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Headquarters: Hayward, Calif. Founded: 1998 Patents: Owns or is exclusive licensee of about 20 patents. Business: Develops glowing crystals that function as markers for biological research. Kenneth Barovsky’s office is littered with Grateful Dead memorabilia — from the large tie-dye hanging on his wall to the dancing bear on his keyboard’s wrist rest. The 51-year-old vice president of intellectual property might invite a visitor to listen to some Dead music. Or if you go to an event where Barovsky is speaking, you might see a portable light show. But these aren’t the kind of lights you would see on stage with the Dead. This light show demonstrates Quantum Dots Corp.’s products — crystals made from the same materials as semiconductors, and so small that Barovsky can hold $600 worth of them between his index finger and thumb. They glow in different colors and are used as markers for biological research. For example, scientists can tag a tumor cell in a mouse with the quantum dots and then observe the cell’s processes. The technology was developed at several universities, including the University of California’s Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Melbourne, Indiana University, and the University of Arkansas. Quantum Dots has exclusive licensing agreements with all these schools to develop the dot technology for biological purposes. Quantum Dots’ customers are mainly academic institutions, drug-discovery companies, and diagnostic centers. Barovsky won’t name any of them, but he does say that his company has “active collaborations” with Cornell University, Carnegie Mellon University, and Genentech. It was a long, not-so-strange trip that brought Barovsky to the law. He holds a B.A. in chemistry and a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology, both from the University of California at San Diego. During the early 1980s, he did a postdoctoral fellowship in the department of pharmacology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and taught at the Georgetown University Schools of Medicine and Dentistry. It was around then that Barovsky felt the pull of law — and of office life. He was working part-time for the Weinberg Group in Washington, D.C., providing scientific expertise to law firms litigating cases with important technical aspects. “It was nice to have people to talk to instead of mice and test tubes,” he says. Nonetheless, in 1986, he returned to California and took a job as a bench scientist at Santa Clara’s Litmus Concepts, a company that develops diagnostic tests. On a whim, Barovsky took the Law School Admission Test and did well. So he quit his job and started law school at Santa Clara University. Unlike many other scientists who decide to study law, Barovsky — at the age of 38 — went full-time. “I hung out with all the law students,” he says. Of course, he went to a lot of Grateful Dead shows. After finishing law school in 1993, Barovsky worked at several Palo Alto firms. While of counsel at Robbins & Associates, he picked up Quantum Dots as a client. In April 1999, he accepted the company’s invitation to go in-house. Quantum Dots provides a perfect mix of science and lawyering, says Barovsky. He meets with scientists every day, works on licensing agreements, and helps draft patent applications. The company has about 40 foreign and domestic applications pending. For patent prosecution, Barovsky usually turns to Palo Alto’s Cooley Godward, San Francisco’s Townsend and Townsend and Crew, and Menlo Park, Calif.’s Reed & Eberle. Outside counsel use a template created by Barovsky for writing patents. Barovsky also runs the company’s trade secrets program and vets its material transfer agreements. To date, Quantum Dots has not been involved in any litigation. “We believe we have an extensive and dominating patent position,” says Barovsky. Or it could just be that laid-back hippie vibe, mellowing out potential opposition.

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