Founded in 2002, the Maryland Intellectual Property Legal Resource Center (“MIPLRC”) and its intellectual property law clinic celebrates its twentieth anniversary as it continues to provide free legal services for intellectual property and related matters to entrepreneurs while providing an educational opportunity for law students who are interested in working as IP attorneys. Originally located at the Maryland Technology Development Center in Rockville, Maryland, the IP Clinic was a joint initiative of the University of Maryland School of Law and the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development. Under the direction of Director Patricia Campbell since 2007, the Clinic continues to thrive and grow.
In 2009, the MIPLRC and the IP Clinic moved to the University of Maryland, College Park, where they worked closely with the A. James Clark School of Engineering and its Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (“Mtech”). While the Clinic provided critical legal services to startup businesses in Mtech’s incubator programs, it continued to give second and third-year law students the ability to analyze legal, ethical, and policy matters that are pertinent to intellectual property matters.
In the Fall of 2010, the Clinic program was selected to be part of the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s Law School Clinic Certification Program. The program gives students limited recognition to practice before the office for purposes of filing and prosecuting trademark or patent applications while working under the supervision of current clinical instructors Edward Yee ‘97 and Julie Hopkins ’04. In addition to drafting and filing patent and trademark applications, students conduct clearance searches and respond to office actions from the trademark and patent examiners. They may also be asked to draft and file briefs in appeals to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, thereby expanding the Clinic’s ability to serve the community.
The Clinic was renamed the Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship Clinic ("IPEC") in 2018. That same year, IPEC moved from the College Park campus to the Baltimore campus. The Clinic has also expanded its focus and initiatives to support prospective entrepreneurs with their business and corporate challenges in addition to intellectual property issues.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, more changes came to the IPEC. Starting in the Fall 2020 semester, the Clinic functioned entirely online. Clinical Instructor Julie Hopkins stated that “We met with potential clients on Zoom. Our weekly seminar was conducted on Zoom. Client meetings and online filings were completed remotely. While not ideal, the students were flexible, good-natured, and adapted well to the challenging circumstances.”
From the fall of 2020 to the present semester, interviews with potential clients have been held via Zoom. In the Fall of 2021, students and faculty returned to the classroom and were able to meet in person, thereby fostering a more collaborative learning environment. The use of online technologies enabled the students to continue to communicate with clients and professors remotely and to allow seamless online filings with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. “The use of Zoom was so successful that we integrated it into our routine practice. Now we can meet with clients from anywhere and easily share computer screens when completing filings,” said Julie Hopkins. Indeed, working with clients remotely provided additional access to Clinic services to clients throughout the State of Maryland, who otherwise would not have been able to meet with students in Baltimore.
IPEC continues to be a much-coveted course at Maryland Carey Law. According to Jordan Kuchta ’22, who was a student attorney in the Spring 2022 semester, "I thought the Clinic provided a valuable opportunity to work with real clients on issues that directly relate to their businesses, which gave me a different perspective on what practicing law actually looks like. The IP Clinic overall was a great experience, and I would recommend it to anyone who asked."
During the Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 semesters, 26 students worked in the Clinic assisting 86 clients who received services from IPEC. Of those 86 clients, 35 were female-owned or co-owned businesses, and 37were minority-owned or co-owned businesses. During the 2021-22 academic year, clinic students filed 19 patent applications, seven trademark applications, and one copyright registration; 19 trademark registrations and three patents were issued during the fall and spring semesters.
IPEC also provided a series of workshops through the GRID during the Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 semester. These included the following: Intellectual Property I: Patents and Trade Secrets with Ed Yee; Intellectual Property II: Trademarks and Copyrights with Julie Hopkins; Creating a New Business Entity with Katherine Taylor; and Strategies for Working with Nondisclosure Agreements with Patricia Campbell.
IPEC can continue to assist entrepreneurs and small business owners due to the support received by the involvement of the University of Maryland’s Office of Research and Development through the Baltimore Fund. Private firms such as Baker Donelson, Gordon Feinblatt, Offit Kurman, Perkins Coie, Whiteford Taylor, and Womble Bond Dickinson have also provided crucial support through student supervision and financial donations for clinic operations. IPEC performs a key role in supporting technology entrepreneurship and nurturing startup businesses that assist the growth of Maryland’s economy.