On Tuesday, November 1st, 2016, Innovative Technology Enterprises hosted the first ITE|GVMS ProTraining seminar, focusing on intellectual property law. This series of programming aims to inform entrepreneurs on a variety of topics pertinent to their businesses, and many will include continuing education credits for legal professionals, accountants, and others.
The first of these sessions is titled “Recent Changes in Intellectual Property Law for non-IP Attorneys, Startups, and Their Advisors.” The presentations will focus primarily on IP law as it applies to the field of biotechnology. Two attorneys based in St. Louis will be presenting. I interviewed both of them over the phone to get some background, and learn more about what they will be presenting.
First we have Saul Zackson, PhD, JD, of Zackson Law. Saul has been a practicing patent attorney since 2001, working with patents involving the life sciences and anything related. In 2010, out of a desire for independence from larger firms, Saul started his own firm – Zackson Law. The firm focuses most of its work on universities, non-profits, and startups.
Though the specifics of the presentation had yet to be finalized at the time of the interview, Saul gave me a preview of what he would be discussing. One topic deals with patentable subject matter. Examples of such subject matter would be patents on medical diagnostics, and patents on methods of treatment. “There have been a couple of decisions from the Supreme Court in recent years that have turned everything upside down, or changed standards, making getting patents more difficult in a variety of situations,” Saul explained.
Next is Kirk Damman, JD, of Lewis Rice. Kirk is our speaker from a larger firm. Kirk has been a patent attorney for seventeen years. He primarily works to help clients acquire their patents, though he has experience with litigation as well. Kirk’s primary client base is small business and startups, many of them in the St. Louis area, or in the Midwest. Kirk explained how most large firms work primarily with larger companies. “We’re a little unique I think in the fact that we are focused on smaller companies and startups.”
Kirk’s presentation is going to focus on the question “what do you actually get a patent on?” What is the criteria for a patentable process or physical object? A core of this is what inventions inhabit a physical device space vs a software or operating space. Both of these areas include patentable material, but Kirk will address the ongoing legal discussion about their differences and what may separate a patentable idea/object from a non-patentable idea/object.
Kirk also helped to found the Patent Pro Bono Program in St. Louis. GVMS, as an organization that supports local startups, helps facilitate companies into the program. Kirk gave me a statement about the program.
“It’s an offering that fills a necessary gap by allowing those without the financial resources to file for or obtain patent protection to do so. In effect, to grant access to the patent office for a group that has been traditionally underrepresented at the patent office because they simply don’t know how to access an agency that is designed to help them protect their ideas. The real value of it, however, is that it means that inventors who lack financial resources are not forced to try and navigate patent law (which can be merciless) by themselves simply because they lack the resources to get an attorney. Hopefully, the inventors can then go out to license, sell, or commercialize their ideas adding value to their local economies.”
This seminar will not only be beneficial for attorneys, but also for anyone in technology or life science field that wants to learn more about the possibilities for their inventive ideas to become a reality. We welcome startup founders, their advisors, mentors, and anyone interested in the subject matter.