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Intellectual Property to Change the World

June 14, 2023

business meeting
business meeting

In the Detkin Intellectual Property and Technology Legal Clinic, future intellectual property lawyers hone their skills while helping clients grow ideas that change the world.

When it comes to fighting for social justice, many lawyers think of civil rights law and impact litigation as powerful tools of choice–but what about intellectual property (IP)?

In the Detkin Intellectual Property and Technology Legal Clinic (DIPTC or the Clinic), which is one of eight Gittis Legal Clinics at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, students develop their legal skills while simultaneously helping artists, entrepreneurs, inventors, and nonprofits bring their innovative, socially-conscious ideas to life.

Since its launch, the DIPTC has helped dozens of clients protect innovative ideas that strive to make positive change, both in their local communities and around the world. Among them are three women-owned companies—GenHERation, Dagne Dover, and Remark Glass—that have grown and expanded, thanks in part to their DIPTC student lawyers.

Doing Business & Doing Good

Katlyn Grasso W’15 first reached out to the DIPTC when she was a student at Wharton. Hailing from an all-girls high school, Grasso became fascinated by statistics showing that, even though women accounted for roughly half of students in entry-level college finance courses, gender equity dwindled at increasingly-senior leadership positions in business.

“I set out on a research project when I was a sophomore at Penn based on my passion for this topic,” Grasso said. “I was asking, ‘What are the most important factors that can help society close the gender leadership gap?’”

Prof. Cynthia Dahl Prof. Cynthia DahlGrasso secured funding from Wharton to engage in an international research project studying leadership development in high school girls. The data she gathered indicated that having experiential learning opportunities in one’s target field was critical for continued success. So, Grasso began building a network to connect young women with opportunities and mentors that would help them grow.

When she realized her project would involve essential legal work she could not do on her own, she emailed DIPTC Director and Practice Professor Cynthia Laury Dahl, who invited her to bring her idea to the Clinic. Law students worked closely with Grasso over several semesters to help her register trademarks and complete other IP-related contracting and licensing she needed to expand her idea, which is now the award-winning women’s network, GenHERation.

Grasso received the inaugural Penn President’s Engagement Prize when she was a senior at Penn, which provides graduating seniors with $150,000 to develop innovative projects that have the potential to change the world.

To date, GenHERation has connected hundreds of thousands of young women with mentors leading some of the most influential companies in the world.

In turn, the DIPTC students who assisted Grasso grew in their own careers.

“It was really great practice to work with someone that was brand new, still formulating thoughts, wanting to do good in the world, and in need of some legal support,” said JP Tarbutton L’15, who worked with Grasso when he was a student in the DIPTC. “That hands on learning is invaluable.”

JP Tarbutton L'15 JP Tarbutton L’15Following graduation, Tarbutton began his career advising start-up companies, venture capital and private equity investors, and acquirers in Silicon Valley. Now, he works in-house for the Larry H. Miller Company and has guided students in their own experiential learning as an adjunct professor at the University of Utah College of Law.

Tarbutton also notes that advising for-profit companies that have a positive social impact has been a trend throughout his career. His current corporate employer emphasizes charitable activity alongside profit.

“Since I began advising start-ups eight years ago, a lot more companies are public benefit corporations, or B Corps, which are motivated by other goals in addition to profit,” Tarbutton said. “It’s come full circle, because now I work for a company that makes money and wants to do good. Their motto is ‘going about doing good until there’s too much good in the world.’”

Cultivating Skilled Advocates

Chanel Lattimer-Tingan L’13 knew she wanted to work in IP before even coming to law school. As a student, she was eager to enroll in every class she could to gain pertinent knowledge and experience in the field.

Chanel Lattimer-Tingan L'13 Chanel Lattimer-Tingan L’13“One of the cool things about IP is that IP is all around us,” Lattimer-Tingan said. “A lot of people don’t necessarily understand the terms, but the clothes we wear, the brands we buy, the music we listen to, the shows we watch, the devices that we have–all of that is intellectual property.”

Like Tarbutton, Lattimer-Tingan took on a client with close connections to Penn. Now a widely recognizable name in handbags, Dagne Dover has roots connecting back to Wharton, which two of its three founders attended. Early in Dagne Dover’s inception, Lattimer-Tingan helped the founders navigate legal obstacles related to their trademark registration.

Now, when Lattimer-Tingan travels to New York for work, she sees Dagne Dover’s advertisements around the city. In a market dominated by fast-fashion trends, Dagne Dover remains stalwart and vocal about its commitment to sustainability.

