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Second UC Alum Appointed to National Trademark Committee

Political science alumna Deborah Hampton joins the Trademark Public Advisory Committee, building UC’s reputation as a “trademark powerhouse.”

Date: 8/15/2011
By: Ryan Varney
Phone: (513) 556-0142
Photos By: Deborah Hampton
University of Cincinnati alumna Deborah Hampton (’81, BA, Political Science) was recently appointed to the Trademark Public Advisory Committee (TPAC) by U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, making her one of three UC-related members currently serving. Anne Chasser, who is responsible for the protection of UC’s intellectual property, and TPAC chair Maury Tepper, an alumnus of UC’s College of Law, were also appointed in the past year.

It does not surprise Hampton that UC has provided so much firepower for TPAC. “Maury Tepper indicated that Cincinnati, and by default UC, was a trademark powerhouse. I think what Maury meant is that if you look at the leading trademark practitioners working in the [Intellectual Property] field today, many have a connection to either the school or the city of Cincinnati.”

Hampton’s role on the committee is to act as the voice of the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) customers—specifically companies submitting ideas they want patented or trademarked.

“I consider overall my role to be a good partner to the office: to exchange ideas, recommendations and suggestions on how we can all work together to easily navigate the complexities of trademark registration and maintenance,” she explains.
Deborah Hampton (far right) meets with fellow trademark colleagues.
Deborah Hampton (far right) meets with fellow trademark colleagues.

Trademarks are words, logos, phrases or a combination that identifies the source and origin of a product or service. They also denote the quality and goodwill—or lack thereof—of the products themselves. To illustrate the nature of trademarks, Hampton refers to an article she wrote several years ago.

“I went into a supermarket and proceeded to get a box of Tide detergent, a tube of Colgate toothpaste and a container of Domino sugar. All of the items I purchased were based on brand name recognition along with the quality of the goods themselves. That is essentially the function of a trademark: to create an impression and invoke a positive feeling for the consumer and keep said consumer coming back again and again for the same product.”

Protecting the representation of an impression or feeling is tricky business, which is why it is important that TPAC and the USPTO work together. The collaboration ensures that individuals trying to protect their trademarks can do so with relative ease and have access to information that can help them understand how such protection works.

“The USPTO obviously cannot counsel or represent applicants but they can and do steer them gently to understand their best course of action.”

Hampton’s passion for trademarks and intellectual property has developed as her career has progressed. As a child she fell under the spell of the legal profession. “I kid you not, I was that kid that watched Perry Mason and said to myself, ‘I want to be a lawyer!’ So I’ve always known that I wanted to work in the legal field and like most, just assumed that meant becoming a lawyer.”

However, after graduating from the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, Hampton moved back home to New York and ended up taking a job as a receptionist at a law firm in their paralegal department. There she was inspired to get her paralegal certificate and her next job, as a paralegal with a trademark attorney, led her to a career in intellectual property and trademark protection.

“The rest as they say is history,” she says. “I was drawn to the field and have remained in it for 28 years. It has been incredibly rewarding to me."

Even though Hampton veered from her political science degree, she still uses much of the knowledge gleaned from her undergraduate courses.

“I can say without a doubt that the best classes I ever took and that helped me tremendously were the logic classes my freshman year. Among the many tools I use at work, Boolean logic is used daily in what I do and it thrills me that I can literally flash back to sitting in the classroom working on problems thinking I would never use those tools in life.”

Hampton has some excellent advice for future UC alumni—including her son Tristan, a senior majoring in Asian Studies at UC.

“Even though you may think that your career and path is headed in one direction, if you feel internally that the road you are traveling is not the one for you, that’s okay. Switch to what feels right and comfortable and you will wind up with a rewarding, challenging and interesting career.”

Finally, she adds, “Many of us come out of college thinking that we are going to get these great high-paying prestige jobs because we earned our degree. The reality is that is not always the case. If I hadn’t taken that job as a receptionist, I may have never been introduced to the paralegal field and never have wound up where I am today. The moral is you just never know where life is going to lead you, but wherever it does, keep an open mind.”

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