing. We should be getting a fast-track patent to try to get an application that’s ahead of your technology development. We need to find that fast track.” “Go for it.” They end up fast-tracking to a final rejection the week before you go out into diligence to raise $20 million. It is a nightmare scenario.

UMN David Shaw | Patent Wars
Patent Wars: Using fast track within the patent office is a massive double-edged sword. It only speeds up the prosecution process and the final rejection of your patent.

I’ve seen it so many times where there is a disconnect between the business’s needs in terms of funding, timing and the diligence process associated with that. Maybe not just fundraising but an acquisition or an exit. The patent people who have their heads down plowing along are doing their thing and forget how relevant what they’re doing is to the much bigger picture. I’ve seen that mistake quite a bit, which is the disconnect between the business’s needs and what’s going on in the IP realm.

I’ve also seen this mistake quite often. You alluded to it already. You gave me the segue of the issue of filing a provisional application. Oftentimes, you’ll hear advice like, “We can file a provisional application. We’ve got twelve months to convert it. It’s a great way of getting a fast date. Let’s go get the date.” They file a provisional application. Sometimes it’s a mishmash of a shoebox of documents with a couple of paragraphs in the middle of it. They say, “This is great. I have a date and a provisional application.” The company goes to sleep for twelve months. The twelve-month conversion date comes up and says, “I’ve got to convert my provisional application. What do I do?”

By the time they realize that the provisional they filed doesn’t satisfy the requirements of being able to attribute that early filing date to what they ultimately claim, they’ve lost twelve months. That provisional becomes essentially worthless because the only way in which a provisional provides real value is if you can attribute that early provisional date to the claims that you ultimately prosecute. The right answer is, “Go get a date on that provisional application. Let’s work our butts off to think of another provision and keep filing. Why are we waiting twelve months to convert it to a non-provisional? Why aren’t we doing that now? Why are we taking a twelve-month holiday?”

There’s oftentimes this sense of, “We’ve got a provisional and so we’re good. We’ll just pick it up in twelve months.” That’s a massive mistake when you are in a first-to-file regime, where other companies may also be much more diligent about filing their ideas and converting their ideas. You won’t know that they’re doing it until eighteen months later. Now that we are in this first-to-file race to the patent office context, you don’t win the race by getting a provisional on file but a lot of companies think you do.

That goes back to having proactive patent counsel that is looking at, “We did this provisional 6 to 7 months ago. We should be thinking not only about converting this and making sure that what we ultimately want the nonprovisional to include but we can also attribute it to this earlier priority date from the original provisional. What else do we have?” It looks like there are some interesting things you’re tinkering on with another provisional to keep the portfolio growing.

There’s a company that I started representing. They had a provisional on file. They filed it a month before I got involved. In the 2 months that I’ve been involved, we filed 2 more provisional and converted all of them into a single nonprovisional. There are reasons that we don’t need to go into but that’s an example of converting a provisional within 3 months and we rolled 3 provisional applications up into 1.

The reason that we wanted to get date after date is because we think we’re in a race with another company. When do you do that and when don’t you do it? How do you balance the financial needs of the company and the budget that you have, which is always a constraint with what the company ultimately is going to realize it needs 2 or 3 years down the road when you look at the business and see how quickly the technology is developing? You put it in the pot, mix it around and then determine what the best strategy is for that client.

When you’re doing a seed round and trying to get enough capital to get a product developed, there’s typically an expectation that some patent has been filed certainly in med-tech and life science. This insight that David is sharing is the last thing we want as entrepreneurs when going out for a series A or a first institutional round. At that point, we’re selling hope and the ability to overcome a lot of odds and get a successful outcome. The idea of having a fast-track final rejection a month before starting a process or even worse in the middle of diligence when you have a term sheet, I can’t imagine how challenging that would be. That’s solid gold.

It’s what makes this job interesting. I’ll give you one more example. You asked for 3 and I’m going to end up giving you 6. You’ve got a high-powered engineering team that’s developing a product or they have a product and they want to add a bit of an additional feature. One of those folks goes out and does a patent search. They read all the patents of the other people and go, “Look at all these different things that are owned and taken. We can’t do that.”

They end up stifling the innovation process as a result of looking at the patents of other folks. That is a mistake for several reasons but I’ll give you two. One is just because I have a patent doesn’t mean I can do anything with it. It may be invalid. It may not be enforceable. I may not have paid the maintenance fees. It may be available to license.

