Initial Judging

Due to the hundreds of invention entries received each year, a panel of industry experts and patent attorneys carefully review every single invention and select the top candidates for further review by the USF Chapter of the National Academy of Inventors.

The Panel

Anton Hopen founded the competition in 2008. He is a former criminal prosecutor and a U.S. Registered Patent Attorney, Board Certified by the Florida Bar. He is managing partner of Smith & Hopen, P.A., one of the largest Intellectual Property law practices in Florida and serves as outside patent counsel for the University of South Florida, Moffitt Cancer Center, Florida State University, Colorado State University, University of Central Florida, Florida A&M University, Jabil Circuit, among many other organizations large and small.

Steve Rogai has over 15 years of retail and product development experience.  Steve has held roles in branding, corporate purchasing, logistics, consumer sales, merchandising, and retail management. In 2009, he joined the TVGoods team as Director of Business Development and co-founded what is now The Inventor Center.  The Inventor Center was created to leverage TVGoods’ recognition and process the product flow from increased media exposure. In 2010, Steve was appointed CEO of TVGoods and took the company public in just three months.

Guy Hagen is Vice President of digital strategy and Shareholder at Tucker/Hall, one of Florida’s leading public relations firms.  He has a 20 year Florida career as an researcher and entrepreneur.  He has managed a $13+ million technology /venture fund for the USDOD, gave an invited presentation before the White House Office of Technology Assessment and the former Soviet governments, and been a core team member of the Florida High Tech Corridor Council since 1996.

Woodrow H. “Woody” Pollack is is a shareholder in the Gray-Robinson, P.A. Tampa office and devotes his practice exclusively to intellectual property. He is Board Certified by the Florida Bar in Intellectual Property Law. Woody litigates patent, copyright, and trademark matters in courts throughout the country. As a patent attorney, Woody also prosecutes patent applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and assists clients in negotiating patent protection in computer-related technologies.

Ronald E. Smith is a 1969 graduate of the University of Tennessee, holding a B.S. degree in Industrial Engineering, and a 1973 graduate of the University of Florida College of Law.  Mr. Smith is admitted to practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the Middle and Southern Districts of the U.S. District Court, the Fifth and Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court.  M. Smith has written and prosecuted more than 700 U.S. patents, most of them in the mechanical, electrical and electronic arts.  He is Board Certified in Intellectual Property Law by the Florida Bar.

Robert Varkonyi is a graduate of Stetson University College of Law where he concentrated his coursework on Patent Law, Trademark and Unfair Competition, International Intellectual Property, Copyright Law, Antitrust Law and Directed Research with emphasis on Antitrust and Patent Law.  Mr. Varkonyi graduated from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in Biology focused on Genetics and Development.  He previously served as a science technician for Fox Chase Cancer Center, Department of Medical Oncology in Philadelphia, PA.  Mr. Varkonyi focuses his practice in biotechnology and the mechanical arts.

Nilay Choksi received his Juris Doctor degree from Emory University School of Law and his Bachelor of Science from Xavier University. He is registered to practice before the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. At Emory, Mr. Choksi worked in the Coca-Cola’s Division of Patents & Trademarks, where he counseled future IP litigation and prosecuted a Coca-Cola patent application for green bottling material. Mr. Choksi also worked in the Technology Transfer Office for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention in Atlanta. At the CDC, he performed patentability analyses and drafted licenses for the CDC’s IP. Additionally, Mr. Choksi participated in Emory’s IP certificate program, allowing him to work directly with PhD students and technology startups to commercialize their innovation through IP and business means.

Andriy Lytvyn received his Juris Doctor degree from Boston University School of Law where he held the position of an article editor of the Journal of Science and Technology Law. Mr. Lytvyn earned a concentration in Intellectual Property Law by completing a wide array of specialized law courses including IP Law, Patent Law, Copyright Law, Trademarks & Unfair Competition, Patent Prosecution, IP Licensing, IP & the Internet, and International IP Law. Mr. Lytvyn graduated with honors from the University of Florida with Bachelor of Science degrees in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. While at UF, his academic accomplishments were recognized with several prestigious scholarships including the Boeing Company Scholarship, Exxon Mobile Scholarship, and UF College of Engineering Dean’s Scholarship. Mr. Lytvyn is admitted to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Michele Lawson received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Akron School of Law.   She has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology from Otterbein College.  Ms. Lawson received a Master of Science in Biotechnology as well as a Master of Business Administration from the University of Florida.  While receiving her MS in Biotechnology, she worked as a graduate lab assistant in a pathology laboratory doing research on HIV and influenza.  Ms. Lawson is a member of both the Ohio and Florida bars and is registered to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office.  She concentrates her practice in the areas of biotechnology and mechanical arts.


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