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Stephen F. Austin State University


SFA chemistry students learn about intellectual property from Tomball lawyer

Terril Lewis, partner in Tomball-based law firm Lewis, Reese & Nesmith, speaks to students enrolled in a patent application class offered by Stephen F. Austin State University's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Students enrolled in a patent application course offered by Stephen F. Austin State University's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry had the opportunity to learn about intellectual property recently from Terril Lewis, partner in Tomball-based law firm Lewis, Reese & Nesmith.

The course gives students a background in intellectual property, providing them with a competitive edge in the job market.

"It's a subject matter that all technical folks come across at one point or another, and it's a little intimidating when you don't know anything about it," Lewis said.

The course was proposed as part of an initiative by retired patent attorney Tom Pruitt of Nacogdoches and developed by Dr. Michele Harris, professor and assistant chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

"Mr. Pruitt believes graduates from SFA with exposure to intellectual property issues, especially as they relate to STEM, will be attractive hires for industry positions," Harris said.

The first intellectual property course, taught in fall 2017, covered general information. The current course focuses on patent application and exposes students to the patent-filing process.

"Currently, we believe SFA is the only university in Texas that is offering courses that focus on intellectual property for STEM-related majors at the undergraduate level," Harris said.

According to a report by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, over 27 million jobs in the U.S. in 2014 were directly related to intellectual property industries, Harris said.

"SFA students with some knowledge about intellectual property will be very competitive in today's job market," Harris said.

While SFA engineering-physics student Kyle Collins never considered working in intellectual property before, he is now "excited about the opportunities" that are in the field after listening to Lewis' presentation.

Intellectual property and the patent-filing process are important subjects for STEM students to learn about because it's easy for professionals to take their work for granted, Lewis said.

"I really do think that it's interesting here at SFA that they actually have a course on it… It's good to get an introduction to the concepts," Lewis said.