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Wednesday Nov 23, 2011

Aiding our Future IP Practitioners

Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos

Helping the next generation of IP professionals learn to practice before the USPTO, our Law School Clinical Certification Pilot Program may be little known, but it has shown great success in providing benefit to the public and the IP community. The program allows law students enrolled in a participating law school’s clinical program to practice intellectual property law before the USPTO under close guidance of the law school clinic’s supervisor.

Our Clinical Pilot Program began in 2008 with six schools selected to allow students to practice before the Agency in both patents and trademarks. In 2010, the Program expanded to include 16 schools. To date more than 200 students have participated. The students are granted limited recognition to practice, providing them with the opportunity to draft and file patent and trademark applications. The program also provides experience interacting with patent examiners and trademark examining attorneys by responding to office actions. By engaging in the office action response process, the students learn how to craft effective responses that actively address real world issues raised by our examiners.

Aside from the practical experience students receive from participation in the Pilot Program -- experience that will serve them well after graduating from law school -- another public benefit is to the clients of the law school clinics who receive pro bono services. All of the law schools participating in the Pilot Program provide services to clients on a pro bono basis. In the fiscal year that ended September 30, students participating across the Program filed 83 trademark applications and 29 patent applications. These law school clinics are thus providing a much-needed service to independent inventors and small-entities that may not otherwise be able to afford IP legal services.

Will Covey, Deputy General Counsel for Enrollment and Discipline and Director of Enrollment and Discipline, visited the University of Richmond School of Law (one of our Program law schools) recently, where students unanimously praised their involvement in the Program, observing that they found great value in the opportunity to gain practical training in practicing before the Office. Richmond’s clinic director, Professor John Carroll, praised how the Program gives students the responsibility of providing seamless representation for their clients, from initial advice to prosecuting the application before the USPTO.

You can learn more about the program and the latest news about it on our website. And as always, your comments and questions are most welcomed.


Twenty-nine applications is a start. That is a negligible number unless groups of law students work on each one of those 29 cases. Surely that is what occurs. A useful format might be to have each student in a class draft their own version of the app and responses and have the examiner grade them.

Posted by Bruce Burick on November 24, 2011 at 12:37 AM EST #

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