The Intellectual Property Start-Up Project
In all of the first steps taken by an inventor or innovator, one of the most complex involves protecting an invention, prototype, creative concept, literary product, scientific discovery, or even good idea as it proceeds to market availability.
Adam Candeub, professor with the MSU College of Law, is leading a new initiative called The Intellectual Property Start-Up Project that offers information about navigating the legal aspects of intellectual property (IP). The pilot project is a new practice area within MSU Law's Legal Clinic, and includes experts drawn from MSU's alumni and adjunct faculty, student clinicians, and community partners who will work with entrepreneurs and business owners to determine their questions and challenges for legally protecting their ventures.
"Emerging entrepreneurs need expert advice to guide them through the complexity of protecting intellectual property," said Candeub. "Often, they don't even know where to start or what questions to ask."
Partners in the project include The Prima Civitas Foundation (PCF) and the MSU Bioeconomy Institute, located on the west side of the state. The Institute encompasses participation from the i6 Green Proof of Concept Center consortium (MSU, Lakeshore Advantage, and New North Center), which provides business services to support entrepreneurial endeavors with "green technologies" developed from bio-based materials, specialty chemicals, and fuels. In addition, the Project is also open to mid-Michigan entrepreneurs and those included in the I-69 International Trade Corridor in the region that covers Genesee, Shiawassee, Lapeer, and St. Clair counties.
PCF and the Institute assist with identifying prospective innovators who are ready to pursue patents, copyrights, or other lawful protection of their new technology. Candeub matches those individuals with volunteer attorneys, drawn from the Law College's extensive alumni network within the Michigan IP Bar, who mentor MSU law students, and together they perform intake interviews and legal research to determine needs and opportunities for protecting the owners' intellectual property portfolios.
Tremaine Phillips, PCF director for innovation and region building, is working with Candeub and Project participants. He sees tremendous value in making the project resources available to start-up companies who are ready to introduce technologies to market. One factor is the rapid and ever-increasing amount of legal and technical expertise needed to understand which technologies or chemical mixtures or concepts are already trademarked, included in governmental regulatory limitations, or listed as open-source.
"We have had positive responses from companies we match to the project, and anticipate filling all available slots for intake interviews. It demonstrates how valuable these initial consultations can be to entrepreneurs and small business leaders. The legal advice alone is worth thousands of dollars, but just to bring understanding to the process and sort out a timeline to tackle the requirements, and who should do the work, is a significant contribution to a start-up operation," said Phillips.
According to Candeub, the initial consultations between entrepreneurs and volunteer attorneys paired with student clinician assistants is pro bono. At the end of the process an advisory letter informs the entrepreneur of further actions which can potentially lead to contracting with an experienced attorney or law firm for further intellectual property strategies or services.
"There is tremendous promise in the work emerging from 'green' technologies and high-tech sectors. Scientific discoveries often have significant impact on economic development, and the MSU College of Law is working alongside researchers, entrepreneurs, and company investors to protect the economic value that those discoveries represent," said Candeub.
More information about the MSU College of Law Intellectual Property Start-Up Project is available by calling The Prima Civitas Foundation at (517) 999-3382.