From Cloning to Counseling Clients
Becky Harasimowicz brings a scientific eye to her intellectual property practice
Published in 2024 North Carolina Super Lawyers magazine
By Nancy Henderson on December 26, 2023
By the time Becky Harasimowicz set out to earn a J.D. and a master’s degree in bioethics from Wake Forest University—simultaneously—she’d already proven her ability to juggle simultaneous challenges.
At Mount Holyoke College, she’d aced a triple major in politics, biomedical ethics and international relations while playing varsity volleyball. And when an opportunity arose for her to study abroad, she chose South Korea, she says, not just because it was the “epicenter of modern advancements in stem cells and cloning,” her undergraduate focus, but so she could study taekwondo where the art was born. There, she competed in collegiate world championships and now holds a second-degree black belt.
So it wasn’t that much of a stretch for Harasimowicz to finish her four-year law-bioethics program in just three years while also serving as chair of the Stanley Moot Court Competition, president of the Student Bar Association and the Hispanic and Latino Law Student Association, and co-president of the Women in Law Society. “I am driven by being constantly busy,” says the intellectual property and patent attorney at Moore & Van Allen in Charlotte. “I use that momentum from one activity into another activity. If I stop moving, I find it harder to start something new.
“Switching my mind from law to science was not as exhausting as concentrating on them individually because it’s not monotonous,” she adds. “My main driver is I don’t want to be bored.”
Science has always fascinated Harasimowicz. When it was time to decide on a career, she found herself split between law and medicine, both of which address the “ethical quagmire” and legal “landmines” of stem cells and cloning. Despite her detail-oriented nature, her undergrad lab work wasn’t as riveting as she though it would be. She decided law school was the better path.
Marrying the two fields with dual advanced degrees was an even better choice for her, as it would prepare her for the career track she thought she wanted as an administrator for a research hospital. “And then I discovered intellectual property,” she says, “and I just fell in love with it.”
The idea of using her science background to help clients navigate regulations related to pharmaceuticals, molecular science and cellular biology was irresistible to Harasimowicz. “There aren’t many people that do it and it kind of suited me,” she says. “If you go into the sciences, you’re often entering a very solitary career, and law is not. I’m a little bit of an extrovert. I enjoy being around others. I am not afraid to speak in a room.”
After practicing at one other Charlotte firm, in 2020 Harasimowicz joined Moore & Van Allen. For some cases, her biology education is not only a plus; it’s a necessity. “You have to have a technical science background to be able to even take the patent bar,” she says. “Day to day, it influences my patent law practice more than trademark law or anything else I do.”
In her patent practice, she spends time evaluating tedious jargon in medical journals and handling cases involving microwave-assisted chemistry, peptide synthesis and textile chemistry for clients seeking patents for new medical devices, laboratory equipment or biodegradable clothing fibers. The task, she hints, would be “mind-numbing” for a lawyer not versed in the life sciences.
While litigating one drug patent case, Harasimowicz and her team were “hitting a wall in terms of our argument and I realized that some of the numbers needed to be converted. The reference was not referring to a weight percent in the way that the layperson would think of it. It was actually referring to a different unit [of measurement]. We were able to do formulas and convert all of those numbers and realized that we actually did have the required range. The examiner had gotten it wrong.”
That’s just one of the times an “aha!” moment has cracked a case for Harasimowicz. “But the things that differentiate your invention from the art reference are often very minor and very hard to spot. Having an understanding of that area is really, really helpful because it can be like finding a needle in the haystack.”
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