Stijepko “Step” Tokic, assistant professor, business law

News & Features

There is more than one path to the top

Monday, June 23, 2014

Stijepko “Step” Tokic recently delivered a paper at PatCon 4—the largest annual conference for patent scholars in the world—on reverse payment settlements in the pharmaceutical industry. In addition to his international presentations, he has published widely, most recently in top-rated journals like Stanford Technology Law Review, the Federal Circuit Bar Journal, and the American Intellectual Property Law Association’s AIPLA Quarterly Journal. He was also recently cited in several amicus briefs submitted to the Supreme Court of the United States and has been asked to serve on the advisory boards of several patent-based companies.

But patent law was the last thing on Tokic’s mind when he came to the United States in 1999. A national champion in the 800 meters and a semiprofessional soccer player in his home country of Croatia, Tokic was recruited to play NCAA Division I soccer in the United States. After receiving scholarship offers from several universities, Tokic ultimately attended Charleston Southern University because Charleston closely resembled his hometown of Dubrovnik. After a year of playing for the Buccaneers, he suffered a pulmonary embolism and was forced into early retirement.

In the summer of 2003, he returned to Croatia, where he recorded an indie rock album as a member of a band called Fair Enough. The band appeared on Croatian national television, had a chart-topping single and toured the country in support of its album.

“I developed an interest in law, obviously in regard to music, because we had to deal with agents and copyright law,” Tokic said. “And in soccer, we were dealing with agents whenever we signed a contract.

As a very young person I realized that law is at the heart of every business transaction, and that it was regulating everything I was doing.”

After graduating from New York University School of Law in 2008, Tokic began teaching business law at Northeastern Illinois University. The same drive that enabled him to excel in soccer, track and field, and music has helped him achieve success as a patent law scholar. As he continues to explore the intersection of patent and antitrust law, he hopes that the example he sets as a scholar will help inspire his students to achieve more.

“My path was relatively strange,” Tokic said. “I wasn’t a trust fund baby; I went to college on a scholarship and I struggled like a lot of our students do. It does a lot of good to students when a professor is visible and succeeding as a scholar. Because in the end it’s not about us, it’s about the students and what we can do for them.