When the Law School expanded its Intellectual Property & Entrepreneurship Clinic into a new office space at Innovation Park last summer, the idea behind the move was that law students would benefit from the experience of working in the same building with dozens of startup companies.
Innovation Park, located across Angela Boulevard from Notre Dame’s campus, is an 80,000-square-foot entrepreneurship center where inventors, investors, faculty experts, and students from the University and beyond come together to share ideas and insights. It’s currently home to more than 60 startup companies.
After one semester, the benefits of the clinic’s move are already apparent.
“Our new space gives students a unique opportunity to meet their clients where they work,” said Jodi Clifford, clinical professor of law and director of the IP clinic. “By being in the same space as the entrepreneurs, there are more opportunities for the students to communicate, collaborate, and strategize with them on how best to protect the intellectual property of their companies and projects.”
G. Marcus Cole, the Joseph A. Matson Dean and Professor of Law at Notre Dame Law School, said the IP clinic’s move to Innovation Park is consistent with Notre Dame’s mission to educate a different kind of lawyer. “Our students in the IP clinic are afforded a rare opportunity to work side by side with their client base,” Cole said. “This proximity gives our students insights into business and intellectual property development that they won’t find in a traditional classroom.”
James Thompson, the University of Notre Dame’s associate vice president for innovation, said the IP clinic’s new location is an advantage for the companies at Innovation Park, too.
“Many of these companies headquartered at Innovation Park require some form of intellectual property protection,” Thompson said. “Having the IP clinic based at Innovation Park is a perfect opportunity for our startups, student entrepreneurs, and tenants to take advantage of for securing the appropriate protections for them to succeed in their ventures.”
The IP clinic provides around 10 students each semester with valuable experience in applying substantive intellectual property law to client problems. The clinic offers assistance to local businesses and entrepreneurs with counsel on issues related to intellectual property. Students work under the close supervision of Clifford, a patent attorney who worked in private practice before joining the Law School in 2011 to establish the IP clinic.
“It has been very valuable to be here in Innovation Park,” third-year law student Ryne Quinlan said. “We’re able to meet with our clients here in the same building. They can bring their prototypes and things that are patentable, and trademark ideas, directly to us in a way they couldn’t before. We can go to the workshop of the client to understand the different IP issues they’re going through on their own base level.”
The clinic has a space for student work and an office for Clifford, as well as a conference room and a technology-enabled classroom, complete with smart projectors and conferencing equipment. This new technology means more opportunities for students to expand their clientele. For example, one of the clients the students worked with this fall is based in New York City.
“The clinic space feels like a legal office,” Clifford said. “And with the proximity to clients in Innovation Park, it helps us promote the use of these spaces to students and lets them meet and mingle with entrepreneurs.”
The Intellectual Property & Entrepreneurship Clinic is one of Notre Dame Law School’s six legal clinics, all of which are teaching law offices where students work on real cases under the close supervision of experienced faculty members. Visit law.nd.edu/clinics for more information.