There are so many different solutions to a technology that nominally has a patent elsewhere that covers it. Having an engineer close the door to thinking about something because he or she sees it in someone else has a patent stifles true innovation. They close off pathways that otherwise could be exceedingly fruitful and valuable for the company whose engineer is acting that way.

When I get involved in something like that, I try to help folks understand that may not be the right way to view what patents out there are telling you when it comes to innovation. That brings me to my final point, which is this. There are some medical companies out there that don’t need folks like me. They’re inventing into a brand-new space, got capable patent counsel who can write applications and got plenty of time to develop their technology. Things are going great. I don’t represent those companies.

I represent two kinds of companies. The first company is the one that I only represented for a while, which is when things are not going well. They’ve got a bunch of patent counsel and the job isn’t getting done. They can’t get the issued patents. They’ve got a huge FTO issue. They can’t make the case for why the diligence should be successful and they need somebody better. Those are usually the ones that I get involved in when things aren’t going right.

That’s the majority of the businesses that I used to represent. I represent a lot of businesses from serial entrepreneurs who pulled me in originally when there was a problem. They saw how we solve it and then say, “For my next company, I don’t want to go through that again. I need you to lead this so that we don’t go through it again.” Those are the two subsets of what I do.

What I don’t do is they say, “I want to apply on this.” I say, “Great, I’ll work with you. Have someone else draft it. You work with your outside counsel like you normally do. What I will do on that application is make sure that the disclosure and the claims are such that they will provide value to us. We will then strategize about how we’re going to get it through.”

I don’t remember the last time I wrote an application where I focus on the claims and pushed those through in a way that ends up with the protection the company needs. On the FTO piece, I spend a ton of time on that because it is a company I’m representing. I got pulled in late but has good technology, about to launch it and it gets slapped with a patent lawsuit on things that were certainly publicly available. What a tragedy that is. It pays to get ahead of these things.

In the diligence context, when you’re defending a company about why you can protect what you have and why no one else is going to be able to come in and materially disrupt it, comes down to knowing the subject matter exceedingly well. You go into diligence about as prepared as you possibly can be because if you don’t, you lose credibility as the company’s counsel sitting across the table from other counsel who is paid to find the holes. If you can’t maintain credibility, how you thought about it, what you’ve done to address it and what you consciously chose not to do, that credibility turns into zeros that may get knocked off the check. I don’t want to be the person who causes that.

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Preparing for IP diligence is a serious undertaking. It’s beneficial when whoever’s defending the company has lived through it, don’t just get pulled in and said, “We’ve got diligence in a week. I’d like you to do it.” They’ve lived that development of the company and its IP portfolio and all the mines that it’s avoided, the trenches that it jumped over and all the successes that it’s achieved. They can talk that story sufficiently where it holds together. That ultimately should end up in either funding or acquisition.

I was thinking about what you were saying about the two types of clients and a serial entrepreneur that doesn’t want to get into a difficult patent situation. The other side of your business model is where you’re not writing patent applications but consulting with competent outside counsel. For something like developing a patent application, which can be time-consuming and technical, which you could do extremely well, they can go with a more junior outside counsel. The outside counsel, whether it be an associate or a partner, get to benefit from all your experience and the scars that you’ve earned in the battles. I’ve seen at Providence, that partnership not only benefited the company but benefits the outside counsel that we work with. It’s a rich model.

You’re kind. I enjoy working with bright people and we can all learn from each other. I come at it from a different perspective oftentimes. What else?

For the third part, we’re going to go to the vault. It’s rapid-fire. I’m going to ask you four questions. The first thing that comes to mind. In 2019, David, what book, movie, blog post, song or even a piece of art did you experience that had an impact on you and you’ve given a lot of thought ever since?

This one to me is easy. It’s a book. It’s called Finding Ultra by a spy guy called Rich Roll. I’ll tell you a little bit about it and why it was so impactful to me. Rich Roll is one of the most obscene endurance athletes I’ve seen in a good way. Unbelievably outstandingly capable, by that word, capable endurance athletes in the world. He has done it on a plant-based diet and people didn’t believe it was even possible.

I’ve done a few endurance events over the years. When you become familiar with the exercise regime and the nutrition associated with it, few people would believe that you can achieve the things that Rich has achieved through a plant-based diet. That mentality is changing. Nonetheless, in Finding Ultra, the ultra refers to an ultra-man, which is a ridiculous series of events over three days.

