As a Reno patent lawyer I am sometimes asked why I practice in Reno. After all, Reno is know more for divorces than for technology.

Reno has long been called the “Divorce Capital of the World”. This title was underscored in the 1961 movie The Misfits. A character played by Marilyn Monroe gets divorced in Reno and tosses her wedding ring into the Truckee River. This and other publicity lead to a cottage industry in divorces.

I believe that Northern Nevada is now building a reputation for innovation. Reno is attracting more entrepreneurs, innovation and technology than ever before. I like to call Reno, Sparks, Carson City and the surrounding area “Silicon Playa”. While we will probably not see a large number of Reno patent lawyers in the near future, we will see more lawyers that work with entrepreneurs, innovators and technology companies in the area.

Becoming a Reno Patent Agent

I first became interested in patents while I was an engineering student. This lead me to work for a large patent law firm in Washington, DC where I learned the basics of patent law.

I eventually decided to return to Reno, but I did not lose my interest in patents. I decided to sit for the “Patent Bar Examination”. This is the examination that patent lawyers must pass in order to practice patent law.

I took the exam on a windy day in Reno in 1988. I was the only person who took the exam in Nevada that day. The Patent Office sent a special proctor to Reno to give me the examination. It felt a little strange being the only test taker in a very large auditorium. There was almost no sound except the wind blowing and the proctor checking her watch.

Needless to say, there were very few patent lawyers or patent agents in Reno or Nevada at that time. I believe I was the only Patent Agent in Reno in the 1980s.

It is somewhat unusual to take the Patent Bar Exam before going to law school. At that time, most lawyers did not learn about patents until after law school. These days patent law is much more popular and many more people take the Patent Bar Exam.

Reno did not have much technology at that time either. Although Reno has always attracted people with an entrepreneurial mind-set, there was not a lot of technology. Much of the technological innovations dealt with consumer products, gaming and agriculture.

Reno Patent Lawyer

After graduating from law school I took the Nevada State Bar Examination. This is the examination that all attorneys must pass in Nevada, regardless of their practice area.

There was quite a contrast between the Patent Bar Exam and the Nevada Bar Exam. The State Bar Exam was very crowded with hundreds of test takers and dozens of test proctors.

Upon passing the State Bar Exam I became one of only two or three Reno patent lawyers.

During the 1990s Reno began to attract more technology in a wide variety of industries. Due in part to its quality of life, favorable business environment and proximity to California, Reno has managed to build a diverse technology sector. While Reno does not compare to places like Silicon Valley, it does have tremendous potential.

For entrepreneurs and inventors, Reno offers many advantages, but it also presents a number of challenges. I enjoy helping my clients make the most of the advantages and overcoming the challenges.

Over the years I have played a part in developing Reno’s innovation culture.

  • I have testified before the legislature on intellectual property laws.
  • I have been chairman of the Nevada Inventor of the Year Selection Committee.
  • I have served as the president of the Nevada Technology Counsel.
  • I have advised governors and state agencies on intellectual property issues.
  • Many of my clients have become innovation and technology leaders in the State.
  • I lecture at the University of Nevada on intellectual property law.
  • I have represented the University and Community College System of Nevada.

I look forward to seeing Reno’s technology sector develop further in the years to come.

Ian Burns

Please call (775) 826-6160 if you would like to schedule an appointment to discuss your patent issues.