Gregory A. Nelson Focuses on Florida’s Life Sciences Sector
Whether advising a well-established medical device company, a university technology transfer office or a promising start-up, Gregory A. Nelson is committed to advancing Florida’s life sciences sector. “I really enjoy the challenge of helping a young business get off the ground,” says Nelson, a partner with Fox Rothschild’s office in West Palm Beach who focuses his practice on intellectual property (IP) law. “I feel like I can really make a difference for my clients, while contributing to our state’s future.”
A frequent lecturer, panelist and moderator on intellectual property topics, Nelson brings more than 30 years of experience in IP legal work to his practice, which includes strategic representation to clients in all phases of patent, trademark and copyright law, including prosecution, licensing and litigation. He joined Fox Rothschild earlier this year and is now one of 25 attorneys in the fast-growing office.
“Technology start-ups need to protect their businesses against infringement,” Nelson says. “That means putting as much IP protection as possible around a new product. As the company moves forward with development and commercialization, the need for protection continues, since product improvements can be even more valuable than the first invention.”
Another aspect of Nelson’s service is building an intellectual property portfolio that will appeal to potential investors. That might mean filing multiple patents for other prospective products that might be developed in the future. That patent planning is important, Nelson adds, because most investors will ask their own attorneys to review the IP portfolio and make recommendations before releasing funds.
“Licensing is a third area of IP focus for both start-ups and established companies,” says Nelson. “They recognize that their patents can potentially generate a stream of review and they want to be well-positioned to capitalize on those opportunities.”
One of Nelson’s South Florida clients is Felipe Echeverri, managing director of Biorep Technologies, Inc., a Miami Lakes company that makes handheld instruments for heart surgery and equipment for islet cell transplantation to treat diabetes. “I’ve known Greg for 13 years and he’s played an important role in Biorep’s growth and success,” says Echeverri. “He was successful in getting more than 15 issued patents for us, and he has helped us get more involved in the life sciences industry here. He’s an exceptional attorney who goes out of his way to provide support.”
Becoming an Attorney
Nelson comes from a military family as his father was a career pilot in the U.S. Air Force. He grew up in Broward County, graduated from Miramar High School, and earned a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Florida. “I had a classmate in engineering who was interested in intellectual property law, and that piqued my curiosity,” he says. “I was also considering a career in business and felt that a law degree would be a great foundation.”
After earning his law degree at Gainesville in 1982, Nelson joined an IP law firm in Chicago. “At that time, there were very few opportunities for IP work in South Florida,” he says. “I lasted one winter in Chicago, and when an opportunity arose to come back to Florida, I jumped at the chance.”
He took a job at Steele Gould & Fried in West Palm Beach and has lived here ever since then. “Two of the things I like most about South Florida are the warm weather and the water,” he says. “I have two powerboats, because I don’t want to wait for the wind on a sailboat.”
Through the years, Nelson has handled almost everything in the IP field, including litigation. “Gaining that broad experience has been very helpful when advising clients,” he says. “Unfortunately, the legal field has become more specialized and an IP lawyer might only work on patents or trademarks, for instance, and not be exposed to the breadth of activity in our field.”
Today, much of the IP work that Nelson does is for clients in the biotechnology and bioscience sectors. “In Florida, the life sciences industry is relatively young,” he says. “Although that situation is changing with the growth of major research institutes and programs, our state has a very different type of IP practice than you would find in Massachusetts or California, where there are many more large corporations.”
Nelson has also built relationships with the South Florida’s leading research universities. He assists in developing patent strategies and accelerating the transfer of technology from the laboratory to clinical care and consumer-oriented technology.
“South Florida’s academic institutions are becoming very active in developing technology and spinning it out to benefit the local community,” he says. “That’s a very positive change in the economic climate here. When I graduated from UF’s engineering school, almost everyone had to leave the state in order to get a job in chemical engineering.”
Nelson is a founding member and past chair of the Florida Chapter of the Licensing Executives Society, a national and international organization of technology transfer professionals, both public and private. He is also a past chair and member of the Executive Committee of the Enterprise Development Corporation.
Growing the Biosciences Sector
Nelson has been a leader in the state’s biosciences sector for many years, serving on the board of BioFlorida, the independent statewide bioscience organization. He has been an officer in the organization, co-chaired BioFlorida’s 2005 and 2006 annual conferences and organized an innovative Latin American Life Science Conference in 2014, building bridges with technology professionals throughout the hemisphere – a theme echoed in the recent eMerge Americas conferences in Miami.
“Greg has been a true asset to BioFlorida,” says Nancy Bryan, president and CEO of the West Palm Beach-based organization. “He has been instrumental in supporting the development of life sciences in our state, first as general counsel, then as a board member and now as board secretary.”
Nelson has also championed the growth of BioFlorida’s Saturday Exchanges, a series of meetings to showcase new companies and provide career networking opportunities for industry veterans and recent graduates, according to Bryan. “He is helping us groom the next generation of life sciences professionals in our state.”
In the biosciences and other technology fields, Nelson says he enjoys working with young entrepreneurs, giving them the benefit of his experience and introducing them to potential mentors, coaches and advisers in his extensive professional network. “I try to put them in touch with good people who will provide them with solid advice as they build their companies,” he says. “It’s very rewarding for me to see new companies succeed, while enhancing the technology base of our community.”
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