“Starting a business can be daunting, as you have to take on a variety of new challenges,” said Dagne Dover Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Deepa Gandhi WG’13. “Working with the Clinic was helpful in giving us the confidence that we were appropriately approaching protecting our brand and IP in addition to making one part of the start-up process easier.”

Currently an in-house attorney at Major League Baseball doing trademark and copyright work, Lattimer-Tingan encourages the law students she meets to take clinics, because the practical experience they provide is crucial, especially in the early stages of one’s career.

“You’re going to get the blackletter law in other classes, but unfortunately, you don’t learn how to be a lawyer until you’re practicing,” Lattimer-Tingan said. “In the IP Clinic, you’re learning how to deal with clients, interface with the Patent and Trademark Office website, be organized, and track your time. When I went into my job at the firm, I felt comfortable being able to do those things.”

For Lattimer-Tingan, the community to which she was exposed and the mentorship she received in the DIPTC was invaluable.

“The cool and sometimes frustrating thing about intellectual property is that technology is always outpacing the law,” Lattimer-Tingan said. “I appreciated that Professor Dahl brought in speakers practicing IP law to talk with us about current issues….And, as a professor, Professor Dahl wanted to know each of us personally and was invested not only in us doing well in the Clinic, but also in us being good lawyers, doing well, and doing good out in the world.”

Cultivating Community

Peter Hraniotis L’22 echoed Lattimer-Tingan’s sentiments about finding community and mentorship through the DIPTC. A transfer student to Penn Carey Law planning to enter the corporate law sector practicing mergers and acquisitions, Hraniotis praised DIPTC as an opportunity to cultivate transactional and client interaction skills while simultaneously gaining experience in IP.

Peter Hraniotis L'22 Peter Hraniotis L’22“In the DIPTC, you learn together every day. Looking back at my incredible experience with Professor Dahl and my classmates, I positively learned from their experiences with their clients, but being someone who didn’t have the doctrinal background in IP when I enrolled in DIPTC, I am positive that they learned from my experiences, too,” Hraniotis said. “The DIPTC is designed for everyone, and students today, no matter their background, should apply. Professor Dahl creates an environment where students feel intellectually safe but are also encouraged to explore outside their comfort zones and learn what it means to be an IP attorney in our ever-changing world.”

One of Hraniotis’s clients was Remark Glass, a small woman-owned company located in South Philadelphia that aims to reduce the amount of waste going into landfills while simultaneously creating one-of-a-kind art and glassware.

“Remark Glass was formed by glass makers with an idea to make skillful use of abundant waste glass, especially as Philadelphia lacks productive solutions for glass material,” said Rebecca Davies, co-founder of Remark Glass. “We create functional wares from bottles and jars, but like other utilitarian product makers, we started to realize that we were lacking protections for our designs.”

The DIPTC helped Remark Glass think through a licensing strategy, investigate patent coverage, draft agreements and file numerous trademark applications, including an unusual trade dress application related to the company’s products and design.

“Professor Dahl and our team helped us to trademark our logos and the stamp that we mark our pieces with. Everyone we have worked with has committed to following through with all of our questions and guiding us from start to finish through the legal process,” Davies said. “This will enable us to protect our designs as we grow in a way that wouldn’t have been possible for our small business without their help. The students were amazing to work with; they were able to translate our questions into action and help put us in a much less vulnerable position to contract with future clients.”

To date, Remark Glass has recycled over 180,000 pounds of glass.

“I really connected to the mission of Remark Glass, which was not only to minimize waste, but to create really gorgeous artwork for the local community of Philadelphia,” Hraniotis said. “To have the opportunity as a law student to work with a business that is so ingrained and tied to the Philadelphia region was paramount to my development as a practitioner today.”

For Hraniotis, the experience of working with Remark Glass to identify a value-creating opportunity for their business was both eye-opening and transferable to his current work as a mergers and acquisitions lawyer.

“As DIPTC’s first-ever trade dress application, the beginning stages of working with Remark Glass was centered on answering new and exciting legal questions through extensive research of the U.S. trademark law.” Hraniotis said. “Although I’m not currently practicing IP law, one of the skills that I’ve learned wholly through DIPTC that has transcended practice areas, is the ability to lift words off a page for a given statute and apply them in a business-oriented way.”

Learning Together

In addition to providing clients with accessible legal services, the Clinic also situates them in the unique position to learn alongside their lawyers.

Grasso, the GenHERation founder, described her work with the DIPTC as “formative” in her career as an entrepreneur.

“I felt like I was in mini-law school for the semester and appreciated how supportive the students and Professor Dahl were at DIPTC,” Grasso said. “It was such a powerful experience, and it opened my eyes to how law and entrepreneurship go hand in hand.”

Explore the experiential learning opportunities at the Gittis Legal Clinics.