WHAT'S THE FREQUENCY, STEPHEN?:
As a leading intellectual property attorney, Stephen Carver has handled some very interesting ideas. Just don't ask him to discuss them.
"Some of the best things I'm working on, I can't talk about," Carver cautioned from his office on Arkansas Valley Drive. "I have an obligation to keep things quiet."
Carver's practice involves securing patents, trademarks and copyrights for clients who have original ideas that need protection. He is often the first stop for an entrepreneur with a big concept, or an inventor with a new creation.
"Much of what you do is paper pushing - mundane and boring," Carver said. "But if you do it long enough, you are going to come across something interesting."
As an example, he hands over U.S. Patent #6,593,876, which looks serious enough in its detailed description of a very complicated microwave antenna configuration. Its purpose? To listen for signs of extraterrestrial life.
After processing "well over 300 patents," in addition to an untold number of trademarks and copyrights, Carver has seen it all. He first hung his shingle here in 1976 after graduating from the University of Missouri Law School in Kansas City. Intellectual property became his specialty almost by accident. During law school, he landed a job with a local patent law firm that needed someone familiar with electrical engineering - a field in which Carver held two degrees from the University of Minnesota.
His technical background helped as he started his own practice, because he understood the mechanics of the inventions he patented, and he could speak his clients' language. He initially focused on computer and radio circuits, as well as the integration of computers with different types of antennae and radios.
"People say it's narrow," Carver says of his area of expertise within patent law. "But specializations are getting more and more narrow every day. And even if you understand everything within your specialization, after four or five years everything has changed. Sometimes it's scary."
While Carver has always felt the pressure to stay on top of technological trends, he acquired a diverse clientele over time by being the only intellectual property lawyer in the area, although that has changed in recent years. He says that the field has become "quite fashionable," and that "everyone wants to get into it." A look at the Yellow Pages reveals six firms in Central Arkansas (including Carver's) under the heading "Patent, Trademark & Copyright Law."
Carver's business is not limited to Arkansas. He has an office in Santa Barbara, Calif., where he does mostly copyright work for the entertainment industry.
As for why he thinks he was singled out as the best at what he does, Carver suggests that "quality has something to do with it," as well as a "certain degree of trust and honesty."
As Carver puts it, "Someone has to tell [clients] what they need to know, even though someone doesn't want to hear it. Once they hear the truth, either they like it and stay with you, or they fire you."
This sounds simple enough, until you consider some of the people who have walked through Carver's door. Some have wanted to patent nuclear weapons. Others have reworked the electronics in their pickup trucks to prevent the federal government from tracking their movements.
One day, Carver entered his office and found a member of the John Birch Society who had arrived two hours early to set up his patent-ready invention: a fully automatic tripod-mounted gun that was loaded with shotgun shells and ready to fire.
"Most of what I see is bizarre in a constructive fashion," Carver notes.