Located in a nondescript building at the entrance of the Smithstone residential subdivision, one Denver firm is having a global impact.
The Treadstone Group, Inc., founded in 2002 by its president, Ross Bulla, is a global security risk mitigation and investigations firm, specializing in intellectual property investigations and acquisitions, global security risk mitigation, litigation support and physical security consulting.
According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, the term “intellectual property” refers to “creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.”
For The Treadstone Group, this involves working with properties such as copyrights, patents, trademarks, domain names or trade secrets. Due to the nature of The Treadstone Group’s line of work, the firm’s client list is highly confidential.
“We’ve represented every industry there is — from fashion to food and beverages to industry to automotive to consumer products — you name it,” Bulla said. “We are the exclusive investigators for a significant portion of the Fortune 500 companies and multiple Top 10 companies in the world.
“If you watch a 30-minute sitcom on television any
given night, you’re likely to see at least two companies we’ve worked with,” he said. “We have such a unique niche that only two companies in the United States do what we do.”
A native of Graham, Bulla traces his passion for the field back to his childhood years.
“I’ve been interested in primarily security and law enforcement since age five,” Bulla said. “It was just such a strong desire that developed and never changed. I never wanted to be anything other than eventually in law enforcement or federal law enforcement.”
Bulla graduated from University of North Carolina-Charlotte with a double major in Criminal Justice and Psychology, intent on becoming a behavior analyst for the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
“I fell into my first job by accident,” he said. “I applied to be an usher at what opened as Blockbuster Pavilion, which is now PNC Music Pavilion, in Charlotte while it was under construction in 1993. I ended up being hired as the operations manager and ran Blockbuster Pavilion until it was sold three years later. As a result of that, I ended up staying in the security industry and worked for the (1996 Atlanta) Olympics, managing Olympic security and just staying in the private sector instead of law enforcement.”
After running a handful of security companies in Charlotte, Bulla was introduced to the realm of intellectual property enforcement in 1999 by a retired Secret Service agent, who hired Bulla to manage local anti-counterfeiting efforts for General Motors Corporation. It was while working for this London-headquartered company that Bulla met Rebecca Rogers, a Lincolnton native who was working as an intellectual property investigator for the company.
“I did a lot of work for a major footwear company and did trademark enforcement in the United States and abroad,” she said.
Bulla also began working with the state Department of Justice’s counterterrorism team in 1999.
After the London headquartered company closed its doors in 2001, Bulla set forth to build his own firm in Denver in 2002. Wanting to expand their office space, The Treadstone Group later relocated to their mountain lodge-inspired office at Smithstone in April. While only a handful of investigators work out of the office, the firm hires a large group of sub-contractors around the world.
All Treadstone investigators, including Bulla, are private investigators, licensed by the state Department of Justice. Continuing education, through seminars and classes, is imperative to continue staying abreast of current laws and technological advances.
“We have complete undercover identities — multiple identities — around the world,” Bulla said. “We have phone numbers that have extensions anywhere in the world. We can have a Russian phone number, a Las Vegas phone number — whatever. Multiple undercover identities and websites, businesses and everything else that we use to conduct our investigations.”
“There are some names that I would answer to in public…like if I heard it…because you are kind of that person after a while,” Rogers said.
“My son knows me by several different names,” Bulla added.
While both Bulla and Rogers have been actively working in the field for more than two decades now, they still encounter daily challenges.
“The set-up that we have is pretty sophisticated, and it has been,” Rogers said. “Even way back in the day, it was. So, it wasn’t that much of a challenge (to adapt). But there’s some thinking on your feet when you’re actually meeting with the bad guy.”
“I think the hardest part is not to accidentally slip up and say your real name or give out your real phone number, the business phone number,” Bulla said. “It still is to this day. If I’m ever going to slip up, typing an email and signing it ‘Ross’ instead of the first name of my identity at the time, or calling a suspect and then saying ‘Well, give me a call back,’ and giving them the wrong number by mistake.”
Despite the demanding work, both Rogers and Bulla find their careers highly rewarding.
“You get to know so many different things about so many different industries,” Rogers said. “From pharmaceuticals to fashion to electric lighting, you get to know so many things. You can pretty much have a conversation with anyone you meet because of that.”
“For me, The Treadstone Group is my baby…taking something that didn’t exist and growing it into the business that it is,” Bulla said. “We’re proud of what we do, and we think it’s really unique.”
Those interested in learning more about The Treadstone Group should visit www.thetreadstonegroup.com.