It’s something like an open water swim of 6 miles, a bike ride of 190 and maybe a run of a couple of marathons in the 50 miles. He was significantly competitive in this. It wasn’t impactful because Rich Roll has a plant-based diet and does endurance events. It was impactful because of the human story that he told. In a nutshell, it is that he was a God-given athlete and had unbelievable skill in the water as a swimmer.

He threw it all away and became, in my view, I apologize for this but a despicable human being. As a result of alcohol, he lost his way in about every way you can lose it. He then found his way again. It’s this story of redemption of not only getting back to being the person he was. I don’t think the person he was is the person even Rich Roll values now.

He became a much better version of himself. It wasn’t just the alcohol addiction that he was able to shake. He started becoming much more aware of his fellow human beings, how to be a better member of society, give back and benefit other people, not just himself. It is a remarkable story that at the highest level, it’s a story about a guy who used to drink and then started eating plants and can run a lot, which isn’t interesting.

At a much deeper level, it is a story about how each one of us has difficulties, challenges and issues that hold us back from being better versions of ourselves. It’s a story about how none of those things are permanent and how every one of those things has an answer if we are willing to put in the effort and take the journey that is oftentimes exceedingly difficult to achieve our true potential.

It is a remarkable book. It surprised me in the sense that I don’t know the person who bought it for me realized the much deeper meaning. They bought it for me because they’re like, “Here’s a diet you could try. I know you like running a lot.” That book surprised me and caused me to think deeply about some of my difficulties, challenges and issues.

Next question, other than your parents, who was someone who saw your potential took an interest in your development and has had an important influence on your career and life?

I would answer that in different ways based on the different stages in life. One of the folks was a gentleman at my undergraduate school named Gerald Hawkins who has since passed. He led the leadership organization at NC State that I alluded to when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up after being an engineer. He pushed me to start to think for myself, what my value system was, what I stood for and what I wanted to fit in with and what I wanted to change. It’s a lot of maturing. When I met Gerald, I was physically young but mentally younger. I appreciate how he steered me in those formative university years.

Next question, in your professional life, what is one online tool that could be a piece of software or an app that you use almost every day in your work and can’t imagine not having?

Jeff, you’ve known me for a long time. You should know that I don’t app. I am a Luddite. If my computer turns on, it’s a good day. If it doesn’t, I typically yell the name of my older boy who will come running and try to figure out what’s wrong. I am technologically challenged. I communicate by email. I use the phone. I prefer in-person much better. It goes back to the human dynamic and the value of human interaction. The fact that you sent me a text, it’s a miracle that I even knew you did so.

On your phone, what email app do you use?

I’m not even sure I understand that question. I have a Samsung. I click on the email icon and my email pops up. I didn’t even know there was an app behind it.

UMN David Shaw | Patent Wars
Finding Ultra, Revised and Updated Edition: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself

David, last question, what is your biggest unmet need in running your business that you hope someday somebody will build something to address?

My day is spent working on the challenges that I need to address for the clients that I have. However, I also have to spend time doing what I call accountings, which is accounting for what I do on a particular client and keeping track of the hours that I spend. It is remarkable how much time I spend on occasion, writing down everything that I’ve just done. That is not productive time. It doesn’t benefit the client in any way.

The only reason it benefits me is that ultimately, I can provide the client with an accounting of what I have done to get paid. It would be a remarkable app, perhaps it even exists. If I could real-time either think or dictate what I’m doing and somehow, it’s captured and generates the time accountings and the invoices automatically. I don’t know of anything like that. That will probably give me at least another 30 or 45 minutes a day, depending on how many clients I work on from day to day.

Finding Ultra is a redemption story about how a gifted endurance athlete found his way after losing it to alcoholism. Gerald Hawkins, who led the leadership organization at NC State pushed David to think for himself and define his values. Primarily, David has focused on the value of human interaction, that dynamic you only get through phone and face-to-face interaction. If pushed, the Samsung email app is a technology that he has used every day. If there’s one unmet need David has, it would be an accounting tool that would help streamline accounting for the time billed to the client. David, it’s been so much fun. Thanks for being a guest on the show.

Jeff, thanks a lot. It’s real pleasure. Enjoy your day. Bye-bye.

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