Scott Frank | Executive Profile | ATLANTA TREND
By Robert Green
The founder of Temple University, Russell Herman Conwell, is famous for saying that everyone is surrounded by acres of diamonds. His central idea was that one need not look elsewhere for opportunity, achievement, or fortune - the resources to achieve all good things are present and within reach if we are wise enough to realize the value of what and who we already have and know. Scott Frank, the President & CEO of AT&T Intellectual Property, has been employing this philosophy successfully his entire life, harvesting diamonds for BellSouth and AT&T for 15 years, as well as Georgia State University, Georgia Tech, Mary Hall Freedom House, and much more.
Scott was born in Cleveland, Ohio and moved to Atlanta at age five. His family lived in Sandy Springs and he attended local public schools until entering Marist in Dunwoody for high school. “The cost of Marist was a sacrifice for my family, but my parents always said that getting a good education was a top priority, and they were right!” he said.
Scott went on to Georgia Tech where he entered the Electrical Engineering program. While at Tech, he worked at AT&T and Nortel in their co-op programs. He then joined Nortel full time after graduation, where he designed test systems for phone equipment. As a co-op, Scott had decided fairly quickly that he didn’t want to have a career as an engineer. He considered a career in managing engineers as a viable option, so immediately after graduating from Tech, he entered the MBA program at Georgia State. He then decided to add Law School after his first year of Georgia State to keep his options open and to continue building on his parent’s top priority…education. This joint degree program would prove to be very significant for his future. The business of technology had started growing significantly in the early ‘90s and with that, the need for intellectual property protection increased. Scott had heard
that law firms were willing to train people with technical backgrounds as patent agents. As an engineer from Georgia Tech and law student doing well in school, he had several options with major law firms in Atlanta and chose Troutman Sanders. Scott then worked as a patent agent for Troutman Sanders while completing his MBA and Law Degree at Georgia State. He worked for three years as a patent agent and another four years as an associate with the law firm.
As an intellectual property attorney at Troutman Sanders, where the author of this article first met him, Scott worked on a number of interesting projects regarding
patent prosecution, litigation and IP licensing. He worked on the Reebok Step, which was a major fad at the time and had some interesting intellectual property
challenges. “Additionally, Southern Company had developed software to monitor usage of electricity called Enerlink,” said Scott, “and I became the lead attorney for
licensing this technology to other power companies.” Little did he know that this experience would help him significantly in the next phase of his career. Scott was
happy in his work and relished seeing future technology before it rolled out to consumers. Licensing was also of particular interest. “I enjoyed and still enjoy the
art of the deal,” he said.
In early 1998, Scott was approached by BellSouth about the possibility of coming into the company to set up and run a new Intellectual Property division. Sandy Evans, the Chief Intellectual Property Counsel had recommended Scott based on his background and their relationship in the State Bar of Georgia Intellectual Property section. The business leaders of BellSouth knew that IBM and other companies had begun to make a lot of money by licensing intellectual property. “Keith Cowan, my new boss, who was in charge of Corporate Development, wanted me to do the same. I wasn’t certain I could do it but it seemed like the perfect opportunity for me,” says Scott. It had never been done before at a company like BellSouth. “At the time, I thought I would make IP law my career. I never expected to have the opportunity to run an IP business, where I could leverage my telecom and IP law background at a Fortune 50 company headquartered in Atlanta,” said Scott. “If I was going to leave IP law, it seemed like the perfect job for me. I couldn’t pass it up. My wife, Marie was very supportive and told me to ‘go for it’.”
