North Carolina Central University is launching a Intellectual Property Law Institute with the help of funding from Cary-based software giant SAS.


A SAS patent executive explains.

“SAS has been advocating improvements to patent quality for some time as a way to protect American innovation and spur economic growth,” explained Tim Wilson, Director of Patents at SAS.

“Intellectual property law grows more complex with the rapid pace of emerging technologies.

“The country needs law graduates specifically trained to analyze patents and assess their quality.”

SAS along with Red Hat and other technology companies have fought aggressively for patent reforms.

Why SAS would not disclose the amount of the funding it made for the NCCU Institute, the Cary-based software giant made clear in the announcement that it considers the mission to be very worthwhile.

“The IP Institute is a perfect nexus of two important advocacy areas for SAS,” said John Boswell, SAS Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer.

“We’re helping a local university produce talent that’s in high demand in the Triangle and beyond. The graduates of this program will provide needed resources to the legal market, which will help businesses and organizations innovate and thrive.”

The new institute will offer students “practical legal experience” through review of “suspect” patents at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Its initial focus will be on North Carolina-focused industries.

NCCU’s law school is one of 11 institutions that are certified by the USPTO to offer both a Patent Clinic and a Trademark Clinic.

Charles Smith, an NCCU law professor, will be the IP Institute director. He previously worked for Xerox as a patent attorney and as a counsel at Bechtel Corporation.

“This support of the Institute by SAS is enormously valuable to the principle objective of training students to be key players in addressing the quality of United States Patents,” Smith said in the announcement. “We are truly grateful to SAS for demonstrating leadership and support for students and this community.”

SAS’s Wilson sees the Institute support as being another way SAS can help develop needed talent.

“Though SAS supports the efforts of many colleges and universities to fill persistent STEM and analytics skills gaps, this is the first IP law effort we have supported,” he explained.

“Under the leadership and vision of Dean Craig-Taylor and Professor Charles Smith, graduates of NCCU’s IP Law Institute will use their specialized expertise to serve the public interest.”

The IP Law Institute

NCCU’s statement about the purpose of the institute:

“The IP Law Institute will fill a critical need of one of the fastest-growing practices of law, while attracting students with undergraduate degrees in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. The Institute has the additional objectives of:

1) recruiting STEM students with diverse backgrounds and experiences to intellectual property careers;

2) providing practical experience for students in the protection of creative works and innovations;

3) advanced training for law graduates in the form of continuing legal education seminars, symposiums and publication; and

4) promoting a quality patent system through filing Inter Partes Reviews (IPRs) in the public interest.”