Pani Sarkis Student Writer, Windsor Law LTEC Lab J.D., 2019
On February 24th, the International Intellectual Property Law Clinic, jointly operated by Detroit Mercy Law and Windsor Law held its 3rd Annual International Patent Drafting Competition. Once again, the Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional United States Patent and Trademark Office hosted the event, which was organized under the leadership of Professor Wissam Aoun of Detroit Mercy Law.
The competition has been building momentum every year. This year, there was a record number of 15 entries. The competition gathers student teams from law schools across North America to compete and provides students with the chance to put into practice their knowledge pertaining to intellectual property law. In particular, student teams are given the opportunity to draft and present a patent application based on a hypothetical invention in front of a panel of judges, which were comprised of patent examiners, intellectual property practitioners and several other high profile guest judges.
The patent problem involved a groundskeeper at a golf course who invented a new product called the Golf Gadget™, a device that is used to display promotional material and designed for in-ground installation. The idea was that while the hypothetical inventor understands how their apparatus functions and can explain it generally, they have not fully explained all of its technical details. Therefore, the teams of hypothetical patent agents were required to supplement the information with technical explanations while ensuring they did not become the inventor themselves.
The students were marked on a variety of aspects, including: prior art searching, claim drafting and a detailed description and labelled instructions. The written phase, which was submitted prior to the competition, required each team to submit a complete patent application pertaining to the hypothetical invention, as well as an Information Disclosure Statement (IDS) detailing the relevant prior art discovered in their prior art search. This was done to mimic the USPTO’s patent application process that requires the submission of this information during patent prosecution.
The oral phase on February 24th took place at the USPTO in Detroit with a first round in the morning and a final round in the afternoon with 3 finalists. Among all the highly competitive entries, the three schools that stood out were: Georgia State University-College of Law, the University of Missouri-Kansas City-School of Law, and York University-Osgoode Hall Law School. After the finalists were announced, there was a final round to determine the winner where judges, Bill Coughlin (Ford Motor), Abha Fadipe (Burris Law), and James Wilson (USPTO) heard presentations from the top teams while other teams, coaches and observers were encouraged to watch.
After each of the finalists presented their arguments, there was a question and answer period, whereby the judges delved deeper into each team’s search methods, claims and other aspects of their patent applications. After all was said and done, the finalists were ranked in order from 3rd place to 1st place. York University-Osgoode Hall Law School (Denver Bandstra, Andrea Uetrecht and Shira Sasson) ranked third. Second place went to University of Missouri-Kansas City-School of Law (Benjamin Bolin, Andrew Gnefkow and Greg Tourigny). The winning team of the competition was Georgia State University College of Law (Brad Czerwonky, Brandon Reed, Mitchell Foley).
As Professor Aoun alluded to, the scores were close and it was difficult to select a winner among all the highly competitive entries. “I would recommend that Georgia State continues to send students to this competition” said Brandon Reed, a member of the winning team from Georgia State University College of Law. The school has a strong Intellectual Property program and many students there are interested in Patent Law. He hopes that they continue to promote this competition “as it is a great example of experiential learning.” Next year, it is expected that there will be even more teams involved in the competition.