He accepted the challenge and started working at BellSouth in April 1998. The initial team Scott was fortunate to be surrounded by were several “diamonds:” Sandy, Carol Beckham, an IP expert from Supply Chain, and Chris Arena, Chief Patent Counsel. They first had to build a three-year business case for revenues, expenses, and headcount. Scott met with a lot of people across the company to better understand the IP he had to work with. By July, the business case was approved. They then had to incorporate the new company – two companies, actually – BellSouth Intellectual Property Management Corporation (BIPMAN) and BellSouth Intellectual Property Marketing Corporation (BIPMARK), the first to manage the companies’ intellectual property and the second to license and sell it. Then they spent the rest of 1998 adding several people to the team, including another diamond, Michael Bishop, an excellent IP deal lawyer. They also met with managers across the company to deliver the message of capturing IP and then the revenues that would follow. “In 1999, the business case became my budget and revenue commitment - I was under the gun,” he said. Under the gun and still not sure if it would work. Scott had been picked to be President and leader of the two BellSouth intellectual property companies because he was an experienced intellectual property lawyer, had an MBA, and had prior experience in telecom. Being an engineer from Georgia Tech didn’t hurt either. Still, Scott was uncertain if the new division would work. “I told my colleagues at Troutman Sanders, hey, save a place for me, because I may be back.”
He need not have worried. After eight years, up to the time of the merger into AT&T, Scott’s licensing and sale company had added over half a billion dollars to
BellSouth’s bottom line with greater than 20% growth every year. The company also went from less than 50 patents to over 1,000, the fastest a service provider had ever achieved this feat. “We started with the licensing of software copyrights on billing, customer care and outside plant construction,” said Scott, “and went from there.” Next, because the BellSouth brand was so valuable, Scott’s team did a number of trademark deals that allowed companies who met certain standards to license the company brand. For example, BellSouth licensed its name to one of the top security companies in the country, Protection One, who didn’t have a Southeastern presence. It was a natural fit and “a win-win deal,” said Scott. “They got to use our logo, and we got a royalty on every system installed and every monthly bill.”
For all its success, the 2006 merger of BellSouth into AT&T put Scott and the intellectual property team of about 40 people at risk. AT&T already had its own
Intellectual Property division in Texas. What would happen to Scott and his team? True, they had been successful and likely would have all found jobs quickly or might even have been picked up by a major company as a group, much the same as Ford Motor Company picked up Robert McNamara and his “Wiz Kids” from the Department of Defense after World War II. But who could say? Fortunately, AT&T’s corporate executives took an honest look at their own IP division compared to Scott’s, and made a tough decision -- Scott would become President & CEO of AT&T Intellectual Property. His BellSouth team would keep their jobs and not even have to move to Texas. AT&T Intellectual Property headquarters would be re-located to Atlanta. “I’ll never forget the call I got from my new boss, Chris Rice, then the Chief Technology Officer, with the good news. It was one of the greatest days of my career,” Scott said. “Me and my team now had an opportunity to take our game to a much higher level. AT&T had a significantly more valuable patent portfolio, brand, world renowned labs, and experienced IP personnel.” More diamonds to work with.
