Lincoln faculty member works to protect small-budget inventors

Lincoln Law School’s Associate Dean of Intellectual Property Britten Sessions is working on ways to expand and protect the rights of inventors, while at the same time increasing the ways the San Jose-based law school’s students can gain knowledge and practice in patent law.

In November, Sessions went to Washington, D.C. to meet with officials from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to increase the pro-bono services offered by attorneys and law students to help inventors defend their patents during an inter-partes review (IPR). An IPR can sometimes weaken or cancel the patent rights of small inventors who may not have vast resources to defend their patents during this process. Clinical programs allow for those who could not otherwise afford IP services to have meaningful access to legal resources.

“It’s easy to kill a patent through the IPR process,” Sessions said. “Inventors need resources and representation during an IPR.”

Lincoln Law School is part of the USPTO Clinic Program, which is one branch of the USPTO’s outreach to those that could not otherwise afford services. The other, the pro-bono program, uses non-profit organizations (such as the California Lawyer for the Arts program) to link up attorneys to those who have need of such services.

“The clinic program gives our students a very real perspective, and the input we receive from our inventors provides information for us to provide back to the government on laws that could be changed to more narrowly focus on benefiting inventors,” Sessions said.

Besides working to expand the pro-bono clinic for small-budget investors, Sessions also met with the offices of several members of the U.S. Congress to advocate for legislation that would give American inventors greater ability to protect their inventions. This is important as the United States has fallen behind in international rankings[1] for the strength of intellectual property, including patents. For nearly two centuries, the United States was always ranked No. 1 in the world for intellectual property protection. Currently, the United States ranks second in the world for intellectual property protection – but that ranking is diluted by the fact that 10 countries share that same ranking.[2]

Potential legislation to strengthen protection for inventors could include allowing an inventor to opt-in or opt-out of having their patent go through the IPR process (the alternative would be to dispute the validity of a patent through a typical Article III Federal Court); granting an inventor rights to all the profits someone else might have made from willful violation of their patent (as opposed to the current system that only entitles an inventor to a “reasonable royalty,” or partial rights to profits, even in the face of willful infringement); providing inventors with injunctive relief; and allowing inventors to file lawsuits for patent violations in the state where they live (as opposed to having to litigate where the patent violation took place).

“At Lincoln Law School, we’re leaders in trying to advocate for the rights of inventors,” Sessions said adding that the small law school is taking on challenges in the area of intellectual property that even larger, nationally-renown law schools aren’t tackling.

[1] See, e.g., Gene Quinn, “U.S. Patent System Falls to 12th Place in Chamber Global IP Index for 2018”, IP Watchdog, February 8, 2018, available at https://www.ipwatchdog.com/2018/02/08/u-s-patent-system-falls-12th-place-chamber-global-ip-index-2018/id=93494/.

[2] See, e.g., Gene Quinn, “U.S. Patent System Jumps to Tie for Second Place in International IP Index,” IP Watchdog, February 7, 2019, available at https://www.ipwatchdog.com/2019/02/07/u-s-patent-system-jumps-tie-second-place-us-international-ip-index/id=106131/.

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