Wednesday 6 August 2014

Competing with supervised pro bono students

From our good friend and Afro-IP blogger Kingsley Egbuonu comes this link to a news item, "USPTO Adds Additional Schools To Law School Clinic Certification Pilot Program: Newly selected law schools to join the patent and trademark programs in fall 2014".  According to this item:
" ... The U.S. Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today announced the selection of 19 law schools that will join the USPTO’s Law School Clinic Certification Pilot Program this fall. Five law schools will join both the Patent and Trademark portions of the Program, four law schools will join the Patent portion of the Program, and ten law schools will join the Trademark portion of the Program. These law schools join the 28 law schools currently participating in the Program.

The selection committees chose these schools based on their solid IP curricula, pro bono services to the public, and community networking and outreach. The Program enables law students to practice patent and/or trademark law before the USPTO under the guidance of an approved faculty clinic supervisor.
“Expanding the USPTO’s Law School Clinic Certification Pilot Program will provide more students – future intellectual property lawyers – with the real-world experience and tools crucial to tackle the complexities of today’s IP law landscape. [said Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee] The addition of law schools and students in the program will also increase pro bono representation to American businesses and entrepreneurs, thereby helping ensure they have the resources to grow, create jobs and compete globally."
The participating law school clinical programs provide patent and trademark legal services to independent inventors and small businesses on a pro bono basis. Clinic clients can expect to receive searches and opinions, advice from clinic law students regarding their intellectual property (IP) needs under the supervision of a faculty practitioner, drafting and filing of applications, and representation before the USPTO. The law school clinical programs possess solid Intellectual Property curricula supporting a participating student’s hands-on learning in the Program; a commitment to networking in the community; comprehensive pro bono services; and excellent case management systems. Students in the patent and/or trademark portions of the Program can expect to draft and file applications and respond to Office Actions. Each law school clinic must meet and maintain the requirements for USPTO certification in order for student practitioners to practice before the USPTO".
This blogger is fascinated by this scheme, but he wonders what impact it has on the environment in which small and sole practitioners operate.  Many such practitioners may act for large corporations where they have a long-standing relationship with them, such as where they opt to go solo (or are involuntarily outsourced) after working for them in-house, but few will routinely pick up work from the major IP owners. It is therefore largely from the pool of smaller clients, start-ups and SMEs that they will receive instructions.  In the US, at any rate, small practitioners can now expect to compete with students enrolled in accredited law school programmes, offering free and highly supervised services. Unless the pool of prospective clients continues to grow, one might be forgiven for foreseeing tough times ahead for some small-timers, unless they can make a valuable selling-point of the degree of continuity in time that a qualified practitioner can offer and which the advice of even a well-supervised student lawyer may be hard to replicate.

No comments:

Post a Comment