AT&T Intellectual Property and Scott continued to monetize the ideas of the company with great support from his bosses, Chris Rice, then John Donovan, and current boss, Ed Amoroso, and via a number of teams headed up by “diamond” leaders. His patent development team, led by Bob Koch, works with engineers and inventors in the company to lead the development of futuristic, visionary inventions and manages AT&T’s approximately 10,000 patents worldwide. His patent licensing and sales team, led by Joe Sommer, works to monetize AT&T’s patents on technologies such as audio and video compression, by striking deals with companies all over the world. Scott’s technology licensing & sales teams, led by Stan Quintana and Derek Walker, “mine” the company for technology, such as speech recognition and translation that could be licensed. Stan’s team licenses out internal Labs & IT developed technology, while Derek’s team negotiates IP provisions with vendors and license back technology they develop. Scott also has a brand licensing team, led by Ken Duncan, to license the AT&T brand. Examples of its work include the CitiBank AT&T credit card, which carries the AT&T logo and the company’s deal to license the brand on cordless phones, which has made AT&T the #2 selling brand in cordless home telephones in the U.S. Finally, he has an operations team, led by Denise Cowell, to handle IT, HR, staffing, PR and much more. His legal team is led by Tom Restaino, Michael Bishop, Glenn Blumstein, and David Cho, while his finance team is led by Michael Leshan. In sum, Scott’s AT&T IP team has continued the growth and success story from the BellSouth days. Although very busy with his work and family, Scott still takes time to assist the community. One example is the vision he had for his law school, Georgia State. In 2003, Scott had noticed that Georgia State law school had more graduates as members in the Intellectual Property section of the State Bar of Georgia than any other law school in the state. Perhaps it was because that’s the way his mind works – always thinking of intellectual property “diamonds to harvest” – but Scott and a few other alumni spoke to the Dean and Associate Dean of the law school at Georgia State and convinced them that they had a great resource that could be made use of to the school’s benefit and enhance the school’s reputation. Scott and the alumni were asked by the Dean to start an IP Advisory Board (IPAB) for the law school, and Scott was asked to become its Chairman - and to begin implementing the ideas that they had suggested. Since this beginning, Scott and Jeff Kuester (a good friend who also attended Georgia Tech and introduced the patent agent concept to him), with the support and guidance of Dean Steve Kaminshine, have led the IPAB. This large group of IP alumni and friends have raised over $1 million in funding and distributed the money in scholarships and programs that benefit the law school, Georgia State University as a whole, and the entire Atlanta community. Every year, five students receive intellectual property scholarships, including one full ride, to the College of Law at Georgia State and over $100,000 have been distributed to dozens of students. The IPAB also ensures that every IP student gets an IP mentor, and that the IP Moot Court teams receive adequate financial support and coaching. The IPAB has also started a number of beneficial community programs including: a quarterly Corporate IP Roundtable – which had over 25 corporate members in 2012; the Corporate IP Institute – which is a two day conference and draws approximately 200 IP professionals to Atlanta every Fall; the “Springposium,” which is a legal symposium held every spring at Barnsley Gardens, which was “sold out” in 2012; and the Intellectual Property Legends Awards with “legend” honorees including Ted Turner, Truett Cathy, founder and CEO of Chick-fil-A, and Sandy Evans, the Chief IP Counsel that helped Scott get his job at BellSouth. The Southeastern IP Job Fair has now been in place for almost 10 years and has helped many students get jobs. “It’s been a lot of work.” said Scott, “I think everyone is pleased with the results. Ultimately, I wanted to do more for the school than just write them a check every year and this benefits the entire community.”
Scott also has a seat on the Board of the Georgia Tech Research Corporation. One of the top research institutes in the country, GTRC does complex research and
development for industry and the government. This work includes new weapons systems, as well and research in microbiology and cancer. Scott works with two of the most valuable diamonds in the business, Jilda Garton and Kevin Wozniak, to help GTRC protect and monetize their inventions.
He also serves on the Board of Mary Hall Freedom House, a respected non-profit based in Sandy Springs that helps to free women from addiction, poverty and
homelessness. “We help and teach. Our patrons learn basic life skills and get job training. Many women have been able to re-establish their lives and thrive because of
Mary Hall,” said Scott. “Lucy Hall (the CEO) and Jon Kleinberg (the Chairman) have done an amazing job building this organization to be one of the best in the country in a little over 15 years.” Serving as Vice Chairman, he has been serving on the Board for over 10 years.
He also continues to serve on the Board of the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO), made up of the top intellectual property owners in the world, such as
IBM, Microsoft, GE, and Cisco. He has served on the Board for approximately 15 years, and finds it rewarding. The most valuable diamonds in Scott’s life are his wife, Marie, and their four children, Dennis, Danielle, David and Diana. Three of them attend Marist with a fourth hoping to soon to get that all important… education! Other important diamonds are his mother, Ellen, brother, Brian, and sister, Marcy, who all live within 15 minutes of Scott with their families. Scott’s father, Denny, who taught him a lot about harvesting diamonds, is deceased.
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