Willard began his secondary education with a focus in engineering. His strong interests in math and science led him to the undergraduate mechanical engineering program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While at MIT, Willard was exposed to the wide variety of potential legal issues facing engineers. Intrigued by the legal profession, Willard took a course entitled ‘Law and Technology’. The premise of the course was that legal professionals did not understand science and technology, and technology professionals did not understand the law. The professor highlighted the need for a group of “translators” – individuals who could bridge the understanding gap between the disciplines. Willard began to consider a career as such a “translator.” While at University of Virginia’s law school, Willard began to focus on intellectual property. During his third year at UVA’s law school, Willard published an article in the Virginia Journal of International Law (VJIL) entitled “International Intellectual Property Protection: An Integrated Solution to the Inadequate Protection Problem,” in which he proposed that the misappropriation of intellectual property rights should be treated as a ‘taking’ of a property, and not as an issue to be addressed by international trade agreements.
Initial Legal Training
During law school and following graduation in 1989, Willard worked for Morgan & Finnegan. All of the professionals in the firm were focused upon various aspects of patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets and other forms of intellectual property. In 1991, Willard took a position in the Philadelphia office of Reed Smith. This general practice firm included an established intellectual property department. It was at Reed Smith that Willard began to build on his expertise in commercial transactions, including the licensing of intellectual property — involving software, industrial plant processes, telecommunications systems, banking services and pharmaceuticals, among others. With a strengthened background in commercial transactions and licensing, Willard was well prepared to join the startup company, Sega Channel. This newly established programming service distributed Sega video games via cable television systems to subscribers with Genesis consoles. Willard’s duties as in-house counsel for Sega Channel included negotiating and drafting agreements through which Sega Channel secured software distribution rights and the associated trademark license from publishers of Sega video games. He also negotiated deals with cable television distributors, and handled marketing deals, technology agreements, a possible acquisition deal (where Sega Channel was the target), and finally, the wind-down of the business.
Initial Launch of Willard Alonzo Stanback, P.C. – “BUILDING ON IDEAS”®
Over a year before Sega Channel ceased operations, Willard approached its management with a proposition. He suggested that he leave the company and create his own firm, which would represent Sega Channel in exchange for an agreement to send some of its work to his new firm. Management agreed and Willard Alonzo Stanback, P.C. secured its initial client. Other clients secured the firm’s services as it set up operations in New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. The firm’s clients were as varied as their legal needs, including (A) the licensing of rights in music from composers and artists, (B) the patenting of window screen technology and hand exercising devices, (C) the securing of rights in works produced by independent contractors, (D) the forming and governing of LLCs and other entities, (E) the operating of web-based businesses, and (F) the technological advancement of cable programming services’ operations. It was Willard’s work as outside counsel for Scripps Networks in connection with its technology and operations divisions that resulted in Willard joining Scripps Networks in 1998. Throughout its initial existence, the firm worked with its clients in their efforts to build their business. The service mark of the firm (then and now), “BUILDING ON IDEAS” signifies that effort.
Joining Scripps Networks
Willard joined the in-house staff of what is now Scripps Networks (a subsidiary of Scripps Networks Interactive) after serving as its outside counsel for six months. During his in-house tenure, he was involved in the various operational aspects of the programming services (including HGTV and Food Network), the development of the genre-related websites, the negotiation of distribution agreements with cable, satellite and telco operators, the securing of advertising buys, and a multitude of other business aspects of the company.
Relaunch of WAS-PC – return of “BUILDING ON IDEAS”®
After over 12 years at Scripps Networks, Willard relaunched the firm – returning to his roots, so to speak – with the intention of refocusing his efforts as the ‘translator’ he originally planned to be. With that thought in mind, Willard, through the firm, will work with clients as they innovate, educate others about, protect, and commercialize their new ideas today and in the days to come.