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Jean Benvenuto, Lead Patent Paralegal, oversees and supports our clients’ foreign patent filings and prosecution and oversees U.S. filings and prosecution. With 30 years of experience in the field of law, Jean has worked in corporate, litigation, product liability, human resources, trademarks and copyrights, as well as for both in-house counsel and law firms. Originally from New York, Jean earned an Associate of Science degree in Legal Secretarial Science from Kingsborough Community College. She is a North Carolina Certified Paralegal and a member of the North Carolina Bar Association – IP Paralegal Division, as well as the Research Triangle Paralegal Association.

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Penny L. Cole, Senior Accountant, has been with the firm since 2000. Penny plays an integral role in accounting; overseeing all complex billing functions and maintaining the accuracy of the general ledger. In addition to her daily tasks, she is a key team member to all of Coats and Bennett’s key process improvement initiatives. An accounting professional for 23 years, Penny previously worked as an accounting manager for Zema Corporation/St. Jon Labs and as an administrative assistant in the insurance industry. Originally from Pennsylvania, she has lived in North Carolina for 29 years.

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Kristi Lee Dunshee is a legal assistant for the electrical team. She acquired seven years of Intellectual Property experience while working for Eastman Chemical Company. Her diverse legal experience spans 25 years and three states: North Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama. She has worked in litigation, family law and real estate. She studied paralegal studies at Southern Institute in Birmingham, Ala.

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Vickie Diane Hawkins is a legal assistant for the chemical team. She has more than 20 years of legal experience, including 17 years in Intellectual Property. She has experience working in both corporate IP and private IP law firms, and also worked at IBM as an MVS Systems Support Programmer. Vickie graduated summa cum laude from Durham Technical Community College with an associate degree in paralegal technology, is a North Carolina Certified Paralegal, and is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association.

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Jenna Higgs, File Clerk, is responsible for maintaining the integrity of our physical filing system, as well as supporting ad hoc operational tasks. Jenna has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Meredith College and an associate of arts college transfer degree from Wake Technical Community College. She performs as a member of the North Carolina Master Chorale. Originally from Massachusetts, Jenna has lived most of her life in North Carolina.

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Luke Higgs, IT&T Systems Support Analyst, oversees and manages all aspects of the firms IT needs including web development, telecommunications, and software support. With more than 13 years of IT industry experience, he provides innovative IT research and development solutions. He holds Network+ and A+ certifications and his extensive background includes internet service provider support, digital signage marketing, graphic design and web development. Prior to joining the Coats and Bennett team, Luke worked as technology coordinator and system administrator for the Johnston County Public Library System.

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Charity Martin, Docketing Assistant, is responsible for docketing incoming and outgoing correspondence to the firm. Prior to joining our firm, Charity worked as a Victim/Witness Legal Assistant for the Wake County District Attorney’s Office and as a Deputy Clerk for the Wake County Clerk of Superior Court. She also attended NC Dental U, where she studied Dental Assisting. Charity is originally from North Carolina and enjoys the outdoors and cooking.

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Karen Nelson is a legal assistant for the electrical team and prepares and files copyrights. She earned her paralegal certificate from Duke University and is a North Carolina Certified Paralegal. Prior to joining our firm, Karen worked as a paralegal in the Raleigh area. She is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association – Paralegal Division and The Research Triangle Paralegal Association. She teaches middle school girls at church, is married, and has three children.

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Vida Owooh is a legal assistant for the mechanical/electric team. She earned her B.S. degree in Criminal Science from Appalachian State University.  She gained her experience through legal assistant roles with the Wake County District Attorney’s Office and with a law office in Boone.  Additionally, she held administrative assistant positions while in the Boone area.  Originally from Ghana, Vida has lived in North Carolina for the past 17 years. She enjoys cooking and yoga.

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Leslie Ruckdeschel is a legal assistant for the electrical team. She has a diverse professional background and taught high school business courses for two years, worked in sales administration and distribution for more than 20 years, and worked in radiology for four years. She earned a Bachelor of Science in business education from the University of Illinois, an associate degree in radiography from Johnston Community College, and a certificate in computed tomography. Originally from Illinois, Leslie has lived in North Carolina for 20 years.

