Dr. Gary Lobel: Nestlé Nutrition

Health care experience informs intellectual property protection for in-house counsel
Written by: 
Jeanee Dudley
Produced by: 
Sean O’Reilly

Six years into a career as a chiropractor, Dr. Gary Lobel pursued an interest in law. “I was interested in the state of health care,” he recounts. “So I went to school for health care law; but it wasn’t a good fit.” His background in biochemistry and molecular biology and experience as a chiropractor did not limit him to medicine, though. With a broad background in the sciences, he switched gears once again and began to focus on patent law: a path that led him to his current role as in-house counsel for Nestlé Nutrition, the health and wellness arm of the broad-reaching Nestlé Global.

After graduating from Thomas Cooley Law School at Western Michigan University, Lobel dove headfirst into practice, first working with a small intellectual property firm and later moving in-house to work for a small biotech company, and then to Novartis Medical Nutrition, which was purchased by Nestlé in 2007.

Combined experience informs expertise

Unlike in-house counsels with a more general scope, Lobel’s work for Nestlé Nutrition is more concentrated in intellectual property (IP) practice than his average professional peer. While contracts and agreements fall under his scope, it is the steady stream of challenging IP projects that keep his head in the game.

Dr. Gary Lobel: Nestlé Nutrition

His day-to-day responsibilities include agreement work, confidentiality work, IP preparation and even touches on aspects of employment law. “I’m also acting as the IP specialist for other divisions within Nestlé,” notes Lobel. “A big portion of my job is also protecting the business from liability and intellectual property issues for research and development we’re doing with partner companies.”

Lobel works in-house with two paralegals and administrative direct support. While he is the company’s chief patent counsel and head of patents for the division, there is also general counsel who handles the overarching business aspects of Nestlé. Partnerships with outside counsel allow Lobel and his colleagues to focus on their specialties. These firms tackle litigation and some overflow work in patent drafting and legal counsel from foreign countries in which Nestlé operates coordinate with Lobel for consistency.

While much of the benefit of Lobel’s diverse experience has to do with biochemistry and patent dealings, his track record for quality consistent communication sets him apart in an economy that relies more and more on digital exchange to do business.

“Everyone wants to do everything by email, particularly in agreement work,” Lobel explains. “But that makes it easy to lose the personal connection that creates relationships.

So if you do it all by email, there is no personal context from which to operate, so then when the next negotiation happens you basically have to start all over. Communication is extremely important.” Not only does this approach help in building agreements, but it allows Lobel to better connect with potential partners and inventors who can contribute patentable material.

Big changes in intellectual property law

In all, Lobel enjoys the challenge of his work and the consistency of an in-house role (he cites an increase in time to spend with his family as a major benefit). Though some projects present more challenges than others.

“I most enjoy when we get in early and we can build the intellectual property from the start,” he explains. “It creates a strong base from which to operate.” But sometimes things get complicated particularly in a time when IP regulations are changing rapidly.

“There have been some major changes over the last few years in patent laws and interpretation of patentable subject matter,” he elaborates. “Sometimes it just comes down to reading the tea leaves as to what’s coming down the pike. The other side of the coin is taking what is currently pending and trying to fashion protection based on the disclosure you have — to modify the claiming strategy around it. It actually starts from time patent application initially drafted, we have to foresee being able to have as much disclosure possible to be able to protect it and hedge off changes in case law or legislation, sometimes years in advance. We are constantly looking at how we can best protect this, and how many different ways we can fall back.”

With measured foresight and a knack for building relationships, Lobel is more than qualified to take on the challenges ahead. As regulations surrounding IP change, he will stay one step ahead in order to offer the best options to Nestlé Nutrition in order to facilitate growth.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Hazelton Marketing and Management / Dunlap Codding P.C.