Founded by an avid inventor, UNH Law leads in intellectual property law

Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Protecting Innovation

The founder of the Franklin Pierce Law Center, now University of New Hampshire School of Law, Robert Rines held more than 100 patents on his own creations and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. He composed scores for at least 10 Broadway and off-Broadway shows, and he was so dedicated to the quest to find the Loch Ness monster that he trained dolphins to wear cameras to capture images of it.

So it’s no wonder that when he set out to establish a law school explicitly to train practice-ready intellectual property (IP) lawyers, he didn’t simply succeed — he set in motion a process that would lead to the continued development of IP law around the globe.

Rines founded the Franklin Pierce Law Center in 1973 in what used to be a bull barn on the east side of Concord, N.H. From those humble beginnings grew an international power in intellectual property law, the legal sector that aims to protect rights to inventions, designs and literary and artistic works. UNH Law has produced graduates who are working in some of the preeminent law offices in the world and consistently has been ranked in the top 10 in the United States for the study of IP law by U.S. News & World Report. In 2016, the school was ranked fifth, behind only UC Berkeley, Stanford, New York University and George Washington University.

Of the school’s early days, intellectual property librarian and professor of legal research at UNH Law Jon Cavicchi explains that patent lawyers were not trained in how to prosecute patents at the time. “Rines’s approach was, if you see a need, you fill it. So he went about starting a law school to train practice-ready patent lawyers.” In doing so, he changed the landscape of IP law education near and far. An obscure specialty in the United States when the school was founded, intellectual property law was virtually nonexistent in many countries around the world. Rines brought groups from China, Japan, India and other countries to sit in on classes at no cost and to visit patent offices with him. His hope was for the visitors to study the U.S.system before returning home and adapting it to their countries’ needs.

“The school was largely responsible for developing IP systems around the world,” Cavicchi says.

Indeed, UNH Law graduates have held influential positions setting IP policy in far-flung IP offices in China, Korea, India, Switzerland, Singapore and Nigeria as well as at the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Many of those graduates, like Mahua Roy Chowdhury, helped shape the structure of IP law in those countries.

UNH consistently has been ranked in the top 10 in the United States for the study of IP law by U.S. News & World Report.

A 2001 graduate of the school’s LL.M. program, Chowdhury returned to India and co-founded Solomon & Roy (now ROYZZ & Co.), a firm considered instrumental in advancing India’s understanding of the importance of IP law.

“Countries like India look to the West for the development of intellectual property law,” Chowdhury says. “When I started my firm, instead of promoting the firm itself in India, I had the challenge of promoting intellectual property. When I went to multinational companies, I had to encourage management to allocate resources for IP. And my presentations were built on what I learned at UNH Law.”

The school’s IP impact has certainly been felt domestically, as well. UNH Law graduates have ascended to positions of influence in IP at many multinational corporations throughout the country. Micky Minhas ’97 JD, LL.M and Timothy Joyce ’92 JD, ’93 MIP are chief patent counsels at Microsoft and Bayer, respectively, and Joseph Ferretti ’00 LL.M. is chief trademark counsel for PepsiCo.

UNH Law graduates also hold IP leadership roles in major law firms like Fenwick & West, LLP, the Boston office of Fish & Richardson and the leading IP boutique Lando & Anastasi, LLP, in Cambridge, Mass.

Founder Robert Rines certainly had a tendency to bring his ideas to life — hanging in the American Inventor’s Hall of Fame is a painting featuring the Loch Ness monster as he imagined it might appear. Even more vivid is his fully realized vision for intellectual property law education, the far-reaching, industry-influencing program that got its start in a New Hampshire bull barn.