CSUN alumna Karen Boyd ’90 (Environmental Biology) calls Turner Boyd LLP, the San Mateo firm she co-founded, “a unicorn” in the field of intellectual property law because it was founded, and is majority-owned, by women.
Boyd’s expertise makes her a sought-after speaker and panelist, providing her perspective on many topics, including attracting more people, especially women, into the profession.
Intellectual property laws protect the rights of creators and owners of inventions, writing, music, designs and other works. The four main areas of intellectual property law are trademarks, copyrights, patents and trade secrets. In the areas of patents and trade secrets, it’s helpful to have a bachelor’s or advanced degree in a technical field, such as science and engineering. For some activities, such as writing patents, that background is required.
Women make up 50% of graduates from law school, but represent just 22% of the people registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office — a qualification required to write patents. The pipeline of candidates is limited in part because women are underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) degree fields.
Boyd and her partners decided they wanted to do their part to change that. They created a scholarship at CSUN to support those interested in the field of intellectual property law.
“We decided that we wanted to make investments in the career paths of other people,” Boyd said. “We were talking a lot about wanting to bring women into this field and support them, and we wanted to put our money where our mouth is.”
The Turner Boyd Women in Intellectual Property Pipeline Scholarship is open to California State University, Northridge students who have completed 60 hours of university coursework and are pursuing a bachelor’s program in the College of Engineering and Computer Science or the College of Science and Mathematics. The deadline to apply is April 16.
The endowment was created from a $50,000 gift from Turner Boyd partners Boyd, Jennifer Seraphine and Robert Kent, as well as $30,000 in gifts from Boyd herself. The CSUN Foundation matched $25,000 of Boyd’s giving as part of the 2022 Matador Match Challenge. Seraphine said her hope is to benefit the field by supporting many types of diversity, including assisting students with financial needs.
“I put myself through school, and I remember getting a modest scholarship that made a huge difference to me,” said Seraphine, who graduated from Florida State University College of Law. “It really alleviated so much stress for me at that time.”
Boyd’s Career Path
CSUN was a natural place to make a difference, Boyd said — she knows firsthand how impactful the university is for its students. She was already a longtime supporter, even joining the CSUN Foundation Board of Directors in 2022.
Her career illustrates the twists and turns a law student may take before finding their niche.
Boyd originally arrived at CSUN with plans to go to medical school, but changed her mind and for a time pursued a career in academia. After getting her biology degree from CSUN on an environmental biology track, she pursued a master’s degree in molecular biology at UCLA. There, she learned that law school was a potential path for someone with her technical expertise, and she started to reconsider if academic science was the route she wanted to take. A friend who was studying for the LSAT law school aptitude test convinced Boyd to take the test at the same time, mostly because she wanted Boyd there for moral support. Boyd’s scores were so good that she decided to apply to law school.
She used her time at UC Berkeley School of Law to further refine her career path. She had options: Her bachelor’s degree was good preparation for environmental law, but her master’s degree was good preparation for patent law. Boyd thought the patent law path was a little clearer, which appealed to her as the first of her two children was born at the beginning of her last year of law school.
After getting her law degree, she practiced law at Fish & Richardson, an intellectual property law firm, where she was a partner, and founded Turner Boyd in 2008.
She’s worked with clients including Fortune 100 companies and solo inventors in a wide range of technological fields, including pharmaceuticals, consumer electronics and medical devices. One client has patented a test that can detect cancer recurrence early in a person’s bloodstream. Boyd has represented this client as both a plaintiff and a defendant. The nuances of these patent disputes require an understanding of molecular biology and data science.
Boyd was originally attracted to intellectual property disputes because of their technical nature, thinking it would be less emotional than family law or criminal law. But it turned out that emotions play a part in any type of dispute.
“Law is an interesting field because it’s the way that we try to get human beings to deal with each other,” Boyd said. “And so there’s this human component to it. It turns out that it’s still highly emotional. That is something that I thought I was trying to avoid, and I’m glad I didn’t, because it’s something that makes the field interesting 27 years later.”
The First Recipient
The first Turner Boyd scholarship at CSUN was awarded in 2022 to Nataliia Mosheva, a biochemistry student who is currently studying for the LSAT, with plans to go to law school and sit for the patent bar exam. STEM fields appealed to Mosheva, whose mother is a mathematician and father is a physicist, because she has a natural curiosity and likes the idea of using research to create solutions. After moving with her parents from Rostov-on-Don, Russia, to Woodland Hills in 2017, she discovered that she could apply her STEM knowledge with a law degree to help people.
The $5,000 scholarship means a lot to Mosheva, who worked long hours to support her family as they worked to get a foothold in America. Those pressures have subsided a bit, but the cost of law school still causes her concern.
“It helps to encourage you to continue, it helps you to understand that there are people who are willing to help you overcome those challenges,” she said.
An Ongoing Relationship
Turner Boyd plans to go beyond financial support to provide longtime mentorship for scholarship recipients, and the partners intend to make themselves available for advice years down the road. They’ve already set up Mosheva with informational interviews with a number of law firm and in-house intellectual property attorneys in their networks.
They know that well-timed support can boost students on their journey to a meaningful and rewarding career.
“We wanted to be able to make that kind of difference,” Boyd said.
To contribute to the Turner Boyd Women in Intellectual Property Pipeline Scholarship Endowment or create one of your own, please contact the CSUN Office of Development at (818) 677-2786 or email@example.com.