After earning a B.A. in biochemistry from Columbia, a Ph.D. in molecular biology from Princeton, and a J.D. from UC Berkeley Law, Gina Shishima pursued patent law, where her depth and variety of knowledge proves valuable for her clients. Using her ability to translate legal and scientific information into comprehensible terms, Shishima clarifies the issues in her patent cases for all the parties that might be involved: other lawyers, judges, the patent office, scientists, and businesspeople at the life sciences companies and entities she works for. Her scholarly acumen works with her diligence, which she says is a quality patent lawyers are known for. “Patent attorneys can argue about what the word ‘A’ means,” Shishima says.
A few years ago, Shishima worked on a patent litigation case with Mars, Inc., the company known for producing popular candies like Mars bars, Milky Ways, and M&M’s. Did the litigation case have to do with one of Mars’ popular candies? Actually, the case had to do with something most people would likely not associate with Mars: dog breeding and genetics.
“Mars has a very large, innovative pet division,” explains Shishima. “They licensed a patent from scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and developed it commercially so that you can buy a test on Amazon that allows you to take a cheek swab from your dog, send it back in, and then find out what breed your dog is. It’s based on highly technical genetic analysis, and the case was fun because it depended on subtle scientific issues. I dealt with some smart scientists and experts who did statistical analyses on people’s genetic information. Much like Ancestry.com, but this test was for dogs.”
Shishima and the litigation team worked with Mars’ chief scientist in the area on a tutorial for the judge, exhibiting how the technology works, and successfully helped Mars address infringing competitors.
Recognizing the value of having patience while practicing patent law, Shishima states, “In the end, patent law is a unique combination of being people-oriented, but at the same time needing to delve into papers and details. So having patience to do both is useful.”
When she’s not dissecting rhetoric or translating terms, Shishima likes to invest her time in the issues she advocates for, especially diversity and inclusion. In patent law, she knows just how few women are represented in the field, with 17 percent of registered patent attorneys being women. She was the chief diversity officer at Norton Rose Fulbright and has long been active the in Asian American bar associations, both locally and nationally, as well as an Asian American civil rights organization.
Shishima is head of intellectual property at Norton Rose Fulbright and has been listed with Best Lawyers® since 2007.