Past Winners

Award Year Name Company
2018 Sharon Barner Vice President and General Counsel | Cummins
Karen Borno Managing Associate General Counsel | Verizon
Aparna Dave Managing Counsel | Wells Fargo
Braxton Davis CEO | Patent Institute of Training
Cassandra Knight Vice President and Chief Litigation Counsel | PayPal
Usman Mughal Partner | Green, Howard, & Mughal
Wanji Walcott Senior Vice President and General Counsel | PayPal
2017 Diallo Crenshaw Principal | Jordan IP Law
David Ho EVP & General Counsel | Fullscreen Media
Catherine Toppin Senior Patent Counsel and Manager | General Electric

Sharon Barner | Vice President and General Counsel | Cummins
Sharon is vice president and general counsel for Cummins Inc., where she is responsible for worldwide legal matters and oversees a team of lawyers, paralegals, and other professionals. With more than 30 years of experience in the legal profession, Sharon specializes primarily in intellectual property law. Prior to joining Cummins, she served as deputy under secretary of commerce for intellectual property and deputy director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). During the two years she spent in that role, Sharon led 15 foreign missions to meet with government representatives and with leaders in academia and industry to raise awareness about the impact of intellectual property on business and innovation.

She has spent the majority of her career in private practice, most recently at the law firm of Foley & Lardner in Chicago, where she led the firm’s intellectual property department, a team of more than 200 intellectual property lawyers. Sharon’s awards include the 2016 IBJ Women of Influence award; Barnes & Thornburg LLP 2016 Hi-Tech Woman of the Year Award; 2013 American Inns of Court Professionalism award for the 7th Circuit; 2011 Women of Vision award from the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois; One of the 50 Most Influential Minority Lawyers in America by the National Law Journal in 2008; and Illinois “Super Lawyer” by Law & Politics Media Inc. (2005-2011) for her intellectual property litigation work.

Sharon is a graduate of Syracuse University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and went on to receive a law degree from the University of Michigan Law School.


Karen Borno | Managing Associate General Counsel | Verizon
Karen Borno is a corporate and legal executive known for translating complex technology and business plans into digestible concepts for disparate stakeholders. She routinely advises senior management on best practices to mitigate risk, works hand in hand with compliance and internal audit on matters reportable up through the board of directors, and oversees legal and regulatory issues arising from the rationalization of product portfolios and global workforces.

Karen currently leads the business products legal organization for Verizon, a publicly traded Fortune 15 company with revenues of $130 billion. She oversees all legal efforts related to development, go-to-market, compliance, and development of new technologies and products for Verizon’s business customers – a $20 billion operation.

Karen has been instrumental in the company’s shift from telecommunications to technology and overseen commercial negotiations and legal integration efforts related to the acquisition of Cybertrust (security), Terremark (cloud hosting), Sensity (smart cities), Liquid Wi-Fi (smart cities), and Skyward (drone enablement).

Karen is an inclusive leader who has been recognized by the business and legal communities for her ability to drive business results. In 2016 she was awarded the Product and New Business Excellence Award by the senior vice president of business products for her work enabling Verizon’s international IoT solutions. In 2017 she was also recognized by the executive vice president of product and new business innovation for her leadership and commitment to driving results and representing the best of Verizon’s core values. In 2018 she was a finalist for the 19th Annual Women in Technology Leadership Awards for her vision, talent, and mentorship.

Before joining Verizon, Karen was in-house counsel for NASDAQ. In that role she advised NASDAQ’s corporate secretary on the creation and wind-down of global entities and counseled company executives on strategic technology and real estate transactions.

Karen is Lean Six Sigma trained and versed in Agile processes. She is known for practicing with purpose and passion. She co-chairs the Verizon Legal Department’s Diversity and Inclusion Council, mentors law students in the ACC National Capital Region’s Corporate Scholars Program, and is a prior co-chair of the ACC National Capital Region’s Technology and IP Forum.

