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November 25, 2012 | Tom Ballard

Bell brings science, arts background to her work as a patent attorney

She was introduced at a recent event as a person with eight college degrees. She says it is actually only seven but, regardless of the number, it is clear that Esther Bell is a Renaissance woman.

The Rockwood native and former attorney with the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently opened her own downtown firm – Global Intellectual Property Asset Management, PLLC . She is licensed to practice general law in Tennessee and Oklahoma as well as a patent attorney licensed in all 50 states. About 30 percent of Bell’s current clients are in Oklahoma; she has clients coast-to-coast and in Europe, as well.

In a recent interview with, Bell talked about how she became an attorney, how she combines her science and music interests, and how she hopes to make an impact in this region with her knowledge of intellectual property and her commitment to service.

“There’s unlimited potential in intellectual creativity in this region, both scientific and artistic,” she says. Bell should know, since she earned multiple degrees in both areas.

The lifelong learner says that she earned two Associate of Science degrees, one in piano performance and the other in science, while a student at Roane State Community College. Bell next earned three concurrent Bachelor degrees at the University of Tennessee’s (UT) Knoxville campus – one each in botany, biology and piano – followed by a Master of Music degree in piano.

With six degrees under her belt, Bell taught at both Roane State and UT Chattanooga before opening her own studio. Then, she had an epiphany as the clock ticked toward a new year.

“I decided on January 1, 1998 to go to law school,” she says. Four days later, Bell showed-up on campus at UTK to apply for enrollment for the Fall Semester at the College of Law and quickly learned how competitive the admissions process was.

“I was told that I had little chance to be admitted that fall and would have to take the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) within a few weeks” to have any possibility, she said.

Undeterred, Bell found a book entitled 30 Days to the LSAT, devoured the contents, took the test, and was not only admitted for the Fall Semester but also awarded a scholarship. She later served as a Law Review Editor and even managed to secure a clerkship from the Chief Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court on the same day that the two unexpectedly met.

Out of law school, Bell says that she “chose to go with the federal government (DOE), because I wanted to be a public servant. I believed in the mission of Oak Ridge . . . I wanted to help the region.”

She spent nearly a decade at DOE’s Oak Ridge Office, not only serving the Oak Ridge facilities (DOE, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y-12 National Security Complex) as an intellectual property attorney but also the Savannah River National Laboratory.

Today, 70 percent of Bell’s work is handling intellectual property issues for clients – patents, licensing, copyrights and trademarks – as well as estate and succession planning. She’s particularly proud of two statistics: a 92 percent issue rate on U.S. patents and a 98 percent registration rate on U.S. trademarks over her career to date.

“My job as a service provider is to achieve the client’s goals,” she says. In that regard, Bell’s prior experience has given her insights into the challenges facing people who have intellectual property that they want to see commercialized.

“If I can find people who are creative and connect them with people who have investment capital, we can create a win-win,” she says. Client care and maximizing a client’s agenda for intellectual property are two of her core values. Bell is also passionate about helping “locally-based small businesses.”

She is particularly concerned about companies and individuals that are not sensitive about protecting their intellectual property (IP) including trademarks.

“If you have a name or a logo, you have IP that needs protection, even if you don’t have a patent or copyright,” Bell explains.

The fact that she is a native of East Tennessee no doubt contributes to her dedication to the region.

“Our potential (as a region) is unlimited,” Bell says. “It’s a matter of education, resources and opportunity.”

She sees the success of her company as a direct contributor to the region’s success. In that regard, Bell has already reached out to Marilyn Roddy with the STEMspark Initiative to see how she can help.  She is also a strong supporter of the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, which provides field research experiences to students of all ages.

With Bell’s passion for everything that she pursues – from seven degrees to securing a clerkship in Oklahoma, it’s easy to believe that Bell will make a significant impact.

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