Julie Melendez-Reicis’s journey to intellectual property law began with a lecture series. At the time, Melendez-Reicis was an undergraduate student at St. Mary’s University searching for an alternative to becoming a physician. Through the lecture series, she learned about other fields relevant to her technical background, and soon afterward she started targeting her educational and career choices such that she could one day practice as an IP attorney.
Melendez-Reicis—who most recently secured the role of senior counsel of intellectual property-connected fitness and digital at sports product company Under Armour—identifies the origin of her success as a pair of strong mentors at St. Mary’s: Drs. Jack Calentine and Jose M. Cimadevilla. “Those two gentlemen really made all the difference in my life,” she says. In fact, Cimadevilla organized the lecture series that first introduced Melendez-Reicis to IP law.
Now that Melendez-Reicis has established her presence in the field, she intends to offer advice as a mentor herself, drawing on Calentine and Cimadevilla’s early impact on her career as inspiration.
Top of the Game
Before reaching her current standing, Melendez-Reicis built her expertise in IP at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law. She then joined IP firm Gazdzinski & Associates, where she made partner by branching out into new areas. “I was hired to handle the firm’s medical device clients because I had a biochemistry and math background,” Melendez-Reicis explains. “But I started picking up work that was related to computer science and software, and everything just clicked for me.”
Melendez-Reicis took as much pride in growing the team at Gazdzinski as she did in expanding the IP portfolio of the firm’s clients. Still, she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work for Under Armour when a patent position opened at the company in 2015. In her eyes, the Under Armour role was a chance to apply her skills in a uniquely exciting environment.
Melendez-Reicis’s personal interest in fitness has increased her investment in her work at Under Armour, and vice versa. “It’s incredibly fulfilling to work on products that I know I’m going to use—and not just use, but enjoy using—in my free time,” she says. “It changes the entire IP experience.”
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Among the products for which Melendez-Reicis has handled the IP process are Under Armour’s mobile fitness apps and the company’s “connected shoe” technology, which allows users to record performance metrics via their footwear. Constructing the IP around these products has required Melendez-Reicis to familiarize herself with areas of the law that she didn’t encounter at Gazdzinski, such as trade secret and strategic publication, and to adjust her perspective to account for business objectives.
Counsel and Coach
Melendez-Reicis has achieved much during her tenure at Under Armour, but she remains proudest of her role in creating a chapter of the company’s Latino employee resource group—Latino Alliance—at her local office. Through this chapter, Melendez-Reicis, her colleagues, and cochairs Ramiro Diaz and Pedro Feitosa have partnered with nonprofits such as Latinitas and Con Mi MADRE and have put on a variety of events celebrating Latino culture. Above all else, Melendez-Reicis says, the chapter promotes meaningful cross-cultural exchanges in the office.
“It’s a great way to bring Latino culture to our non-Latino officemates while also allowing them to bring their cultures to us,” she emphasizes. “We’re trying to create a more open dialogue about what it means to be ‘you’ and what it means to be ‘me.’”
Beyond her involvement with the Latino Alliance, Melendez-Reicis hopes to increase her impact in the community by mentoring and serving as an active role model. “My future focus is going to be on encouraging, inspiring, and assisting minority women who may not be represented in STEM careers to find that path. I want to carve out time to become one of those great mentors that I had in my own career,” she says.
Fortunately, Melendez-Reicis has accrued plenty of leadership experience to help her accomplish this goal. As she sees it, leadership is inextricably linked to the concept of ownership—but she views the concept of ownership from both sides. A leader must take ownership of their work, she explains, but not at the expense of team members’ ability to take ownership of theirs.
Of course, a leader must also evolve on a personal level, and Melendez-Reicis has plans to do exactly that. “I want to continue to develop an understanding of all aspects of IP law from a business perspective,” the senior counsel says, singling out copyright law and the intersection of IP law and privacy as topics that she’d like to explore further.
There’s always another mile to run, but Melendez-Reicis is standing at the ready.