University of Vermont

UVM Alumnus Combines Technology Degree With The Law In Field Of Intellectual Property

Stephen BallSeems the possibilities are limitless when it comes to applications for a technology degree.  Steve Ball, class of 2000 alumnus with a B.S. in Computer Science and minors in mathematics and philosophy, augmented his technical experience at UVM with a degree from Vermont Law School.  Steve is an intellectual property (IP) attorney at St. Onge Steward Johnston & Reens LLC (SSJR) in Connecticut, a boutique law firm specializing in IP law (patent, trademark, copyright and trade secrets) that has been around for about 100 years.  He specializes in patent prosecution (obtaining patents), litigation, and licensing issues. 

“A career in IP allows me to combine my interests in technology, business, and the law,” he says.  “I work with all clients of all sizes, from individual inventors to startups to multinational corporations.” 

And the field of intellectual property law is dynamic.  On any single day, Steve could be discussing the claims of a patent application with a Patent Examiner from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or attending a hearing in Federal Court in California.  “Every industry is impacted by intellectual property and we help clients by securing protection, resolving disputes, and advising on transactions,” Steve says. “Whether it is Internet technologies, green technology, medical devices, consumer products, biotechnology—you name it—they all have legal issues with intellectual property.” 

Steve took advantage of the cooperative program while at UVM, working at a local technology consulting firm.  He credits this with providing the opportunity to combine theoretical study with real world experience.  “This really jumpstarted my technical career,” he says, “because it lead to my first job out of UVM as a Software Engineer.”  After a number of years of engineering he looked for a new challenge and attended law school. 

“Many patent attorneys have a first career in engineering,” he says, “because of the technical requirements.”  Being called a patent attorney is a special distinction as one must have a technical degree and pass a bar exam provided by the USPTO.  To put it in perspective, while there are millions of licensed attorneys in the United States, there are only around 25,000 practicing patent attorneys.  Specialization also means that Steve represents clients in federal courts around the country.  “We have clients around the world who require our expertise and we support them around the world,” he says.

From there, the opportunities are limitless.  The U.S. is not only the world leader in technology, but every country wants to sell their products to the U.S. consumer market.  As a result, there will always be a need for IP practitioners, from patent protection for new inventions to trademark protection for product branding.  “And it stays interesting,” he says, “since we are on the cutting edge of technology every day.”

Steve can be contacted at or through LinkedIn at

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