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How many lives have we lived?

How many lives have we lived? By Julie Seyler


It’s funny how unaware we are when we start our life journey. There are dreams and hopes and disappointments, and when scanned from the perch of the right side of 50, it can be fascinating to see how many different lives we have experienced by the time we get to this one. And certainly, the annual issuance of W-2 forms makes one contemplate how many jobs we have held.

So when I look back, it was 43 years ago (ye gads) when I got my first job. I was 14, the age when you could get your working papers in New Jersey. My parents insisted that I start earning a living, or at least stop relying on them for my allowance.

a bad photo of the AP Boardwalk looking north from Ocean Ave.

Asbury Park Boardwalk, circa ’70s, looking north from Ocean Ave.

It’s long long gone, but there was a miniscule “restaurant,” if I can even call it that, on the south end of the Asbury Park boardwalk by the Casino called the Maxwell House Coffee Shop. All we served was homemade cinnamon donuts, homemade plain donuts and Maxwell House coffee. We opened at 7 a.m., and closed at 3 p.m. I could, and did, eat all the donuts I wanted. Every morning, and throughout the day, a batch of dough would be whipped up into a thick creamy mass, pushed through a machine, and dropped into a vat of hot oil to be quickly fried and as quickly removed. They were delicious. Dunkin Donuts is a facsimile of the real thing I stuffed my face with for two summers in a row.

Me in waitress outfit for Michael's

Me in waitress outfit for Michael’s

I graduated to other boardwalk joints – 1970s landmarks like the Casino Coffee Shop, Howard Johnson’s (loved the clam strips), and Michael’s Seafood Restaurant. I hate to admit it, but I became a really good waitress. I juggled five, stacked dishes at a time, served them without a crash,  promptly cleared them when everyone finished, and then handed over the check five minutes later. It was all about turnover.

The summer of my sophomore year in college, I worked at Yellowstone National Park – no, not as a nature guide, but as a maid. My friend Margery and I were on cabin detail by the Yellowstone Lake. This meant changing guests’ bedsheets, and raiding their coolers. We were shameless when it came to nabbing Doritos. We also played lots of beer ball. I came home from Wyoming with a huge cowboy hat and a huger body. But neither being a waitress nor a housekeeper was to be my calling.

Fast forward past college, and three years of law school. I ended up with my first “real” job at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). I was hired to examine applications for trademark registration. Everyone knows the ® –  the universal symbol that indicates that a trademark is registered. The USPTO issues those Rs in the circle, and before anyone can use that little ® next to their trademark, they must apply and be approved for registration.

 PTO about 1980

PTO about 1980

When I started there I was 24, and knew nothing about trademark law. But I soon learned the ins and outs of why a mark should be refused registration, or approved for registration. I only examined trademarks that were applied to soft drinks, beers, wines and distilled liquors. So for the eight years I worked in Arlington, Virginia – right outside of Washington D.C. – I became familiar with virtually every trademark applied to a liquid product. I loved walking into a bar and checking out the bottles of gin, rum and scotch because there was always a decent chance that the trademark had come across my desk.

But I lusted for Manhattan, and in 1988, I was lucky enough to get hired by a firm. That was an entirely different ball of wax because instead of being in charge of the approval and refusal process, I was charged with the task of convincing the government to reverse any refusals they issued. Knowing how the inside worked certainly helped make the outside work.

And here I be 25 years later. And 25 years in the same job. The great thing about practicing this specialty is that trademarks are international. Every business in every country seeks to register their trademark. I can be anywhere in the world and will likely run into a trademark that I’ve either worked on, or challenged, or heard about through the legal grapevine. Oh, and you can always find a lunch partner because there are attorneys all over the world talking about those signs, logos and words that identify and distinguish one product from another. (And FYI, the © signifies a copyright, a breed of intellectual property completely different from a trademark.)