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MSU College of Law to help small businesses with intellectual property questions

Patent for Macomber rotary engine, 1912
Patent for Macomber rotary engine, 1912 - US PTO
The Michigan State University College of Law is leading an initiative to help West and mid-Michigan entrepreneurs and small businesses with their intellectual property (IP) questions. The new program, called the Intellectual Property Start-Up Project, will offer assistance with patents, copyrights, and trade secrets.
 
"Often a new company's or an entrepreneur's most valuable asset is simply the idea for a new technology," says Adam Candeub, the professor at MSU Law who is overseeing the program. "There are laws to protect the economic value that those ideas represent, and we want to help Michigan's emerging high-tech company leaders understand their options."
 
Initially, MSU law experts will work at the MSU Bioeconomy Institute, Holland, Mich., with the "i6 Green Proof of Concept Center" consortium – MSU, Lakeshore Advantage, NewNorth Center, and The Prima Civitas Foundation – to identify entrepreneurs and small companies that could benefit from intellectual property consultations. The i6 Green project provides business services to support innovative "green" technologies centered on bio-based materials, specialty chemicals, and fuels.
 
However, according to Paul Hunt, MSU senior associate vice president of Research and Graduate Studies, the new intellectual property project goes beyond "green tech" innovators and is open to all qualified Michigan entrepreneurs and small companies. Under the coordination of the Prima Civitas Foundation, the Intellectual Property Start-Up Project is also being offered to entrepreneurs and small businesses in Greater Lansing and along the I-69 International Trade Corridor, a region that covers Genesee, Lapeer, Shiawassee, and St. Clair Counties. 
 
Following an initial contact, Candeub and his colleagues will match interested Michigan companies and entrepreneurs with volunteer attorneys, who will mentor the MSU law students participating in the new IP law clinical experience. Working together, the companies and law students, with guidance from the practicing lawyer-mentors, will explore the companies' opportunities for patenting or otherwise protecting new technologies. The law students will conduct any legal research that may be needed, under the supervision of the veteran attorneys, who will guide them in producing an advisory letter by the end of the spring semester in April 2013.
 
The Intellectual Property Start-Up Project is the newest practice area offered through MSU Law's Legal Clinic. The Legal Clinic provides a high-energy law firm environment in which student clinicians work under close faculty supervision to advocate for real clients with real legal challenges. Additional practice areas include civil rights, criminal, family, First Amendment, housing, immigration, small business and nonprofit, and tax law.
 
According to Hunt, "MSU is committed to promoting economic diversification and providing significant assistance to Michigan entrepreneurs statewide, through a variety of programs. In this particular instance, MSU is also providing hands-on experience to students who will become the state's next generation of patent lawyers. Everyone benefits from these collaborations."
 
Small companies or individuals interested in discussing the protection of their patent idea, copyright issue, potential trade secret, or related questions with representatives of the MSU College of Law Intellectual Property Start-Up Project may request an appointment by calling The Prima Civitas Foundation at (517) 999-3382.
 
Appointment slots are limited, and prior appointments are required, so interested entrepreneurs and small firms are encouraged to call as soon as possible. Initial meetings are expected to begin during February 2013.
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