News

Agreement gives Maine Law students an inside track to U.S. Patent Office

March 9, 2012

PORTLAND, Maine – Students at the University of Maine School of Law will have priority status when applying for summer positions at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, thanks to an agreement signed Thursday in Washington, D.C.

Maine Law becomes only the fifth law school in the nation to receive this designation.

As participants in this externship program, Maine Law students receive academic credit and three months of hands-on experience in patent law; the USPTO gets much needed help as the agency deals with a mounting backlog of patent applications.

“Our students still have to be qualified, they have to meet all the standards and they must have the right background,” said Prof. Rita Heimes, Clinical Professor, Director of Maine Law’s Center for Law and Innovation, and the driving force behind the agreement. “What this does is make sure their resumes get serious consideration. It essentially puts our students at the front of the line.”

The agreement is another step in the already strong relationship between Maine Law and the USPTO, which has developed over the past four years. David Kappos, USPTO Director and Undersecretary of Commerce, has visited the Law School twice. Heimes has led visits to the USPTO in Alexandria, Va. She has encouraged students to consider the Patent Office as a gateway into the expanding field of intellectual property law.

Three Maine Law students participated in the USPTO externship program last year, and one of them, Kate Kolosowski-Gager, graduated in December and was hired as a fulltime employee. As the clearinghouse for all patent applications in the United States, the USPTO plays a critical role in economic development and innovation. The office received more than 520,000 applications for patents in 2010, a 65 percent increase in the past decade. In response, the agency is expanding its summer externship program, and also plans to hire more than 1,000 patent examiners.

Maine Law is uniquely positioned to help fill the gap, said Peter Pitegoff, Dean of the Law School. The school’s Intellectual Property Clinic is one of only three law school clinics in the country that is certified to practice both patent and trademark law by the USPTO. Under faculty supervision, students represent clients as they navigate the complex process of applying for a patent or trademark. About 12 to 15 students each year participate in the clinic, Heimes said.

The Law School’s Center for Law and Innovation, which houses the Intellectual Property Clinic and the Maine Patent Program, serves as intellectual property counsel for researchers throughout the University of Maine System. The center also provides public education about law and technology, engages in public policy with respect to research and development, and places students in an array of internships.

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Media contact: Trevor Maxwell, communications director at Maine Law
Office: 207-228-8037/ Cell: 207-286-4431/ email: tmaxwell@usm.maine.edu