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Small Business Legal Clinic Becomes Oregon’s Only Certified USPTO Pro-Bono Program

March 09, 2018

    A woman uses an InStove, a super-efficient stove created by nonprofit Institutional Stove Solutions to help poverty-stricken communities cook meals in a safe and environment-friendly way. InStove was an SBLC client last year.

In late 2017, Lewis & Clark Law School’s Small Business Legal Clinic (SBLC) became the only certified United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) pro-bono program in Oregon. The Clinic now has certification in both trademarks and patents, thanks to a new patent program offered last year.

SBLC partnered with patent attorney Joseph Makuch to offer the new patent program in early 2017. The Clinic filed four patent applications, counseled six clients and educated four law students, a successful first year that led to its current status as a certified patent program for the USPTO.

The certification allows a few clients a year to receive expedited processing for their patent and gives law student interns standing to speak directly with patent examiners in the USPTO. 

Law students involved in the Clinic’s patent program were able to spend a semester working in teams to help low-income business owners with the patent process, provided the students had a background in science or technology. 

“The SBLC Patent Clinic helped me understand what patent prosecution work is about, and what skill set is needed to work in this field,” said Penny Zhang, a 2017 SBLC patent intern. “It provides a realistic view of the daily work of a patent prosecution attorney. It is also a great “try-it-out” opportunity to find out whether one would enjoy it or not.”

Lisa Stewart from Beta Control Systems – an SBLC client last year – attests to how much SBLC’s patent program has benefitted clients. “The SBLC is better than we even envisioned. We were so impressed by the interest, intelligence, and capability of the attorney and the student interns. Our product that they were helping us patent is technical and incredibly boring. They understood it better than our best customers understand our other products.”

“The SBLC was a fantastic opportunity for us to secure a patent that would have otherwise been out of reach for us, as a small business,” said another SBLC client, Nick Moses of Institutional Stove Solutions. “We were all impressed by the high quality, thorough work of Joe, Penny, and Gary, and are grateful to have had the chance to work with them.”

SBLC looks forward to continuing to provide this service in the future. New clients will begin work with the Clinic in September 2018. While SBLC has limited spaces each semester, the Clinic encourages interested clients to fill out the initial intake on the SBLC website.

Questions about the SBLC can be sent to Executive Director Julieanna Elegant at 503-678-6940.

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