Jason Nield – CECO Environmental Corporation
With his new employer bolstered by world-class engineers, there seemed no shortage of innovation potential when Jason “Jay” Nield came aboard in early 2018.
But all that intellectual property at CECO Environmental Corp. sure needed to be duly tended, the British-born Nield recalls during a lively chat with Vanguard in February. He’d be just the one to do it in his roles as general counsel and vice president.
For there was certainly a lot of money at stake, this Dallas-headquartered company meeting the growing demand for clean, safe and more efficient air, energy and industrial fluid handling solutions to companies worldwide. And its well-being was largely dependent on development and protection of its patents.
Rather than continue relying on myriad disparate law firms, Nield emphasized how it would be better to consolidate both the IP portfolio and the external legal support to a single, true patent partner.
Especially since one of the best was just up the road in Plano—Conley Rose, an IP specialist with additional offices in Houston and Austin. From prior engagements, Nield had gotten to know one of the firm’s principals, Michael Piper, a University of Texas law grad prominent in the leadership of the American Intellectual Properties Law Association.
“Call this good old-fashioned housekeeping,” says Nield. “There’s no point having an external IP legal counsel you never see. Perhaps more than any other area of law, face-to-face interaction and building relationships with the business is a prerequisite for IP.”
Weeks, rather than months later, the consolidation’s impact was obvious, Nield says. CECO’s previously fragmented pockets of IP had become a unified portfolio, separated into trademarks and patents, with the added benefit of reliably forecasting the maintenance fees for the next decade.
With the portfolio growing here and abroad, however, one U.S. law firm would be hard-pressed to handle all overseas IP work. While under the supervision of Piper, Nield agreed to contract with a single Amsterdam-based IP heavyweight with offices throughout Europe, Asia and the United States, to monitor CECO’s international interests.
“This global reach through a single interface is an immense help to us because we’re looking at efficient ways to map and further monetize our IP in alignment with the appropriate product line,” Nield says. “It’s imperative the IP we generate drives profitable growth while minimizing costs, and every country has its own way of doing business.”
And CECO is diligently managing and enhancing its portfolio while pursuing growth—through bolt-on acquisitions and divestitures while encouraging in-house innovation.
A farsighted approach
“We’re committed to creating a better environment, with an eye on intergenerational equity,” Nield says. “Our children’s children will inherit the planet, and it’s very much our goal to help big industries provide a cleaner and safer planet.”
CECO’s technologies include solutions for industrial air quality, energy and fluid handling. Its scrubbers can minimize acidic gases and other pollutants from factories and power plants, while its ventilation systems, fume exhausts, and high-tech dust collectors ensure on-the-job safety. Its oxidizers render hazardous gases benign.
For the energy industry, CECO can silence noise, separate natural gas from liquids or maximize efficiency at power plants.
And for the safe handling of industrial fluids, the company manufactures world-class pumps including corrosion-resistant fiberglass and thermoplastic pumps, filters for electroplating, and the means to separate waste products from industrial electrolytes.
As if that is not enough, CECO CEO Dennis Sadlowski has set innovation as one of four value creation enablers to drive sustainable growth. Innovations alone would seem more than enough to keep its engineers busy for years to come, in support of which Nield and Piper have built and rolled out an internal process to capture and consider worldwide innovations or inventions for IP protection.
Now with the addition of Kasey Foreman to the legal team, Nield will smoothly safeguard CECO’s IP portfolio while focusing more of his time on corporate, governance and strategic initiatives. Working together with Nield, Foreman’s early assignments include many of CECO’s contractual matters.
Each team member should have a lengthy to-do list, as CECO is coming off a productive 2018 and has set its sights on aggressive growth plans for the future. While he has overseen two divestitures, no acquisitions have happened on Nield’s watch—yet. That may change, however, with the company poised to expand “the environmental engineering technology of tomorrow.”
His own technical input will be limited but maybe not inconsequential—Nield was awarded a Royal Air Force flying scholarship at the age of 17 and obtained his pilot’s license. With an original aspiration to fly helicopters for the Royal Navy, Nield changed his tack when a pilot friend suggested he have something to fall back on, should injury ground him—Nield surprised some folks by opting for law.
“I have always loved problem-solving, finding a workable solution to whatever problem presents itself—what I found in law was a ready means of doing so,” he says.
A post-grad of The Queens University of Belfast, Nield qualified as a barrister in 1996 at the Inns of Court School of Law, London, before sitting for the New York State bar exam in 1999. He has worked both in-house and with firms on both sides of The Pond, his CECO position preceded by six years in Dallas with HP, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and DXC Technology, where he was responsible for the resourcing and global leadership of strategic deals in excess of $100 million.
Though a smaller company, CECO’s profile continues to grow, especially as the need for pollution control is ascertained amid evidence of climate change. Thus, a mission shared by all.
“What impresses me is just how engaged our employees are,” Nield says. “The work environment here is vibrant and has proved very rewarding. Everyone’s looking to the future and the contribution they can make personally to the company’s growth and strategic goals. Simply put, how they can make a difference.”
The odds of making that difference seem much better with the kind of IP vigilance that Nield has brought to CECO. He, along with his CECO colleagues, will continue to deliver cleaner, safer and more efficient solutions for the shared environment.
“That’s us—that’s CECO,” he’s proud to say.
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