Helping Innovators Through The Legal Maze

UConn’s Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship Law Clinic can boast of one of its best years since its formation in 2007.

Among other accomplishments since the fall 2014, the IP Law Clinic obtained five U.S. patents, 17 federal trademark registrations and filed five new patent applications, as well as seven federal trademark applications.

2015-02-13_consortium[1]The IP Law Clinic is a member of the recently established Entrepreneurship and Innovation Consortium at UConn, a collaborative effort of the university’s School of Engineering and the School of Business. It provides students with the unique opportunity to counsel Connecticut’s innovators on an extensive range of intellectual property (patent, trademark, copyright and trade secret) and related business law issues.

Since early 2007, it has assisted about 300 clients, hailing from all eight counties in Connecticut. Under the guidance of supervising attorneys, the Clinic’s students are involved in various aspects of client matters, including the conducting of interviews, performing legal research, drafting documents, and interacting with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) and the U.S. Copyright Office. The Clinic has advised clients regarding numerous legal issues, including patent searches and applications; trademark clearances and applications; copyright and trademark licensing; and nondisclosure, consulting, and employee agreements.

Joseph A. DeGirolamo, Director and Assistant Clinical Professor of Law, said that at least two clients have been able to obtain significant funding for their ventures and that the Clinic in general has “provided a real and valuable contribution to CT residents and businesses.”

Its work has led to a total of 19 U.S. Patents issued. The following were issued for this past year:

– Thermal Engine With Improved Valve System
– Walker For Improved Stairway Mobility
– Utility Tool and Method of Opening a Door
– Hypocycloidal Crank Apparatus
– Golf Sand Bunker Simulator

DeGirolamo said the Clinic’s success over the last school year is the result of several factors. Among these, he said, are a more focused and efficient management of the Clinic’s operations, and “the skill, dedication and perseverance of the supervising attorneys and students handling prosecution.”

To receive assistance from the IP Law Clinic, clients must either be Connecticut residents or have a business in the state. They also have to demonstrate financial need. Officials at the IP Law  Clinic will also take other factors into consideration, including educational opportunity for the students, whether the services are likely to generate jobs or revenue for Connecticut, and whether the Clinic has the resources to take on such a project.

Once they’re accepted into the program, clients work with law students who are supervised by experienced intellectual property attorneys. Together, the students and attorneys represent the clients before the PTO and the U.S. Copyright Office. Students typically perform patentability or trademark clearance searches and prepare patent and trademark applications when warranted.  Most students in the IP Law Clinic are granted limited recognition to practice before the PTO as part of the Law School Clinic Certification program operated by the PTO.  Students have the opportunity to participate in the Clinic for as many as four semesters.

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