Board of Directors

Calvin Flowers
President & Founder Chicago Inventors Organization

Calvin FlowersCalvin Flowers relates to parents who struggle to keep their teenagers from running up the telephone bill. While growing up, he and his six siblings gave his mother headaches because they abused their telephone privileges.

“When the bill arrived, no one wanted to help pay it.” says Calvin, who recalls how his mother unplugged the phone and locked it in her bedroom as a last resort. But his siblings bought another phone, and the bill ended up being higher than ever.

Calvin had a passion for electronics and a knack for solving problems. To solve the telephone abuse for his mother, he created the “Tel-Lock”, a telephone-locking device that secures the phone at the jack. When the invention worked, Calvin knew he had something others would want.

The road to sucess was not an easy one for Calvin. In 1992, Calvin hired a now defunct invention promotion firm to help evaluate, develop, patent, and market his invention. Calvin was a novice when it came to the invention industry. For $500 the invention promotion firm did a patent search and in addition required him to pay them $9,500 in three installments. After Calvin made his final payment Calvin learned his patent application had been denied. After doing further research, Calvin discovered that one of the firm’s attorneys wasn’t even licensed to be a patent lawyer.

Through an appeal process Calvin eventually received his patent but his battle to get his invention to market was not over. He faced another hurdle when a major manufacture stole his idea. Calvin ended up settling out of court in a patent infringement suit.

Calvin’s experience shows that many inventors fall victims to so-called invention promotion firms that promise much but deliver little. Calvin started Chicago Inventors Organization so that other would not have to go through the trial and tribulations that he did.

Adam Kelly
Patent Attorney, Loeb & Loeb

Adam KellyThe National Law Journal has named Loeb & Loeb partner Adam G. Kelly among Chicago’s 40 Under 40 in a special report profiling the city’s rising stars in the legal industry. Adam Kelly practices intellectual property law including patent and trademark counselling, litigation, and prosecution. Mr. Kelly’s experience in the United States and abroad is extensive, including conducting due diligence, providing strategic counseling, procuring new technologies, negotiating licenses, and enforcing or defending against infringement actions in various jurisdictions throughout the world.

Thomas Kuczmarski
Senior Partner & President of Kuczmarski Innovation

Thomas KuczmarskiThomas Kuczmarski is a nationally recognized expert in the innovation of new products and services. Over the course of his career he has helped hundreds of clients, ranging from small businesses to Fortune 100 corporations, learn to systematically unlock the value of innovation. The author of six books and many articles, Mr. Kuczmarski has also taught product and service innovation at Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management for more than 30 years. His executive education courses at the Kellogg School attract students from around the world.

Mr. Kuczmarski is founder, with Dan Miller, of the Chicago Innovation Awards, which recognize each year the most innovative new products and services developed in the upper Midwest. The awards, founded in 2002, are endorsed by every major business association in the Chicago region, and showcase the creative spirit of America’s heartland. Mr. Kuczmarski is the author of six books. His most recent is “Innovating Chicago Style: How Local Innovators are Building the National Economy.” “Apples are Square: Thinking Differently about Leadership” (Kaplan), co-authored with Dr. Susan Smith Kuczmarski and published in 2007, explores the qualities of the ideal leader and how to build those qualities into one’s own career.

Charis Marquez
Senior Director, Site Merchandising at Levi Strauss & Co.

Charis MarquezCharis Marquez has over 18 years in retail in positions in Human Resources, Supply Chain, Operations and, for the past 10 years, Ecommerce. Charis has worked at Sears Holdings, Sam’s Clubs and is currently the Senior Director of Site Merchandising at Levi, Strauss & Co. Charis has spoken at several conferences on branding and ecommerce technology. Charis has an undergraduate degree in Political Science from University of Maryland, College Park, and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Mildred R Liggins

Charis MarquezMildred R Liggins is an experienced IT Strategic Implementations Leader and Licensed Insurance Producer (IL) with several years of in Information Technology, Production Control, Data Center Operations, Merger & Acquisition and Strategic Implementations. She has a proven track record and ability to foster relationships with C-Suite and senior executives at every level of the organization leveraging people, resources and opportunities to support community-based organizations and professional organizations alike. She applies her tech savvy to charity work and has won awards for her community service, most notably through the Chicago Chapter of the Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA). Millie brings to the Board broad-based corporate experience and skills in fund raising events, having provided leadership and management in the planning and execution of fundraising activities for numerous community based organizations, with special emphasis on the coordination of special events and promotions.

