From February 23-24, third year law students, Benjamin Bolin, Andrew Gnefkow and Greg Tourigny competed in the International Patent Drafting Competition. The team advanced and took home the second place trophy. This was the first time UMKC competed in the competition.
The International Patent Drafting Competition is held at the Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and offers student teams the opportunity to draft a patent application based on a provided disclosure in front of a panel of judges comprised of patent examiners, practitioners, and several guest judges.
Adjunct professor James Devaney, of Shook, Hardy & Bacon, who teaches the Patent Drafting Course coached the student team during the drafting of the application. Professor Jasmine Abdel-khalik assisted the team by providing valuable feedback on the presentation. Professor Abdel-khalik approached Bolin about the competition, who then recruited Gnefkow and Tourigny to be his teammates Jaclyn Alcantara, a second year law student, also served as an “observer” in the competition and offered insight.
In January, the team was given the disclosure for the competition; the inventor of the product provided the details of her invention in a 3-4 page disclosure document. In this scenario, the inventor had created what she called the “Golf Gadget” which was an anchoring post that would display promotional banners on a golf course; while something similar exists, the inventor’s creation would be more easily driven into the ground.
Bolin led the stead by analyzing the disclosure and completing a prior invention (prior art) search. Using publically available search materials such as Google Patent and Espacenet, Bolin investigated what of the disclosed invention was entirely original and identified six relevant pieces of prior art. Throughout January and most of February, Bolin drafted claims and sent iterations to Gnefkow, Tourigny, and Devaney for review and feedback.
“I drafted the patent application,” Bolin says. “The patent application included everything needed to receive a filing date at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, including a specification, claims, drawings, even an election for micro entity status.”
From there, Gnefkow and Tourigny created the slideshow presentation for the competition. Professor Abdel-khalik provided feedback, posed questions that might be asked during the competition, and helped the students simplify the language. The students needed to be mindful of their audience and put the presentation on a non-patent examiner level lest the judges were not patent attorneys.
“We had to imagine what kind of presentation might be useful to a panel of three patent prosecution experts including members of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office,” Abdel-khalik says. “We didn’t have much clarity on the scoring criteria as we would want to in order to prepare, but from practice to practice I watched our students develop a fantastic presentation.”
The team travelled to Detroit for the competition, where 15 teams (two from Canada; 13 from the U.S.) would compete. Gnefkow and Tourigny presented the patent, with Bolin available for questions. After a brief recess, where they were told they advanced to the final round of three teams, the UMKC team presented again to a new set of judges and ultimately took home the second place trophy. Georgia Tech came in first and York University placed third.
Abdel-khalik attributed their success to their exceptional story-telling of the invention and the patent and noted that the students received numerous compliments from the judges, a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office representative and other coaches. Devaney was also thrilled with the team placing.
“I am so proud of my students and honored to receive this feedback on the patent prosecution course’s curriculum and instruction,” says James Devaney.
“More than anything,” Bolin says, “I feel like this competition is a testament to the fact that professors care about their students. Most of the other teams were accompanied by adjuncts or individuals from firms or not accompanied at all, but Professor Abdel-khalik travelled with us. She and James Devaney were invaluable; they coached our team but they also brought the competition to our attention and empowered us to enter it.”
Bolin also emphasized that once again, UMKC cares about showing students the practical side of the subjects they come to learn so well.
“The competition was an illustration of patent drafting course in action,” he says. “We took everything we learned and we were able to put it into one 24-page patent application. That was incredible.”