WASHINGTON – In a moment of refreshing bipartisan collaboration, yesterday evening the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H.R. 5108 (327 – 22). The bill, sponsored by Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and co-sponsored by Representative Steve Chabot (R-OH), will benefit students, law schools and the innovation and tech community by partnering law student practitioners with inventors, small businesses and startups seeking free legal assistance on patent and trademark matters.
The program currently exists as a pilot at the U.S. Patent and Trademark (PTO) office, with 45 participating law schools in parts of 24 states. It is formally known as the PTO Law School Clinic Certification Program. This legislation will expand the program nationally and allow law students throughout the country to practice patent and trademark law under the close supervision of a faculty supervisor. Students will have opportunities otherwise unavailable to them, such as drafting and filing patent and trademark applications, and advising businesses on the appropriate response to a rejected patent application.
This initiative also provides benefits to inventors, entrepreneurs and small businesses that may not be able to afford patent or trademark attorneys. In the absence of the program, these individuals may be forced to navigate complicated legal terrain without technical and professional assistance. The inventors and small businesses who benefit from this program may very well become the next major American company of tomorrow, due in part to the assistance of the students who participate in the PTO Law School Clinic Certification Program authorized under by law by this bill.
Rep. Jeffries stated, “This is a win-win for everyone involved. Our legislation will spur innovation and help small businesses, startups, inventors and entrepreneurs who otherwise may not be able to afford legal assistance, while providing real-world experience for law students in the highly-specialized areas of patent and trademark law.”
Rep. Chabot stated, “The Patent and Trademark Office’s Law School Clinic Certification Program has proven to be beneficial to everyone involved. Inventors and small businesses gain access to quality legal services and protections that they otherwise could not afford. The program trains our nation’s law students and provides them invaluable, practical patent law experience. And it helps streamline the patent review process by improving the quality of applications submitted to the Patent and Trademark Office. By expanding the program, we can make these valuable benefits available to far more Americans.”
The bill is supported by key stakeholders in the education and innovation fields, including the Association of American Universities and International Trademark Association.