Indiana University Maurer School of Law is getting into the matchmaking business.
The law school’s Center for Intellectual Property Research has opened a patent hub which will connect inventors with IP attorneys willing to do pro bono work. Garage inventors and small entrepreneurs looking for help filing a patent and attorneys searching for volunteer opportunities will be matched to, possibly, start a business relationship.
The hub, Patent Connect for Hoosiers, was unveiled Sept. 1 as part of IU Maurer’s Launch IP event at Eli Lilly and Co. headquarters in Indianapolis. Both the law school’s IP Clinic and the hub were lauded as meeting a need among small business owners and helping Indiana’s economy grow.
“What you’re doing here is really (providing) the missing link that we’ve not been able to figure out statewide,” said keynote speaker Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann. “Putting those legal services (to work getting) trademarks, patents, and helping in that commercialization of products is so important.”
The hub is working in partnership with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and has been designated to serve Indiana. Other hubs have been established across the country with the focus of helping independent inventors who may be at a disadvantage in trying to get the money together to pay for the patent application.
IU Maurer has created a website, www.patentconnect.org, which will serve as the intake center for inventors needing help and attorneys wanting to volunteer their services. The hub will screen the inventors, allowing only those who qualify economically and have viable products into the network.
Once the website identifies a potential match, the attorney can either accept or decline. If the match is accepted, the hub steps out of the process and leaves the attorney and client to form a direct business relationship.
Norman Hedges, director of the Intellectual Property Law Clinic at IU Maurer, said the pro bono work in IP really helps individuals exercise their constitutional rights. Inventors and entrepreneurs who cannot afford a patent to protect their ideas are losing their rights guaranteed by Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.
As such, Hedges see the voluntary IP work as qualifying for pro bono under the “administration of justice” clause in Rule 6.1 of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct.
Faegre Baker Daniels associate Jessica Van Dalen has taken a client through Patent Connect for Hoosiers. She and her colleagues have filed a patent application for the individual and have plans to continue the representation.
“It was very fulfilling,” she said. “This inventor was so excited that someone cared about their invention and cared enough to help them through the process. It’s very exciting to see how enthusiastic they are.”