Published: Jan. 31, 2013

Protecting Michigan innovations

Contact(s): Kristen Parker Media Communications office: (517) 353-8942 cell: (517) 980-0709, Adam Candeub College of Law office: (517) 432-6906, Tremaine Phillips Prima Civitas office: 517) 708-4252

Michigan is ripe with potential for business innovation, but patents are often necessary to attract investors, according to a Michigan State University College of Law professor who will oversee a new program to assist Michigan startups with intellectual property issues.

Without idea protection, there’s no incentive to innovate, but it’s usually an expensive and complex process, said Adam Candeub, director of the Intellectual Property, Information and Communications Law Program. But now some Michigan entrepreneurs and small business will get those services for free, thanks to student clinicians and a team of patent attorneys volunteering their time.

As part of the Intellectual Property Startup Project, law students, supervised by 10 to 15 lawyers, will do everything from providing basic counseling to filing patents. They hope to serve 20 to 30 new startups through spring.

“This program is really about helping people in the tech industries make their innovations marketable and profitable, which benefits all of us,” Candeub said. “There are laws to protect the economic value that those ideas represent, and we want to help Michigan’s emerging high-tech company leaders understand their options.”

Initially, the team will work at the MSU Bioeconomy Institute in Holland with the “i6 Green Proof of Concept Center” consortium to identify potential entrepreneurs and small companies that could benefit from the services. The consortium comprises MSU; Lakeshore Advantage, Zeeland; NewNorth Center, Holland; and the Prima Civitas Foundation, East Lansing.

Prima Civitas also will recruit startup businesses through the I-69 International Trade Corridor, serving central and eastern Michigan, including Ingham, Genesee, Lapeer, Shiawassee and St. Clair counties.

“MSU is committed to promoting economic diversification and providing significant assistance to Michigan entrepreneurs statewide, through a variety of programs,” said Paul Hunt, senior associate vice president of research and graduate studies. “In this particular instance, MSU is also providing hands-on experience to students who will become the state’s next generation of patent lawyers.”

Companies interested in participating in the project should contact the Prima Civitas Foundation. Initial meetings are expected to begin in February.

The Intellectual Property Startup Project is the newest practice area offered through MSU College of Law’s Legal Clinic. The clinic provides a law firm environment in which student clinicians work under close faculty supervision to advocate for clients. Additional practice areas include civil rights, criminal, family, First Amendment, housing, immigration, small business and nonprofit and tax law.

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