A Technology Commercialization Law Student Helps Drone Start-Ups Soar
Classes might be out for summer, but the work of the College of Law's Technology Commercialization Law Program (TCLP) continues apace, with students and staff coordinating several early stage commercialization law projects to assist entrepreneurial clients and economic development business partners.
One of these business partners is CenterStateCEO, Syracuse's economic development agency, which held the finals of its GENIUS NY unmanned aerial systems (UAS) business accelerator competition at the Marriott Syracuse Downtown on April 9, 2018. Funded by Empire State Development, GENIUS NY is the largest UAS business accelerator competition in the world.
The $1 million grand prize was won by Swiss company Fotokite, whose technology provides fire departments a live aerial situational awareness tool to help fight fires and save lives. As part of the accelerator program, the competition finalists were invited to become TCLP clients. This summer, rising 3L Cody Andrushko has been gaining crucial practical experience by taking the lead on providing intellectual property (IP) research assistance, which focuses primarily on trademarks and patents, to the drone companies as they prepare to enter a crowded marketplace.
Andrushko took time out of juggling his workload to describe his projects for TCLP and his UAS clients, the path that brought him to TCLP, and the legal career he hopes to pursue, bolstered by this experiential training.
Could you describe your work this summer on behalf of the GENIUS NY UAS teams? What IP challenges, if any, have been raised for the start-ups?
I am currently leading a team working on projects with four of the six GENIUS NY finalists, and I plan to meet another one soon. The advice we give is not legal advice, and we make it clear that what we say is not a substitution for the work of an attorney. That said, our advice can be integral in assisting companies understand potential issues and risk. One of the biggest IP concerns I have spotted is potential trademark issues. Because of the "use in commerce" requirement, many of the companies have yet to federally register their mark. So we are conducting Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) and secondary source searches to determine if there may be issues when it comes to the use of their marks. In addition, we are conducting patent landscape research, as well as research on the markets they plan to enter.
How does this IP work benefit TCLP clients?
Our work helps the companies understand potential issues there might be for commercialization and whether it may be smart to contact an attorney to resolve these issues or gain further guidance. In addition, TCLP may provide regulatory research, although I am not currently providing this type of assistance for these clients. But we have offered them some of the literature the law center has created over the last few years, having already worked with a few drone companies outside the GENIUS NY initiative.
How did you develop your interest in IP law and commercialization law?
My bachelor's degree was in biology and pre-health from LeMoyne College in Syracuse, NY. However, I found myself drawn toward the law, yet I still wanted exposure to science and technology. As a result, IP and commercialization law, and in particular patent law, has become the perfect focus for me.
I have taken almost every IP class offered by the College, and I took TCLP courses as a 2L. Last summer, I worked for the US Patent and Trademark Office's Office of Patent Legal Administration through DCEx, the Washington, DC, externship program. This experience allowed me to perform the duties of an examiner, reviewing and potentially rejecting patent applications submitted by attorneys, companies, and pro-se inventors.
How is your practical work for TCLP preparing you for your career?
My experience in the law center, and my IP courses, have provided me the necessary skills to analyze patent landscapes in order to help start-ups understand potential vulnerabilities or issues they may face when seeking patents or licensing patents (I've noticed, for instance, that sometimes patents may be extremely narrow, so a landscape can potentially caution a client that a patent might not have the value they believe it has).
Moreover, through TCLP, I am maintaining my exposure to transactional, innovation, and start-up law. I enjoy conducting research and providing analysis for early stage companies, helping them understand potential risks, and seeing them grow.
GENIUS NY 2018 UAS Companies
Fotokite (Switzerland)—combines aerial and ground-based robotics with flight control algorithms to create a kite-like tethered drone system that can fly fully autonomously for 24 hours.
Quantifly (Michigan)—simplifies and reduces the costs of parking and traffic studies through the unification of unmanned aerial systems, machine vision, and analytics by eliminating human error, mitigating safety risks, and centralizing harvested data.
TruWeather (Virginia)—a service to improve the precision, accuracy, and communication of weather intelligence.
UsPLM (Syracuse, NY)—a collaborative environment to develop, test, deploy, and safely operate a single or a fleet of unmanned aerial systems.
DropCopter (California)—technology that allows farmers to pollinate orchards via drones.
Precision Vision (New Mexico)—image processing technology that makes real-time precision imaging affordable.