Karen routinely speaks on panels and at conferences regarding new technology, speaking in business terms, and legal department diversity and inclusion initiatives. She is active in the community and has served nonprofit and community boards, including The Greater Washington Area Chapter Women Lawyers Division of the National Bar Association, ACC National Capital Region, Ron Brown Leaders Network, and Jack and Jill.

Karen is a graduate of Wake Forest University School of Law and earned her BA with honors from Hampton University. She is also a wife and mother and on most weekends can be found cheering a little too loudly for her children at soccer games.


Aparna M. Dave | Managing Counsel | Wells Fargo
Aparna M. Dave is managing counsel of the intellectual property team supporting Wells Fargo’s Brand, Marketing, Trademarks & Copyrights. Her team is focused on helping grow, strengthen, and protect the company’s brand assets and its position as a global leader in brand value. They provide comprehensive guidance on the company’s global trademark and copyright portfolio, including strategy, clearance, prosecution, use, maintenance, and enforcement, as well as management of licensing, opposition, and infringement matters. The team also provides legal support to the marketing, social media, and corporate communications groups on a broad range of initiatives and lends its expertise on novel legal issues in the emerging media space.

Aparna has been on the steering committee for the State Bar of Texas Minority Counsel Program for ten years and is an active member of both the South Asian Bar Association of Houston and the International Trademark Association’s Brand and Innovation Committee.

Prior to joining Wells Fargo, Aparna was a civil defense litigator for McGlinchey Stafford. She is a 2002 graduate of South Texas College of Law in Houston.

Inspired by her love of new cultures, Aparna is an avid traveler who has explored six of the seven continents. She is also a diehard Dallas Cowboys fan who rarely misses a game.


Braxton Davis | CEO | Patent Institute of Training
Braxton is the founder and CEO of the Patent Institute of Training, where he develops practical Intellectual Property (IP) training and experiences for corporations, law firm associates, patent agents, IP attorneys, paralegals, engineers, and law students. Braxton is also the founder of the National Counsel on Patent Practicum, which specializes in certifying patent professionals according to industry standards.

Braxton earned undergraduate degrees in physics and electrical engineering from Morehouse College and the Georgia Institute of Technology, respectively, and earned his J.D. from Georgia State University’s College of Law. After obtaining his J.D., he joined the AT&T Intellectual Property Patent Development and Innovation Team, where he evaluated inventive ideas, patent portfolios, and patent monetization opportunities in light of AT&T business strategies.

Braxton is currently director of the National Society of Black Engineers Intellectual Property Special Interest Group, an associate at Amin, Turocy, & Watson LLP, a member of the Atlanta IP American Inn of Court, a member of the Georgia State Intellectual Property Advisory Board, and a member of the Georgia Tech Intellectual Property Advisory Board.


Cassandra Knight | Vice President and Chief Litigation Counsel | PayPal

Cassandra joined PayPal in November 2017 as its vice president, chief litigation counsel, with more than 20 years of complex litigation experience, including over 10 years in the financial services industry. She came to PayPal from Morgan Stanley, where she worked in the San Francisco, New York, and London offices. She has handled a wide variety of litigation matters, including federal securities class action suits, international arbitrations, and regulatory enforcement matters. Prior to Morgan Stanley, Cassandra practiced law at Keker & Van Nest and the city attorney’s office in San Francisco. Cassandra earned her B.A. from Stanford University and her J.D. from Stanford Law School.

On a personal note, she is an avid sports fan, favoring the San Francisco Giants, the 49ers, and the Stanford Cardinal football and basketball teams. She also enjoys quilting, a family tradition that dates back several generations. She is inspired by her own family members, who were talented quilters from Mississippi, and the renowned quilters of Gee’s Bend, Alabama. Cassandra’s work was recently featured in the Fiber Matrix, an exhibit at the Westbeth Gallery in New York City.


