Under-resourced startup companies, inventors and other businesses throughout Arizona in search of legal counsel for filing patents will benefit from the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona, which recently celebrated the decision of the United States Patent and Trademark Office to designate one of the college’s clinics as the hub of Arizona’s pro bono program.
Under the Arizona Public Patent Program, any group of or singular inventor, startup or business without the means to pursue a patent can apply with the IP and Entrepreneurship Clinic at the college of law, which will then work with qualifying applicants to find an Arizona-based attorney to provide pro bono legal services.
“The whole idea is that through this program we will be able to help inventors and small business startups protect their inventions,” said clinic director and professor of practice Allan Sternstein. “You have a lot of companies that if you look back, were based on somebody’s invention. The Gillette Company was founded on the invention of the safety razor. More recently, Tupperware started out as an invention of Earl Tupper ... these are companies that start from an invention of technology. The possibility certainly exists to have the same sort of thing here, coming out of the university, or from this community.”
Providing pro bono legal assistance to protect intellectual properties for under-resourced Americans was a provision included within the America Invents Act, which was passed in 2011. Since that time, Arizonans have been serviced under the umbrella of California’s pro bono hub, which also provided patent help for Nevada, New Mexico, Washington and Oregon.
As for why his program was selected to be Arizona’s hub, Sternstein points to huge leaps in growth in the clinic’s work—which doubled its caseload last year—as well as increased capability of its professors and students. Sternstein also pointed to the work of UA senior vice president and Secretary of the University Jon Dudas, the former director of the US Patent and Trademark Office, as integral in the college’s attainment of the designation.
According to college dean and Ralph W. Bilby Professor of Law Marc Miller, the creation of the program is an “essential” part of the college’s mission: to afford opportunity.
“The Launch of the Arizona Public Patent Program exemplifies the best kind of opportunity, in that it serves multiple purposes,” Miller said. “It is consisted of and is closely tied to our educational goals of producing some of the best lawyers in the country and on the planet. It serves the needs of our region, and it fuels the spirit of innovation and progress in our society.”
In addition to the patent program, the college of law has also been admitted into the United States Patent and Trademark Office Law School Certification Program, which allows students within the IP clinic to practice patent law under the guidance of a supervisor, file applications and work with patent examiners before graduating from law school and passing the patent bar exam.
While the pro bono program will focus on patents, Sternstein said the clinic works to provide assistance in all facets of intellectural property law. For more info, go to www.azpublicpatentprogram.arizona.edu.