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Business Observer Thursday, Jul. 16, 2009 10 years ago

Starting Over

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Suzi Marteny, 37 Marteny & Toner Law Firm

Suzi Marteny, 37 Marteny & Toner Law Firm


Tampa intellectural property attorney Suzi Martney admits that when she was growing up, she was more interested in the social than the academic. She dropped out of high school.

“I took a different path,” says Martney, 37, founder of Martney & Toner, a Tampa law firm. “I got married young. Had a baby at 20 and divorced at 21. I just couldn't get motivated to do anything. I thought I knew everything.”

That changed when Martney had a child. She went back to school, graduated from Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, then the University of South Florida in Tampa and worked as an analytical chemist for companies like Shell Chemical in Lakeland.

She planned to be a doctor. But that required four more years of school and four to 10 years in a residency.

“Shell didn't pay well and there we're not a lot of opportunities for advancement,” Martney says. “I didn't have a PhD in chemistry. That was a lot more school with no real payoff in the end.”

But her neighbor was a patent attorney. And after talking with him a length, Marteny felt that after 2½ years of school, that was something she could do well, enjoy and make a good career out of — a better way to support her daughters Tipper, 16, and Logan, 2.

She eventually decided to go to Stetson Law School in Gulfport. And after graduating in May 2003, she worked for a few Tampa Bay area firms, such as Carlton Fields and Akerman Senterfitt. Martney first worked as a law clerk helping clients. Then she opened her own business law firm, Martney &Toner, in South Tampa on MacDill Avenue, about a third of a mile from her home.

Instead of the silk stocking law offices with glass conference rooms downtown, get ready for a different experience when walking in to Martney & Toner. Don't be surprised to find Martney in shorts, jeans or flip flops, if it's a non-court day. There are no marble floors and fancy coffee cups and silverware.

“Some clients said don't wear a suit,” Martney says. “It makes them nervous. At Shell Chemical, we were wearing jeans and hard hats. A lot of our clients are industrial. The clients are the motivators.”

But her work is serious business. Marteny has represented plaintiffs and defendants in litigations with claims such as patent, trademark and copyright infringement, trade secret misappropriation, Internet domain name disputes, advertising issues, publishing, counterfeit goods, right of publicity issues, computer fraud and abuse, state and federal unfair competition, counterfeiting, restrictive covenants and contractual matters.

Her experience includes representing clients in cancellation and opposition proceedings in the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. She has also litigated various other types of disputes involving partnerships, real estate, civil theft and insurance.

She has specific experience in assisting her clients in developing internal business procedures for the protection of intellectual property rights, preparing contracts such as manufacturing and supply agreements, intellectual property licenses, software and content development agreements and distribution agreements.

Marteny also helps clients form corporations and securing funding.

“We deal with so many situations here,” Martney says. “I'm a very down-to-earth person. We want to put the focus on the product, not us. Just because you do things differently, there's multiple ways to get a job done. It it working for us.”

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