Olivia T. Luk

Olivia T Luk, Patent Attorney and Shareholder at Niro Law, represents individuals and businesses in complex patent/ intellectual property litigation and civil litigation thoughout the country. She also has an active appellate practice and has extensive experience arguing in front of appellate courts, including the Federal Circuit. She has received a number of awards and recognition for her expertise in intellectual property litigation and trial advocacy. Ms. Luk was recognized by Illinois Super Lawyers as a Super Lawyer/ Rising Star in Intellectual Property Litigation every year since 2009. Among her many honors, Ms. Luk was named to the “40 under 40 Top Lawyers in Illinois” by the Law Bulletin. Olivia is a past Vice-President of the Organization of Chinese Americans of the Chicago Chapter. Ms. Luk is also active in civic matters: she is on the Founders Council of the American Writers Museum, the Board of the Chicago Inventors Organization, and the Heshima Kenya Fashion Show Committee.

Prior to earning her law degree, Ms. Luk previously served as a patent examiner for the United States Patent and Trademark Office for 5 years. She received a Chemistry degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2000 and her law degree from the American University Washington College of Law in 2005. She co-founded the Richard Linn American Inn of Court in Chicago; is a Past-President and currently serves as Executive Director.

Dr. Ron Kirschner
President, Heartland Angels, Inc.

Dr. Ronald Kirschner has a broad background in healthcare, start-ups and private equity. He is the co-founder and President of Catalyzing Collaboration and practiced medicine for 23 years and anesthesia for 17 of those years. While practicing medicine, he started three companies in the healthcare field dealing with Nutrition, Managed Care, and Utilization Review. He has been a consultant on healthcare issues to the State government and on funding and market strategies to both entrepreneurs and early stage companies. He was the VP of Technology Development for CDIB Biotech, Inc., a Midwest Biotechnology Venture Fund where his roles was to assist in the discovery and funding of early stage biotechnology in the Midwest and Canada.

Paul Manion

Paul ManionPaul T. Manion retired from the active practice of law several years ago after a forty year career as a trial lawyer. He achieved many million dollar verdicts as well as several murder trial acquittals. He was a member of the Board of Managers of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association for many years and was selected as one of Illinois Leading Trial Lawyers by his fellow attorneys.

Mr. Manion has also been very active in civic affairs, providing leadership for several state wide election campaigns and serving on innumerable charitable and civic Board of Directors. He also presently serves as a Bank Board Director. He has a patent pending on a medical device he -invented to assist sleep apnea victims.

Lyudmila (Luda) Napoe
Associate General Counsel, Americas
Mars Wrigley Confectionery

Lyudmila (Luda) Napoe is the Associate General Counsel of the Americas for Mars Wrigley Confectionery, responsible for representing the company in all legal matters in North and South America. Luda enables the growth of a multi-billion-dollar portfolio of iconic global brands that include M&M’S®, SNICKERS®, SKITTLES®, STARBURST®, ORBIT® and ALTOIDS®.

Prior to her current position, Luda was Associate General Counsel for Americas for Wrigley, joining the Americas Leadership Team and leading a team of legal professionals located in the United States and Mexico.   Luda joined Mars Wrigley in 2004 as a Counsel in Chicago, where she was Global and Regional Lead for supply chain, procurement, and operations. In 2012, she became Senior Counsel, taking charge of Wrigley’s US Confectionery and Seasonal Business as well as Wrigley’s Canadian subsidiary, and becoming a member of the Crisis Management Team.

Luda holds a law degree from the Loyola University School of Law in Chicago.

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