Monthly Feature: Get to Know... Mark L. Beloborodov
March 1, 2023
Growing up in Ukraine in the 1980s, Mark Beloborodov envisioned a future in the sciences. Having returned to his beloved Kyiv after a summer-long evacuation to Crimea following the Chornobyl disaster, he was admitted to a specialized physics and math high school known for its high-achieving alumni. Graduates include top government officials in Ukraine, the inventor of autocomplete search an inventor of the autocomplete search string query, American university professors and leading scientists and engineers at many major IT and biotech companies.
The plan remained the same as he headed off to the National Technical University of Ukraine, to pursue a degree in materials science and engineering.
“It was interesting times,” Mark recalls. “I’m part of the generation that lived through perestroika and the fall of the USSR. But all that optimism and those promised opportunities quickly changed to despair in the early 90s, as the economic situation became pretty dire.”
He recounts the day during his junior year when a mechanical engineering professor leveled with Mark and his university classmates: “He came into the lab and said, ‘Things are really bad. You’re not going to get your scholarships anymore. The school will no longer offer job placement and the graduate program is on hold. Our advice is to take the year or so you have left and find your paths.”
Mark listened and found a job with an IT company, a newly privatized spinoff of the Academy of Sciences that was looking to import and introduce modern local networking technologies across many industries all over Ukraine. The young company had another great aspiration – to build an outsourcing operation and have its team of highly skilled programmers work on software development projects for customers in the United States. Mark landed the gig on the strength of his two qualifications: He was a fast learner ready for new experiences and spoke fluent English.
“So that’s eventually how I went to the U.S., to support that operation at the ripe age of 20,” he says.
Mark’s first stop was Rochester, New York, home to a large Ukrainian community in Irondequoit, where he experienced a bit of culture shock.
“I grew up in the very center of the city of Kyiv,” he says. “I had a driver’s license, but there was not much of a need to drive anywhere. Then, all of a sudden, I’m in this apartment complex in the woods of upstate New York and, to buy a loaf of bread, I have to get in the car and drive for 20 minutes.”
Mark eventually resettled in Boston and decided to return to school to study law. He had no idea what to expect and had no inkling of the kind of work lawyers at big firms do.
“On the other hand, I love learning,” he says. “I got into Boston University School of Law and I really enjoyed it. I found a lot of connections between how law is taught and how science is taught. You figure out rules, you analyze patterns and draw conclusions.”
Still at law school, he landed a position in one of the largest firms in town at that time, one that was heavily involved in the internet boom of the 1990s and early 2000s.
“The firm represented a lot of venture capitalists, and there was a huge volume of legal work to get their portfolio technology companies going,” Mark recalls. “I was very gently steered toward intellectual property (IP) law because I had a technical background, even though I had no idea what IP was.”
He learned quickly and, in the process, befriended another IP associate, Jeremy Oczek, who now chairs Bond’s IP practice. The pair stayed in touch over the years and reconnected in 2022, when Mark joined Bond. He’s based in the firm’s Boston office.
“All lawyers operate with facts and within a legal framework, but in IP law, your facts are inventions and your clients are inventors – how cool is that?” Mark says.
He never looked back.
“I’m really happy that I picked this area of the law,” he says. “Over the past 25 years, IP has become more and more important and more and more recognized and understood as important.”
When his first firm dissolved in 2005, Mark spent just over a year at another large Boston firm, before going in-house to Color Kinetics, an innovator in LED lighting technologies that was acquired for $800 million a year later by Philips, where Mark remained for the next 14 years.
After a quarter-century in the world of business, technology and IP, Mark undertook some soul-searching about his next move. He realized he didn’t need to be in-house to experience what he loves best about IP law: nonstop learning.
“Every new invention, every new client you meet, there’s always this moment of wonder and a bit of panic – what are they even talking about?” he says with a chuckle. “It’s your job to ask questions, understand what you don’t understand and then learn what you need to be effective. You need to stay curious about the wide world of technology and actually enjoy reading those books with your kids about how stuff works.”
Speaking of kids, Mark and his wife, a biology professor whom he met in a childhood chess club in Kyiv but didn’t date until they reconnected in the United States – have three: a junior film major at Boston University; a high school freshman who enjoys running legal hypotheticals with Dad when he’s not on the soccer pitch as a varsity fullback; and a 10-year-old “firebrand” who could be president someday.