NORMAN F. OBLON is a senior partner and the founding partner of the firm. A chemical engineer by training, he is also the former managing partner of the firm's Chemical Patent Prosecution group with a specialization in matters involving organic chemicals, polymers, pharmaceuticals and metallurgy. Prior to founding the firm in 1968, Mr. Oblon worked as a Patent Examiner at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and a civilian patent advisor for the U.S. Navy.
Mr. Oblon not only created one of the country’s largest intellectual property firms, he developed a solid business model that in the last four decades has helped to bridge the gap between U.S. and foreign companies and brought them a greater understanding of the complexities of U.S. intellectual property law. He has represented some of the most prestigious companies in Europe and Japan, including Ajinomoto, Toshiba, Toyota Motor Company, Mitsubishi, BASF, Sony, L’Oreal, Exxon Mobil, IBM, Naval Research Laboratories and others, handling diverse matters involving all aspects of intellectual property protection, including patents, trademarks, trade secrets, trade dress, and copyrights.
In the 1970s, Mr. Oblon recognized the tremendous opportunity in the still-undiscovered Japanese market. The country had yet to emerge as the economic powerhouse it is today and was ripe with business opportunities. At that time, foreign companies filing patents with the USPTO prosecuted their cases in the U.S. from outside the country by sending detailed, often adversarial, instructions to the U.S. local associate who merely transmitted those instructions to the USPTO. This frequently led to miscommunication and confusion and ultimately a breakdown in the relationship between the Examiner and the foreign company. Mr. Oblon persuaded the foreign companies to change the nature of the prosecution to allow him and the members of his firm to discuss the official actions from the USPTO with the Examiners first, before the foreign company issued their instructions to local associates. It was just a small, albeit completely logical, change to the then-established procedure, but for the foreign companies, it was a radical departure from the way business had been conducted with their U.S. associate law firms for more than 150 years. At first, the foreign companies were persuaded to follow Mr. Oblon’s advice on an experimental basis, but they quickly became converts to his philosophy.
Mr. Oblon also groomed talented academics for a successful law career by identifying promising Ph.D.s and paying their law school tuitions. Oblon, Spivak was the first firm to develop a cadre of credentialed attorneys who knew the Patent Examiners and understood technology as it became more advanced. This move made it much easier to handle the technically oriented casework and became a powerful hiring model that has been replicated by many other firms today.
Another of Mr. Oblon’s revolutionary initiatives was the Oblon, Spivak Client Training Program. In 1969, Mr. Oblon brought in his first trainees from Mitsubishi Chemical, Asahi Glass, Toyota Motor Company, and Toshiba to the firm’s office. The firm developed a rigorous course load for the new recruits, which was supplemented with enrollment in the prestigious Patent Office Academy, an intense three-month training program originally designed for USPTO Examiners.
Mr. Oblon frequently lectures in the U.S., Japan, Germany, Italy, France, and England on patent protection, effective prosecution strategies, and U.S. legal trends and developments. He was recently elected to serve a three-year term until 2011 as a National Commissioner of the Anti-Defamation League.