Usman Mughal | Partner | Green, Howard, & Mughal
As a partner with the Green, Howard, & Mughal LLP law firm located in Lake Oswego, Usman Mughal focuses exclusively on intellectual property law and litigation. Serving clients throughout Portland and the surrounding areas, Mr. Mughal represents those who need assistance procuring patents involving electrical, computer, and software inventions. He also provides validity opinions for third-party patents.

Mr. Mughal received his bachelor’s degree in computer engineering in 1997 and his master’s degree in electrical engineering in 1999 from North Carolina State University. He then joined Intel Corporation in Hillsboro, Oregon, where he worked as an analog engineer focusing on microprocessor design.

In 2005, he attended Lewis & Clark Law School, obtaining his J.D., cum laude, in 2009. That same year, the Oregon State Bar admitted him to practice, and he is registered to practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in patent-related cases.

Throughout his long and distinguished career, Mr. Mughal has gained invaluable experience in many different areas of technology, including semiconductors, telecommunications, microwave and antenna circuits, and more. As the holder of more than 10 patents, Mr. Mughal is well versed in the patent process, and he has co-authored numerous technical papers involving analog circuit design, mixed signal circuit validation, microwave systems, and other technological topics for various publications, including IEEE.

Fully committed to his practice and his community, Mr. Mughal served as president of the Oregon Patent Law Association, and he co-founded the Southwest Community Health Center in Portland, an organization that helps uninsured individuals receive the healthcare they need. He also established the Portland chapter of the Citizen’s Foundation, and led the construction of Portland’s first school for the underprivileged in Pakistan.


Wanji Walcott | Senior Vice President and General Counsel | PayPal
Wanji Walcott serves as senior vice president and general counsel, leading the PayPal Global Legal team, is responsible for oversight of PayPal’s daily legal activities, and is part of the Chief Business Affairs and Legal Officer team.
Wanji joined PayPal in 2015 as the vice president of legal product, with the primary responsibility of providing legal support to the company’s Global Product and Engineering group. In this role, she was instrumental in designing and implementing a new legal support model driving greater efficiencies in the product review process. Wanji has more than 20 years of experience in fintech and payments law and is committed to effective leadership, talent management, and diversity efforts.

Prior to joining PayPal, Wanji served in various roles of increasing responsibility at American Express and most recently as senior vice president and managing counsel, where she was the lead counsel for the Enterprise Growth Group, driving the global strategy to expand the company’s emerging and digital payments services. During her tenure at American Express, Wanji co-founded the American Express Pro Bono Program and co-chaired the US Diversity Council. She has also held legal positions at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, DSET Corporation, and Lockheed Martin IMS Corporation.

Wanji’s exemplary industry leadership has been recognized year over year, and she was most recently named General Counsel of the Year (2018) by Corporate Counsel and In-House Minority Female Lawyer of the Year at this year’s Chambers Women in Law Awards (2018). She was also named one of Black Enterprise’s Most Powerful Executives in Corporate America (2018), has been honored as one of Lawdragon’s 500 Leading Lawyers in America (2018, 2015, 2014), featured as one of Savoy magazine’s Most Influential Black Lawyers (2018, 2015), named as a recipient of the National Bar Association’s 2018 Diversity in Tech Awards, and received the Council of Urban Professional Change Agent in the Law Award in 2012.

She is a member of the Executive Leadership Council, the secretary of the Middlesex School board of trustees, and a former chair of the audit committee. Wanji received a J.D. from Howard University School of Law and a bachelor’s degree from Howard University.


Diallo Crenshaw | Principal | Jordan IP Law
Diallo Crenshaw is a principal with Jordan IP Law and practices in all areas of patent law, with an emphasis on counseling clients on intellectual property matters, preparing and prosecuting patents, and preparing infringement and validity opinions. Mr. Crenshaw’s practice includes the electrical, mechanical, and software arts.

Mr. Crenshaw majored in computer science at the University of Pennsylvania, and subsequently worked full-time at Quality Systems, Inc. (now known as BAE Systems) while attending George Washington University Law School.

