U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Adds NDLS Clinic to Agency’s Certification Pilot Programs

Author: Charles Williams


By any measure, the Law School’s Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship Clinic’s debut last spring was a resounding success. Among other things, all four of the Clinic’s first graduates went on to find good jobs practicing IP law.

Now the Clinic has more good news.

First, the United States Patent and Trademark Office has selected the new clinic for inclusion in the agency’s Patent Law School Clinic Certification Pilot Program.

Accordingly NDLS students who enroll in the IP clinic will be allowed to practice patent law before the USPTO under the guidance of the Clinic’s founding director, Jodi Clifford. Students will now be able to draft and file patent applications for clients of the law school clinic as well as answer Office Actions and communicate with patent examiners.

Second, the Clinic has also been accepted by the USPTO’s Trademark Law School Clinic Certification Pilot program. This means NDLS students will now be able to practice trademark law before the USPTO, including preparing and filing trademark registration applications, responding to Office Actions and communicating with trademark examiners.

Based on her years of experience working as a patent attorney in a large firm, Clifford says the Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship Clinic experience provides an important advantage for students interested in transactional law.

“While many students go all the way through law school without having ever worked in a business environment, law firms are increasingly looking to hire people who have really good experience,” she said. “It is a huge transition going from being a student in a classroom to being responsible for a client. It is a change of mindset, a change in the way you conduct yourself.

“Especially in a tough job market, being able to demonstrate that you can take what you learned in the classroom and apply it in the real world is invaluable.”

The NDLS Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship Clinic is funded for its first three years by seed money provided by Dean Nell Jessup Newton and buttressed by President Rev. John Jenkins’s allocation of another $450,000 in gifts made to the President’s Circle by University benefactors.

While Clifford’s primary focus now is to continue growing the clinic from last spring’s pilot program, her longer-term challenge will be to come up with ways for the clinic to fund itself after its three-year seed grant expires.

“The good news is that Notre Dame is a terrific school with a fantastic alumni support system,” she said. “We plan to show that our clinic students are helping the community and getting such good experience working with real clients that people will be willing to donate and support our work.”

Photo: Lennie Giannone, J.D. ’12; Clinic Director Jodi Clifford, Maurine Vogelsang, J.D. ’12; Dave Schmidt, J.D. ’12; and Jonah Smith, J.D. ‘12.