In this special interview series, we are proud to highlight the incredible members of the ANTrepreneur Center External (ACE) Committee and discuss their entrepreneurial experiences, their reasons for joining the ACE Committee, and their best advice for burgeoning student entrepreneurs. 

This article’s featured ACE member is Quan Nguyen, Patent Attorney and Partner at Nguyen Tarbet LLC, an intellectual property law firm representing inventors and organizations with impactful, cutting-edge technologies. Quan is passionate about the process of commercializing new inventions, and he works closely with his clients to build winning patent portfolios, identify strategic partners, screen for potential business deals, and analyze market opportunities. As a seasoned patent attorney, Quan concentrates his practice in patent procurement, opinion work (patentability and freedom to operate analysis), and intellectual property management. Quan is also an active member of the Tech Coast Angels (TCA), Desert Angels, and Life Science Angels, where he leads a number of investment deals.

Prior to founding Nguyen Tarbet LLC, Quan was a Partner at Cozen O’Connor, an international law firm based in Philadelphia. Earlier in his career, Quan worked in-house as an Assistant Director of Patents at Ionis Pharmaceuticals in San Diego, a leader in RNA-targeted therapeutics. Quan received his bachelor’s degree from UC Irvine (UCI) before receiving his master’s degree in molecular pharmacology from UC Los Angeles. He received his Juris Doctor degree from Southwestern Law School. 

To offer his unique insights to UCI student entrepreneurs, Quan recently met with Ryan Foland, Director of the UCI ANTrepreneur Center, to discuss some of his most impactful entrepreneurial experiences, his reasons for joining the ACE committee, and much more.

Ryan: Ahoy Quan! Thank you for sitting down with me and helping the ANTrepreneur community get to know you. Let’s start from the beginning; how did you get interested in entrepreneurship in the first place?

Quan: Thanks for having me, Ryan. I’m excited to be here! I would say that the creativity is what drew me in. The human mind is fascinating. Academically, I’m particularly interested in the psychology and neuroscience of creativity and innovation. Entrepreneurs are extremely creative, and their innovation solves many real-world problems, both big and small. Hanging out with entrepreneurs is very rewarding because it gives me insight into how they think and how their creativity flows. 

As a patent attorney, I’m proud that I can help entrepreneurs capture the economic value of their creativity and allow them the freedom and independence to continue to innovate. I support entrepreneurs because they are a fun group and the work they do is very important to us all.

Ryan: It’s great that your work is dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs and helping them achieve their dreams. Do you have any professional experiences that really stand out to you?

Quan: I have so many memorable experiences, but here’s one that really stands out. We had a father and son visit our office. The father had advanced Parkinson’s disease and had severe difficulty with walking. The son invented a walking system to help his father. The walker invention worked extremely well, and we drafted and filed a portfolio of patent applications for his inventions. We also brought together our team of experts in business strategies, corporate law, and FDA regulation to help commercialize the walker invention. The walker invention is currently being evaluated by a major hospital for their patients. The father has since passed away, but thanks to his son’s creativity, he left behind a wonderful legacy that can help many other Parkinson’s patients.

Ryan: That’s really special. I think stories like yours remind us that the driving force behind entrepreneurship is to develop new ways to positively impact the lives of others. This emphasis on innovating to solve real-world problems is something that we stress at the ANTrepreneur Center.

Quan: That’s something I appreciate about the ANTrepreneur Center and also UCI’s entrepreneurial ecosystem as a whole. The intentionality of entrepreneurship sets UCI apart from many other universities, and the existence of the ANTrepreneur Center and also UCI Beall Applied Innovation on campus is a testament to this. These two centers are staffed with world-class entrepreneurs and proven business leaders who are passionate about creating a legacy of entrepreneurs at UCI. They also attract strong business leaders from the community to support student entrepreneurs through their journey. I believe that all students should explore the resources and opportunities available on campus to propel them forward in their entrepreneurial endeavors.

Ryan: Thanks for the endorsement! As an ACE Committee member, you are definitely part of the community of support that student entrepreneurs can access through the ANTrepreneur Center. What made you interested in joining the ACE Committee?

Quan: My wife and I are both proud alumni of UCI. We both have lots of fond memories, and it feels really nice to be able to give back and support the future generation of UCI students. We are particularly interested in supporting UCI entrepreneurs, or shall I say ANTrepreneurs, because they play a huge role in making UCI a world-class university.

I also became interested in supporting the ANTrepreneur Center as an ACE member thanks largely to your leadership, Ryan. The ANTrepreneur Center already provides first-rate development and training to UCI students, and I am confident that the Center’s services will continue to expand under your guidance. Seeing the benefit that the Center has had made me want to work with you to build these educational programs.