Mr. Crenshaw has worked in diversified technology areas, including wireless and communication networks, computer hardware and computer architecture, telecommunications, mobile communications, voice processing, automotive systems, mechanical processes, printers, and medical imaging arts.

Mr. Crenshaw has served as the past chair and secretary of the Diversity Committee of AIPLA, past treasurer of the NBA IP Section, and past treasurer and incoming president of American Intellectual Property Law Education Foundation (AIPLEF), and in leadership roles in many different organizations and committees to promote diversity and inclusion. He also served as chair of the diversity committee at his previous firm. He is a frequent speaker at several IP conferences and has authored or co-authored a number of articles.


David Ho | EVP & General Counsel | Fullscreen Media
David Ho is general counsel and executive vice president of Fullscreen Media and its portfolio businesses. Mr. Ho oversees all corporate, commercial, business, and legal affairs for Fullscreen’s diverse businesses, which reach a global audience across all media platforms (online, social media, linear television, theatrical, and live events).

Over the past several years, Los Angeles-based Fullscreen has become the premier online video and advertising network for millennials and teen audiences, with a roster of more than 70,000 social influencers across YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, Vine, and Facebook. Fullscreen connects leading brands and advertisers with these influencers’ highly desirable youth audiences. Fullscreen also creates original programming initiatives as a digital studio and is at the forefront of “over-the-top” content distribution platforms, with the recent launch of its own premier SVOD service. Fullscreen is frequently referred to as “MTV for the connected generation,” and its audience (~6 billion monthly views and 600 million subscribers) now dwarfs the audiences of established cable networks. Fullscreen is one of the fastest-growing start-ups based in L.A., with close to 800 employees, making it one of the three largest tech/media companies native to “Silicon Beach.”

Fullscreen’s portfolio businesses include the pioneering content studio Rooster Teeth Productions, mobile development team Viddy, advertising agency McBeard Media, and SaaS/PaaS provider StageBloc.


Catherine Toppin | Senior Patent Counsel and Manager | General Electric
Catherine Toppin is senior patent counsel and manager at General Electric. In her role, Ms. Toppin leads a global team of patent attorneys and agents who provide IP support for multiple GE business units. Her practice currently consists of IP strategy and counseling, portfolio development, and commercial transaction drafting and negotiation. Before joining GE, Ms. Toppin was an associate in the IP group of a general practice firm in Boston. She also worked as a patent examiner with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. She earned her B.S. degree in electrical engineering from Princeton University and her J.D. from the University of Maryland, Baltimore Francis King Carey School of Law.

Ms. Toppin is passionate about diversifying GE’s IP practice group and outside IP counsel. Her efforts, in combination with the support of her colleagues, have yielded a 300% increase in GE’s utilization of minority-owned IP law firms. She has also been involved in the hiring and/or internal promotion of five women and African-American IP professionals, as well as several short-term hires and interns. Ms. Toppin actively promotes diversity and inclusion by providing honest and direct feedback to her outside counsel partners, sharing success stories with her colleagues throughout GE, broadening visibility through invitations to present legal seminars, and leveraging her relationships to provide connections to develop work opportunities outside of her direct sphere of influence.

As a mentor, Ms. Toppin engages and speaks to underrepresented students and young professionals on the job and in her community. She is an active Princeton alumna and currently serves on the board of the Association of Black Princeton Alumni, as well as the Leadership Advisory Council of the Princeton University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. She also serves on the board of the Urban League of Southern CT, and Project S.T.E.P., a program that provides music education to underrepresented students. Her accolades include the Award for Service to Princeton, and the Urban League Woman of Power Award, and she was recently honored as one of the Network Journal’s 2017 40 Under Forty Achievers. Outside of work, Ms. Toppin enjoys salsa dancing and is the principal second violinist in the New Westchester Symphony Orchestra.

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