Syracuse University Magazine


Dr. Robert Corona (center), vice president of innovation and business development at the Central New York Biotech Accelerator in Syracuse, shares insights with Thomas Anderson L'16 (left), Andrew DiPasquale L'16, Jessica Chesher, program coordinator at the New York State Science & Technology Law Center, and Anirudha Kinhal L'16.

Taking Flight in the Marketplace

Innovators have a destination in mind. Now they need a flight plan. “We show the inventor or entrepreneur the landscape, and what they are facing, in areas of intellectual property, regulations, competition, and market,” says Jack Rudnick L’73, professor of practice and director of the Technology Commercialization Law Program (TCLP) at the College of Law. “They need to know what might stop them dead in their tracks before they spend time and resources going forward. They need to know where their real opportunities are.”

The program centers around two yearlong courses in business, regulatory, and intellectual property law. Technology Transactions Law is a lecture, and features guest talks by subject area experts and practicing program alumni. Students negotiate mock licenses, prepare forms and counsel for a fictional startup, and write a paper on the commercialization of a technology in the market. In the second course, Technology Commercialization Research Center, students work with clients who have a new technology to commercialize. The teams research the feasibility—and pathway—for the technology to reach the market, including market and intellectual property (IP) landscape and regulatory issues.

Clients include tech companies, university technology transfer offices, New York State research centers, and the Empire State Development’s Division of Science, Technology and Innovation (NYSTAR). The latter, in 2015, appointed TCLP as the official New York State Science & Technology Law Center for a fourth three-year term (it was first chosen in 2004). The tenure includes a $1 million grant, with a mission to assist economic development by helping businesses and institutions in New York State get new and emerging technologies to the marketplace. “It’s not enough to give firms tax breaks or funding if they can’t access the resources and services they need to move forward,” Rudnick says. “We work with companies that might not be able yet to afford to get this information, or are too busy trying to get things off the ground.”

Leonardi Manufacturing Company Inc. is one such firm. The diversified manufacturer of metal parts, located in Weedsport, New York, developed an innovative lawn trimmer with a patented cutting system that uses 50 percent less power and cuts twice as fast as string trimmers on the market today. “We saw the SU law program as a great opportunity to help us commercialize it,” says owner Joe Leonardi.

Leonardi wanted to evaluate licensing versus a startup. The students delivered IP research, product and market studies, and business strategies. The engagement led to other opportunities at SU, including working with the popular course, What’s the Big Idea? Leonardi also worked with College of Visual and Performing Arts industrial and interaction design students to generate models and drawings for the product.

The business owner, currently looking for partners or investors, was pleased with the collaboration. “The most impressive part was the people we worked with and the doors that opened to us,” he says. “The students and staff were always willing to help in any way they could. Jack Rudnick and Molly Zimmermann [associate director of the New York State Science & Technology Law Center] made sure we had everything we needed and then some.”

TCLP also offers “house calls,” providing entrepreneurs with research and other assistance on-site. It issues reports on IP and technology commercialization. It produces webcasts, makes presentations on patent and market research, and has a newsletter on economic development and IP news. It hosts conferences, and publishes a Startup Guidebook series.

Rudnick hopes students come away with at least two things from the program. “The first is an understanding of how to work together,” he says. “They need to collaborate, because when they present a report, if their section is perfect but the rest is lackluster, they’ve failed the client.” He also wants students to finish their studies “with the confidence they can hit the ground running, ready to add value,” he says. “We want students to be assets in the professional workforce from day one.”

That’s what Nick Somers liked. “I learn through experience,” the third-year law student says. “We work with individuals and companies that need guidance and advice. I have an edge over others entering the field—I’m thinking and acting like an attorney while in law school.”

Not that the student experience is neglected. Says Erin Phillips L’15, “Although the real-world experience was one of the biggest rewards of the program, what I liked best about TCLP was the camara-d-e-rie, and the friends I made throughout my time there.”

The program, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, was founded by the late law professor Theodore Hagelin, who passed away in 2013. “Ted had the foresight to begin building this curriculum, the first of its kind,” Rudnick says. “If you look at other law schools, you will see a lot of similar programs, but most were developed more recently and none do all that we do.”

TCLP is just what today’s Innovation Economy requires. “The entrepreneur is so in love with his ‘baby’ that he or she doesn’t see the flaws and challenges,” Rudnick says. “Often we show the client an easier and less expensive path to market, giving them a better chance of success. No investor is going to put money into a new venture without seeing the information our program provides. Our services are very much in demand in the startup world.”  —John Martin

Practical Practice

Tom AndersonThird-year law student Tom Anderson credits his general interest in intellectual property (IP) for leading him to TCLP. “I wanted to learn IP, but I wanted something that showed how IP is put to work—how it melds with other legal and business concepts in the technology realm,” he says.

At TCLP, he worked on a wearable device that monitors breathing to predict asthma attacks. He investigated what trademarks do, and what they protect; how they are registered and enforced; and the benefits, obstacles, and alternatives to trademark registration. “My understanding of what it is to ‘study’ has been changed by this program,” Anderson says. “We study not only what it takes to get a patent, but whether the patent should be sought in the first place; and if so, what to do with that patent once it’s obtained. You don’t get these answers from a textbook or case study, you get them through experience. This is what TCLP offers.”

This summer he’s working for the general counsel at National Public Radio. “TCLP was the main talking point in my interview,” Anderson says. “The breadth of material it covers, and the manner in which we learn, made an impression on the interviewers.”


Professor Jack Rudnick L'73 (left), director of the Technology Commercialization Law Program and the New York State Science & Technology Law Center (NYS STLC) at SU, and Dr. Robert Corona hold a discussion with Jessica Chesher, program coordinator at NYS STLC; James Zino L'14, project advisor; Molly Zimmermann, associate director of NYS STLC; and law student Thomas Anderson L'16.

Photos by Steve Sartori