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Alfonso G. Sandoval is the Intellectual Property (IP) Docketing Administrator/Purchasing Manager and has 14 years of IP experience at Coats+ Bennett, PLLC. Alfonso is a thought leader who provides innovative solutions to daily docketing processes, operations and logistics, and contributes to goal achievement. A certified Spanish/English Medical Interpreter, he worked for Duke University Health System for two years and continues to interpret, volunteering his time wherever needed. Alfonso attended California State University at Long Beach, where he focused his studies in psychology.

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Rob is a legal assistant for the electrical team. His previous patent experience includes supporting attorneys at two law firms and a consulting firm. In total, Rob has spent seven years at IP companies in the Raleigh and Washington DC areas. He previously attended Duke University Law School and received his Bachelor’s degree in English and Philosophy at the State University of New York, College at Geneseo.

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J. Michele Sleeper, Sr. Trademark Paralegal, has been with Coats and Bennett for more than 25 years. She has worked exclusively on supporting attorneys with their trademark clients from small businesses to corporate entities. Michele received her paralegal certificate from Meredith College and earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Rutgers University. She is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association and the Research Triangle Paralegals Association.

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Jane Sorey is a legal assistant for the litigation team. She has provided litigation support at Coats and Bennett for six years. Her 21 years of Intellectual Property expertise includes working in the Washington, D.C., area. Jane earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from George Mason University, and she is a member of the North Carolina Paralegal Association.

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Amy Theys, Chief Operations Officer, is responsible for overseeing the major functional areas of the firm including finance, IT, HR, Business Development and support services. Amy plays an integral role, helping to monitor operations and implement updated systems and processes to more efficiently serve our clients. As a member of the executive leadership team, she is responsible for providing key input into the development of the long term operational plans for the firm. Amy brings to Coats and Bennett an extensive history in database development, business process redesign, and strategic planning from industries including legal, construction and electrical utilities. Among her previous accounting and management roles, she worked at Progress Energy, overseeing the financial and strategic planning needs for the distribution equipment maintenance program. She is a certified public accountant (CPA), has a certification in management accounting (CMA), and is a program management professional (PgMP) through the Project Management Institute (PMI). Amy earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in accounting with information systems concentration, from North Carolina State University.

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Brett Thompson, eDiscovery/Litigation Support Specialist, is a Certified E-Discovery Specialist and Certified Computer Forensics Examiner, with a B.A. degree and paralegal certificate from Marymount University. Prior to Coats + Bennett, he worked as a Manager of Technical and Consulting Services for an eDiscovery software company where he was responsible for North America and Europe.  Brett has a strong background in litigation support, spending the first 12 years of his career managing large scale litigation matters for two prominent Washington DC law firms.

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Kenyatta Upchurch is a legal assistant for the electrical team and brings with her nine years of professional experience as a patent paralegal and seven years as a legal assistant in commercial real estate and environmental law. In addition to her legal roles, Kenyatta’s background includes work in the fields of publishing and customer service. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and is a current member of the Research Triangle Paralegal Association and the North Carolina Bar Association – Paralegal Division. While originally from North Carolina, Kenyatta has also spent time in Virginia and Connecticut. She has two children and enjoys gardening and cooking.

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Michael Vivona, Foreign Patent Paralegal, received his paralegal certificate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a North Carolina Certified Paralegal. Originally from New York, Michael earned a Bachelor of Arts in history from St. John’s University. He is a member of the Research Triangle Paralegal Association.

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Suzette Young, Front Office/Accounting Assistant, is responsible for providing assistance to clients and visitors in addition to her accounting functions.  Prior to joining our firm, Suzette spent 15 years in finance and banking roles.  She was born and raised in Georgetown, SC and has one daughter.  Suzette enjoys a variety of outdoor activities such as boating, softball, and riding motorcycles & ATVs.  She’s also been active in her community by volunteering with March of Dimes and Relay for Life.

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