Intellectual Property Education Is Empowerment
“Just being able to stick with it for so long has given me the education in the areas I need,” says MJ Kievman about her journey through the STEM and intellectual property (IP) worlds. MJ Kievman is the Founder and CEO of Meter Health, a biotech company that aims to build awareness, advance science and deliver the best solutions for the full spectrum of hiccups. While the company was founded in 2017, the idea (and intellectual property) behind it started much earlier in 2011, before Kievman even had a high school diploma.
At 12 years old, Kievman experienced long bouts of unexplained hiccups. At the time, Kievman struggled to find a solution – or even an explanation – to her problem. Driven to find a solution herself and to potentially help others, Kievman invented Hiccupops, lollipops made with ingredients that calm the hiccup reflex and aid normal breathing. Kievman submitted her invention to the Connecticut Invention Convention and won the Patent Application Award, which provided her with free patent search and file services from a local patent attorney.
Before this experience, Kievman was unfamiliar with intellectual property as a concept and initially felt engulfed by all the new information coming her way. “I think at first it was overwhelming, just because I was so young,” Kievman recalls, “But as I got more into it, the experience made what I do now a lot easier because I have a foundational knowledge of intellectual property.” During the patent application experience, the patent attorneys that worked with Kievman were able to walk her through the process and address any questions that she had. “It takes a lot of time to put together a patent application, so having people that were willing to slow down and break it all down for me was really helpful,” says Kievman. “Overall, that first-hand experience of doing the patent application and applying IP knowledge to something that was so important to me really made a difference for me.”
Kievman credits her current intellectual property knowledge to that initial experience she had in middle school and believes that a hands-on approach is one of the most effective ways to teach IP education to young students. “It’s enormously helpful to have programs that allow free patent search and filing to young inventors because the students get to experience the process first-hand,” says Kievman, “For the student, it’s YOUR idea and YOUR invention that’s coming to life in that IP process.” To allow students to directly apply what they learn about intellectual property, IP education pairs nicely with invention education, so students can bring their own ideas to life and then learn how to protect those ideas. “It’s ultimately a nice end point or goal for a student to have if they want to invent something. They can make getting a patent their end goal,” says Kievman.
Between receiving her patent and launching Meter Health, Kievman earned a degree in creative writing from Colby College. While it may seem unexpected for a leader in biotech to have an educational background in creative writing, rather than medicine, Kievman finds herself putting her degree to use quite often. “I think that does help in a variety of ways, even though a lot of people don’t understand it,” says Kievman, “Being able to articulate what Meter Health does, to craft a pitch deck or an email and be able to contribute to the language of some of our IP is very helpful.” Knowing how to communicate ideas is often just as important as developing them. By learning the IP process and earning her patent early on, Kievman was able to get a jump start in the biotech industry, allowing her to learn along the way – from intellectual property, to communication, to STEM jargon. “Just being able to stick with it for so long has given me the education in the areas I need,” explains Kievman.
Looking back on the patent process as a current Founder and CEO, Kievman is incredibly thankful that she became an inventor and intellectual property owner early on. “I think what’s interesting about IP and where I am now is that it gave me an actual starting point or launch point to be able to do what I do now,” explains Kievman. Through Meter Health, Kievman has applied for a number of IP protections, including patents, copyrights and trademarks, for the company’s products, research and brand. By establishing her intellectual property ownership early on, Kievman was able to get financial support, media attention and customer trust for Hiccupops and, later, Meter Health, without worrying about leaving her ideas vulnerable. “Today, we’re a bigger, more advanced biotech company with multiple different programs going on. I don’t think that would’ve been an option for me to stay in the area I’ve been in for so long if I didn’t have that existing intellectual property.”