As an ACE member, I see my role as connecting the ANTrepreneur Center to businesses in the community that can contribute financial resources to support the Center’s objectives. I also hope to collaborate with other ACE members to raise the visibility of the Center. So far, being an ACE member has been a rewarding experience, and I am proud to be involved.

Ryan: Thank you for the kind words and support. I know that your involvement with the ANTrepreneur Center is making a huge difference for our students. Speaking of our student entrepreneurs, do you have any advice for them?

Quan: I would suggest that they check out the podcast How I Built This. The podcast invites entrepreneurs to share their stories of success and failure as they established some of the biggest brands in the world. Listening to these accounts will give students realistic expectations about entrepreneurship and how to be successful. 

The ANTrepreneur Center is also collaborating on a special interview series with Tech Coast Angels (TCA) called “How Did They Do It?” This series interviews the founders of TCA’s portfolio companies to provide insight into their businesses and how they found their success. I think this is also a great resource for student entrepreneurs to check out. And I suggest that students attend the quarterly  Face-to-Face events that TCA and the ANTrepreneur Center are collaborating on. 

Ryan: Great advice, Quan! Getting to our events is a great way to learn and build your professional network. I know a lot of students have new ideas and want to learn more about patents. Can you tell our ANTrepreneurs the 101 of patents, and what they should do if they have a unique idea they think is a game changer?

Quan: Oh, patents? That’s a topic close to my heart! So, when you think about patents, think of them as a shield—they’re there to protect all the hard work and innovation behind your ideas. Essentially, when you get a patent, you’re getting this exclusive right, almost like a monopoly, on your invention for about 20 years. During this time, you’re the only one who gets to decide how it’s made, used, or sold.

Now, not everything is patentable. Your invention needs to be something genuinely new and unique. It shouldn’t just be an obvious extension of something that’s already out there. And, of course, it needs to have a practical use.

There are two main types of patent applications you should be aware of. First, there’s the provisional patent application, which is like dipping your toe in the water. It’s a way to claim your idea without getting into all the formal details. It gives you a year of “patent pending” status. Then, if you decide to take the plunge, you move on to the non-provisional patent application, which gets reviewed by the patent office for granting.

Before you get too far down the road, do a thorough patent search. It saves a lot of heartache to find out early if someone else has already patented something similar. And while there are online tools to help with this, getting a professional’s perspective can make all the difference.

Whenever someone comes to me with a potential game-changer, the first thing I tell them is to protect their idea. Talk about it, yes, but maybe have folks sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement before you dive deep. And then, make sure there’s actually a market for it. I’ve seen incredible inventions, but sometimes there just isn’t a demand. So, do your research. I also believe that networking is key. I’ve been part of Tech Coast Angels, Desert Angels, and Life Science Angels for a while now, and the connections you make there can be invaluable. Find people who’ve walked the path before, get their insights, and if you’re looking for funding, early-stage investors can be a godsend.

Lastly, when you’re confident about your idea’s uniqueness and market potential, that’s when you dive into the patenting process. But always remember, while patents are vital, it’s how you execute your idea that really counts. The journey of innovation is thrilling, and I’m always here to help guide and support all you ANTrepreneurs. Cheers to your success!

Ryan: I want to thank you again for taking the time to sit down with me and do this interview. As always, I’d like to close out this conversation by asking what message you would like to convey to the UCI community about the importance of entrepreneurship and supporting student entrepreneurs?

Quan: I would say, entrepreneurship is a beautiful journey. Along the way, students will have genuine opportunities for self discovery, to apply what they learn in the classroom to the real world, and to experience surprising personal and professional growth. As such, students who have entrepreneurship training are better prepared for the uncertainty of life and the workforce. Supporting student entrepreneurs is important because many of these student entrepreneurs grow up to be innovators that will promote the economic growth and prosperity of future generations. So I would encourage the entire community to find ways that they can get involved.

The ANTrepreneur Center offers many opportunities for the community to connect with student entrepreneurs. Whether it be leading entrepreneurship workshops, speaking at events, providing mentorship, or offering financial resources, I would encourage you to reach out to Ryan and find out how you can help make a difference for student entrepreneurs.

Want to learn more about our ACE members? Stay tuned for the next installment of the “Meet the ANTrepreneur Center External Committee” interview series. For more information about the UCI ANTrepreneur Center, including programming, speaker series, Micro-Internships, funding, and more, visit our website. You can also learn more about our valuable collaborations with Blackstone LaunchPad, Tech Coast Angels, Tech Coast Venture Network, OC Startup Council, SoCal Celebrates Entrepreneurship, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Threads