INNOVATION LAW CENTER
ILC students and faculty partner across disciplines, helping clients bring next-generation products to market.
When rising 3L Jake Goldsmith was a biology major in the College of Arts and Sciences, he had no idea that he would parlay his education into the courtroom—and the boardroom. “There’s not much difference between science and law,” he says. “In both cases, I’m organizing data to be understood by others.”
Today, Goldsmith is a student at the Innovation Law Center (ILC) and an aspiring intellectual property attorney. ILC not only gives Goldsmith hands-on legal training but also enables him to help innovators, entrepreneurs, and companies bring their ideas to life.
For more than 30 years, ILC has been a pioneer in technology commercialization law, which encompasses the legal, business, and technical aspects of product development. In addition to offering a graduate-level practicum, ILC is New York State’s only official science and technology law center and is a sought-after legal incubator.
Students such as Goldsmith work with faculty experts at ILC, which advises more than 60 clients a year, ranging from startups and established companies to federal laboratories and other research institutions. Most clients, he says, seek out ILC for actionable research analysis about early-stage technologies. The center responds with a detailed landscape report covering the technology’s intellectual property rights, competition, marketplace, and regulatory environment.
“I came to Syracuse because of ILC, whose entrepreneurial
environment reminds me of the West Coast.”
Viviana Bro L’21
Recent projects include an amphibious, all-terrain vehicle; a wind tunnel simulation-testing tool; a gas turbine for an unmanned aerial system; and an at-home catheterization and sterilization system.
“We help clients figure out what to do next,” says ILC Director M. Jack Rudnick L’73. “If the technology is sound, we recommend they contact a patent attorney. If it isn’t, we encourage them to go back to the drawing board. Either way, ILC provides something of value at little or no cost.”
Adds Goldsmith: “We help clients understand what they don’t know.”
Success Breeds Success
ILC is open to students of all majors. Most are second or third-year law students, but Rudnick has noticed a surge in M.B.A. candidates from the Martin J. Whitman School of Management and graduate students from the College of Engineering and Computer Science.
One such participant is Patrick Riolo ’20, G’21, an M.B.A. and a B.S. graduate in bioengineering. He recently proved his interdisciplinary mettle by conducting marketing research for several ILC clients, including a major cybersecurity firm.
“ILC has changed how I view my audiences,” says Riolo, who appreciates the reciprocity between technology and the marketplace. “Here, I’m not writing for a professor or an imaginary judge, I’m writing for a real-world client who is emotionally invested in their product and understands the technology behind it. I like to put myself in their shoes and wonder how their invention might look to an angel investor or a venture capitalist.”
The first in the nation to apply scholarly legal analysis and experiential education to product commercialization, ILC has enjoyed a strong upward trajectory. Its designation as the New York State Science and Technology Law Center in 2004, followed by Rudnick’s arrival in 2013, has enhanced the state’s role as a global leader in unmanned vehicles, medical, and infrastructure technologies.
“Success breeds success. We went from six to 60 clients almost overnight. Now we have more than 120,” says Rudnick. “I’m always thinking about how ILC students can benefit other students on campus and companies throughout the region.”
Ergo his emphasis on effective client management—asking the right questions at the right time to achieve clarity and understanding.
Viviana Bro L’21 discovered this during her first day on campus when she met Rudnick at a student-faculty luncheon. “I came to Syracuse because of ILC, whose entrepreneurial environment reminds me of the West Coast,” says Bro, a veteran of California’s semiconductor industry. “The program has taught me that a lawyer can be a fundamental partner or ally instead of someone who always says ‘no.’”
Bro’s projects also reflect ILC’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. The Chilean-born scholar recalls working with three entrepreneurs on an app that connects people who are deaf and hard of hearing to American Sign Language interpreter services. “Today, the app is widely available,” she says. “We hope it becomes as ubiquitous and easy-to-use in the Deaf community as Uber is for city passengers wishing to hail a ride.”
Supporting the Innovation Ecosystem
David Eilers ’80, who teaches part-time in ILC, says the program’s success is measured in different ways. “Sometimes, the best thing we can do for a client is deliver bad news, saving them millions of dollars down the road. Other times, we’re able to hand them off to a good patent attorney or an investor who helps get their product off the ground.”
