Nicole Mahadeo Windsor Law Student, Dual J.D., 2021
On February 23rd, the 4th Annual International Patent Drafting Competition took place at the Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The competition is hosted annually by the International Intellectual Property Clinic, a collaborative program between the University of Detroit Mercy, School of Law and the University of Windsor, Faculty of Law. It is organized under the direction of UDM Professor Wissam Aoun, with the help of UDM Clinical Coordinator Rebecca Simkins-Nowak and Windsor Law Program Coordinator Erica Lyons, and hosting support of the USPTO staff.
Fifteen student teams from the United States and Canada submitted entries and travelled to Detroit to compete. This year saw increased representation from Canadian schools, with the University of Windsor, York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, and Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law competing at the event.
This year’s patent problem involved a fictitious invention called the Meow Stacker, a vertically extending bracket that extends upward to brace the handle of a door from below and secure the door from either side. In the hypothetical problem, the inventor created this invention for the purpose of keeping pets out of her office by preventing them from being able to open the door.
The competition hypothetical was based on an invention, the Meow Stacker, created to keep pets out of your office
Teams submitted their written patent applications to the judges in advance and prepared creative presentations explaining their application drafting and search strategies for the hypothetical invention provided. There were three panels of judges consisting of experienced attorneys, patent examiners from the USPTO, and the Director of the Midwest Regional USPTO, Damian Porcari.
The competition provided students a unique opportunity to put their knowledge of intellectual property and patent law into practice by developing patent applications that are formatted in accordance with current U.S. laws and USPTO guidelines. Prior to the competition, judges took the time to thoroughly read all of the written submissions, so teams could be judged with similar scrutiny as a real patent application. Patent applications were judged based on the quality of their search strategies, the relevancy of the prior art, whether the specification fully supported the claims and enabled the invention, and whether the claims avoided the prior art but were not unnecessarily limiting. The teams presented detailed illustrations in their presentations to identify key elements of the invention and drafted creative claims to protect those elements. After working on their applications for a period of months leading up to the competition, all of the teams presented an outstanding effort.
During the first round of the competition, each team gave a 25-minute presentation to a private panel of judges, followed by a question and answer period where teams responded to judges’ inquiries. Of the fifteen teams that presented, the top three teams were chosen to compete in the final round later that day.
In what was described as ‘extremely close results,’ first place was awarded to the Indiana University Maurer School of Law team consisting of Nick Wheeler, Xingyi Tao, and Weichih Hsu. Second place was awarded to the Windsor Law team consisting of Aaraf Dewan and Felicia Lozon. Finally, third place went to the University of Michigan Law team consisting of Benjamin Black, Lin Sun, and Andrew Kral.
1st place team from Indiana University Maurer School of Law team consisting of Nick Wheeler, Xingyi Tao, and Weichih Hsu
“Maurer School of Law definitely had the best prior art, handled their final presentation well, and had good claims” said Jeffrey G. Sheldon, a top intellectual property lawyer and one of the finalist judges. This marks Maurer’s second victory at the event, with their team also having won 1stplace in 2016. “It took a lot of teamwork, a lot of hard work, and we’re looking forward to sending another team next year” said Nick Wheeler, a student from Maurer’s team.
2nd place team from Windsor Law consisting of Aaraf Dewan and Felicia Lozon
This is the highest ranking that the University of Windsor has ever achieved in the competition, and the school plans on seeing continual interest from students in the future. “I’ve always been a huge proponent of experiential learning in law school. I plan to write the patent agency exam in a few years and this competition has provided me with a rare opportunity to prepare myself for that goal while still in law school” said Aaraf Dewan from Windsor Law’s team. Windsor Law not only provides an impressive variety of intellectual property law courses, but allows students to gain hands-on, practical skills in the area through the International IP Law Clinic in conjunction with The University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. With this competition being such a unique opportunity that sets it apart from traditional moot court competitions, it is expected that there will be even more entries next year as it grows in popularity across North American law schools.