The students in Rutgers Law School’s Intellectual Property Law Clinic have been busy.
According to a report released to Congress in December 2016 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) over 2,000 trademark applications have been filed by law school clinics that participate in the USPTO Law School Clinic Certification Program. The Rutgers clinic has filed over 280 trademark applications with the USPTO, with over 195 of those filed through the USPTO program, the most of any of the participating law schools.
There are 45 law schools in the USPTO program that help clients with patent or trademark applications. Professor John Kettle, who directs the Rutgers clinic said, “Most of the clients that the clinic serves are referrals from the USPTO program. The Clinic receives over 150 requests each semester from prospective clients through the USPTO program. However, the clinic does also work closely with the Rutgers Community and Transactional Lawyering Clinic, and the new Entrepreneurship Clinic, by assisting the clinics with the intellectual property needs of their start-up business and non-profit organization clients.”
With regard to the trademark services provided by the IP Law Clinic, the students advise clients on their trademarks and service marks and do extensive research to make sure the marks are not being used by other businesses. Based on the results of the search and the opinion letter the student provides to the client, the students will also prepare and submit the applications for federal registration under Professor Kettle’s supervision, and prepare responses to Examiner Action Letters. Each law student in the IP Law Clinic receives a limited registration number from the USPTO that enables the student to interact with the USPTO Trademark Examiner as an additional named attorney on the application.
Start-up businesses and individuals seeking trademark help often turn to law school clinics, which are either pro-bono or a low cost alternative to private attorneys. Under the USPTO program the participating clinics receive expedited service from the USPTO, which helps provide a fuller experience for the students during the academic semester. The Rutgers IP Law Clinic provides assistance to clients from throughout the country and internationally.
To participate in the Rutgers IP Law Clinic, law students must have taken an intellectual property law course such as Copyright and Trademark or Patent Law. The clinic is so popular, students are admitted by a lottery, Kettle said.
“Students join the clinic to learn the practice by working directly with clients on their varied intellectual property needs, which fortunately has the extra benefit of working under the USPTO program.” he said.
Joseph Marazzo has worked in the clinic since his 2L year, “You have a lot of client interaction. We have a large range of clients and client matters.” He said he’s worked with businesses that include a clothing line, a new app developer, an international food and wine tour service, and a beer manufacturer. “It’s very spot on,” he said. “We learn from clients about what they want to do and write opinion letters. We study the marks and assess the level of risks. We make legal arguments on behalf of clients.” Marazzo said he is glad he’ll be able to put on his resume that he received a license to practice in front of the USPTO under the program and hopes it will help him land a job after graduation.
The USPTO Law School Clinic partnership began in 2008 with Rutgers being admitted in 2010. Prior to joining the clinic certification program, the clinic began filing trademark applications for clients as early as 2001.