An adjunct professor in management and law, Eilers credits ILC for staying nimble amid an uncertain global economy. The key to ILC’s longevity, he surmises, is being different things to different people.
“If you’re a client from New York state, we can serve you as the NYS Science and Technology Law Center. If you’re from out of state or overseas, we can work with you as a tech incubator, with no territorial restrictions,” says Eilers, who also teaches in the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps program.
“Thanks to support from Empire State Development [New York’s chief economic development agency], we can do pro bono or low bono work and pay our students.”
Eilers is struck by the similarity between scientific and legal literacy. “Just as there’s a hypothesis to prove in the scientific method, there’s a business thesis needing to be attacked through a rigorous discovery process. Good data is key.”
Nowhere is this rigor more evident than within Central New York’s thriving innovation ecosystem, where ILC enjoys longstanding relationships with Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars at Syracuse University Libraries, the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental Energy Systems, the Center for Advanced Systems and Engineering, and the CNY Biotech Accelerator.
“Some of our most gratifying projects are those conceived and cultivated in our own backyard,” says Rudnick, recalling a recent collaboration with the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry involving tissue engineering. “We want to make New York State and the world a better place to live.”
ILC’s Student-Led Research Reports Give Innovators an Edge
During 2020-2021, Innovation Law Center students’ applied learning experiences continued apace with virtual student teams developing research reports for clients who brought a spectrum of technologies to the Center, including innovations in green building systems, plastics recycling, medical sensors, biometrics, 6G cell service, streaming media, and infrastructure logistics.
That variety was matched by the research tasks students performed, among them prior art searches, the potential for patent infringements, and commercialization pathway mapping.
This research offers invaluable work experience, as Nikkia Knudsen L’21 discovered when assisting biotech firm Triton Bio. “My team helped Triton narrow down what their technology could look like and then created a report based on potential technological iterations,” says Knudsen, who recently joined the health care practice at Columbus, OH, firm Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP. “This process helped me learn how to guide a client and help them figure out exactly what type of research is useful to them.”
Selected 2020-2021 NYSSTLC Clients
- Icarus Biomedical—Icarus’ Knoggin technology is a mobile application that allows the user to perform tests to assess the cognitive state of a person with a head injury.
- Intermix—A copolymer that adheres the various polymers found in mixed post-consumer plastics, helping increase the amount of plastic that can be effectively recycled.
- MicroEra Power—Solutions for retrofitting existing HVAC systems in commercial buildings to make them more cost-effective and energy-efficient.
- Organic Robotics—Developed at Cornell University, this platform technology uses networks of sensors to read athletes’ body movements.
- NSION Technologies—A media streaming and data management platform that provides real-time, multi-source situational awareness for events and disasters.
- Soctera—This Cornell University-based start-up has developed a high-speed, high-voltage transistor to improve radar sensitivity for future 6G cell service.
- Skip-Line—Real-time information on fleet location, material usage, and application performance for contractors completing road work.
- Optimed—Commercializing University at Buffalo technology, Optimed is currently assessing the patentability of 3D-printed dentures.
- Triton Bio—Novel technology to isolate microbes from biological samples for medical diagnostics.
- Vita Innovations—A “smart” face mask for emergency rooms and similar clinical environments that monitors patients’ vital signs with embedded technology.
The Innovation Review
In the fall of 2020 ILC launched a series of student-written articles to assist inventors and start-ups navigate common issues in IP and regulatory law. The articles are published in The Innovation Review, a monthly newsletter produced on behalf of the New York State Science and Technology Law Center. Read the newsletter at nysstlc.syr.edu/innovation-review.
- Viviana Bro L’21: “Has the COVID-19 Pandemic Ushered in the Drone Age?”
- Kaitlyn Crobar L’21: “General Wellness v. Medical Device Considerations”
- Nikkia Knudsen L’21: “Has Crowdfunding Become the Best Way for Start-Ups to Raise Funds? Not So Fast!”
- Sehseh Sanan L’21:“Implications of Van Buren v. United States and the Reach of the CFAA”
- Sohela Suri L’21: “Considerations for Choosing a Business Entity”