NCCU Now Alumni Magazine Summer 2018

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NCCU’s School of Law is one of only 20 law schools in the nation certified by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to offer both a Patent Clinic and a Trademark Clinic.” brenda reddix-smalls, director of the Intellectual Property Law Institute (IPLI) application filings, and prosecution in cases where there has been a breach of a patent or trademark. After being assigned a case, the law students confer with the client and conduct necessary background research to ensure that the patent or trademark they are seeking is free and available for registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademarks Office, Rinck said. “Once it is determined that the client can apply for trademark protection, then the student will take the client through the trademark application process,” she said. “Second-semester trademark students will handle some after-registration issues, as well, such as office actions.” Office actions involve responding to U.S. Patent and Trademarks officials questions about a trademark or patent application under review. There is high demand for legal services in the intellectual property arena, and the clinics maintain a waiting list of potential clients. The field is growing because of increased demand from inventors, composers and entrepreneurs, Rinck believes. “Once the students go through the clinics, they have a significant leg up in their ability to practice in this area,” Rinck said. “Participation in the clinic is a great way to come out of school and have a very promising career in the trademark area.” Other opportunities for experience have come through partnerships with professional IP firms, such as Fish and Richardson, an international IP law firm headquartered in Boston. As part of the company’s work to meet the pro bono requirements of the Ameri-



can Bar Association, Fish and Richardson staff donate time to working with NCCU’s IP Law Institute to encourage diversification of the legal field. One project launched in fall 2017 allows students to research the activities of patent trolls – or individuals who manage to purchase a patent portfolio even though they have had no part in the creating the property they now own. “Patent trolls are a nuisance to innovation,” said Katie Nadjadlik, pro bono manager for Fish and Richardson. “They don’t actually create anything but buy up patent portfolios and sue companies.”


Students come to IP law from a variety of backgrounds. Those with undergraduate or master’s degrees in science or tech fields, such as biology, computer science, engineering or pharmacology, have a leg up on working in the patent field. “There are a variety of evening students that come into the clinic with different scientific and engineering backgrounds that also work day jobs in large, multinational companies,” Reddix-Smalls said.

Students who lack a science or tech background may take extra courses to qualify to take the patent bar exam. A program established by the U.S. Patent and Trademarks Office allows aspiring IP attorneys to take 32 hours of scientific and technical coursework in place of a four-year degree. But it isn’t only science and technology that benefits from IP protection, as the musicians demonstrate. “There is the technology aspect, but there’s also an art aspect, jazz studies, mass communications, School of Business,” Reddix-Smalls explained. “If you are a creator or designer or inventor, your work needs to be protected. And the way that you protect your work is by obtaining a trademark or patent or copyright protection. When your work is not protected it’s easy for someone to come along and steal your work, and if they do, it’s harder to prove it is yours. “Even if you are in the process of creating something, consult with someone who is well versed in intellectual property and determine the best route for you to take to protect your work.” 

Third-year law student Jasmine Nettles argues a trademark case before a judicial panel in a mock trial at the NCCU School of Law. Other third-year students participating are Akysia Resper, Will Breeze and Miriam Johnson.