UI College of Law enters pilot program for patent law
The United States Patent and Trademark Office recently accepted the University of Idaho College of Law into its pilot program, students the opportunity to practice patent and trademark law in real cases.
Lee Dillion, associate dean for the UI College of Law Boise center, said the institutions accepted into the program have the option to practice both patent and trademark law, although UI is only doing the trademark component at this time.
“Through that program, the USPTO provides limited licenses to students that are in law school programs to directly participate in the trademark process as if they were an attorney,” said Steve Nipper, adjunct faculty member guiding the trademark program for UI in Boise.
UI has multiple clinics that provide students with hands-on law experience — such as an immigration clinic and a general clinic, as well as a small business legal clinic, which Dillion runs in Boise. He said UI has run these clinics for a number of years to give students an opportunity to see what law practice will be like after they graduate and pass the bar exam.
The pilot program is managed through the small business clinic. Dillion said through the program students will prepare applications for clients to trademark their business name or a particular product.
Dillion said one advantage for clients of the program is a lower fee than one a practicing attorney would charge. Also, he said USPTO gives preferential treatment to the applications handled through the pilot program.
“They know that they’re working with students, so they are really helpful as they respond back,” Dillion said. “It’s just a great experience for the students.”
Nipper said there are currently three active application processes with clients the program is working with. The first issue the program worked on was gaining registration for Moscow Brewing Company. He said they are always looking for new clients for the students.
“It gives (students) the opportunity to gain experience in an area that’s pretty hard for students to gain experience in,” he said.
Dillion said the pilot program began in 2008, with six schools originally. Only in the last year did the program begin taking applications from schools, and accepted 19 law schools into the program over the summer.
Nipper said while people never worried too much about trademarking 10 or 20 years ago, the rise of the Internet has made it more important to have trademark protection. The U.S. patent office website has a search option where people can type in their business name to see if it is already being used. Dillion said there are instances where someone may be using a name already, but if it deals with unrelated products in an unrelated area, it may still be OK to use it.
He said UI hopes to eventually add the patent portion of the program down the road. If they do, Dillion said UI would be able to help local businesses and community members bring their inventions to the open market.
“The patent portion would be a little more complex,” Dillion said. “We’re hopeful we will get to that point, we’re just not there yet.”
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