University of New Hampshire

School of Law

History of IP at UNH Law

Over 35 Years of Innovative IP Education and Programs

Many have asked how a small law school in New Hampshire can compete with other top-ranked schools, such as the University of California-Berkeley, Stanford, and George Washington University, especially considering the resources that those schools command. A large part of the answer is the unique history that has made the Franklin Pierce Center for IP a pioneering force in providing innovative IP education.

More than 35 years ago, Robert Rines, a patent attorney and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) had a dream of a MIT School of Law, where the focus would be on the interface of law and science as well as on training patent lawyers with a practice-based approach. What was intended as the “MIT North Campus” in New Hampshire was not to be, as a change of administration at MIT resulted in a decision not to pursue building a law school.

Rines was determined to see his dream come true, and Franklin Pierce Law Center was founded as an independent law school (which, since 2010, has been affiliated with the University of New Hampshire and was renamed the University of New Hampshire School of Law). In addition to being a second-generation patent lawyer, Rines was a wealthy inventor, holding nearly 100 patents. His spirit of entrepreneurship has for over three decades driven UNH Law to be an innovator in practice-driven intellectual property education, always rated near the top of the list of laws schools with intellectual property programs, as ranked by U.S. News and World Report.

The First Patent Practice Program in the United States

As a successful patent lawyer, Rines saw that few starting lawyers knew how to draft and prosecute patents. The Franklin Pierce Law Center was founded with the goal of graduating well-educated IP lawyers with solid practice-based skills. Only two schools taught patent law in any meaningful way before the founding of the Franklin Pierce Law Center, and neither taught patent prosecution.

To address this issue, Rines collected a nationally unique team of patent lawyers who would present students with a well-rounded patent prosecution education. The IP patent faculty team at that time included a law firm patent lawyer, a university/corporate patent lawyer and a former patent examiner from the USPTO. This team set up the patent law and practice curriculum, starting with Patent Law and Practice I & II, which remain the school's backbone patent prosecution courses to this day.

The First Program for Global Intellectual Property Professionals

From the beginning, it was Rines' vision that Franklin Pierce Law Center would be focused on promoting IP as an engine of global innovation, growth and public interest. Professionals from both developed and developing nations were welcomed at Franklin Pierce Law Center for training and the opportunity to learn from others on the cutting edge of international IP practice and policy.

A decade after Franklin Pierce Law Center was founded, these early activities were organized into the first interdisciplinary IP degree in the nation, the Master of Intellectual Property Program (M.I.P.). This one-year program was designed to train IP professionals from around the globe, many of whom went on to start some of the first national government IP offices, law practices and NGOs. All told, the Franklin Pierce Center for IP has trained professionals working in more than 80 countries.

The reach of the Franklin Pierce Center for IP extends far beyond New Hamsphire: Our professors have traveled the world teaching and presenting in dozens of countries to countless different groups, from other universities to professional associations and NGOs. One result of this decades of outreach is that many of our alumni are now teaching the next generation of IP professionals in their home countries.

The First Program to Create an Expanded IP Curriculum

When Franklin Pierce Law Center began, intellectual property was limited to patent law. Since the Franklin Pierce Law Center team included a university/corporate IP counsel, as well as an expert in Trade Regulation, the core patent curriculum steadily grew to include the full range of what is now recognized as IP, including patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, unfair competition, as well as many other practice areas that intersect with IP. Today, UNH Law integrates an IP perspective throughout the curriculum, a concept we've termed “IP through and through.” Thus, our students learn IP throughout their law studies, including in such courses as agriculture law, commerce & technology, bankruptcy, and taxation.

The Franklin Pierce Center for IP evaluates its IP curriculum each year, adding and dropping courses to meet the needs of students and global IP professionals. Despite any year-to-year changes, a few key hallmarks of our IP curriculum remain constant, such as:

  • Offering a curriculum both broad and deep, with dozens of up-to-date courses
  • Recognizing the global nature of IP by offering many international and comparative courses
  • Recognizing the value of practice-based education, including opportunities for externships and clinical work
  • Recognizing the interdisciplinary nature of IP by offering courses at the intersection of IP and fields, such as business, management, science, technology, economics, and public interest
  • Recognizing the value of scholarship by offering opportunities for IP students to work on journals or produce their own original work

The First IP Management Courses

Since the “founding fathers” of IP at UNH Law included patent law firm lawyers, corporate counsel, and university counsel, we were the first to offer courses on IP management. These courses were initially taught by Professors Robert Rines and Robert Shaw and expanded with the addition of Professors Homer Blair and Karl Jorda. These law courses offer students the opportunity to master what is known as the "IP life cycle":

  • Identifying IP and intellectual capital
  • Creating IP
  • Branding IP
  • Protecting IP
  • Managing IP
  • Valuing IP
  • Creating new markets for IP
  • Monetizing IP
  • Transferring IP
  • Financing IP
  • Securitizing IP
  • Taxation of IP

Innovative IP Clinics Serving Live Clients

Since the Franklin Pierce Law Center was founded, it has continuously offered IP clinics, in which students work with IP professors on real-world issues, ranging from patent searching and prosecution to technology transfer and business integration.

These clinics operated long before the legal profession and other educators put any value on practical skills training. That changed when the McCrate Report was issued in l992, which conceptualized law training as an educational continuum involving specific responsibilities on the part of both law schools and the practicing profession. The McCrate Report identified 10 basic lawyer skills and four fundamental values it recommended legal education should be primarily responsible for teaching. As a result, other law schools began to offer the type of clinical education that we had been pioneering for years.

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