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In 2013, the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) launched an exciting and bold new program to increase Latino representation in the field of intellectual property (IP) law. In initial partnership with Microsoft, and now expanded to include Adobe, Apple, Facebook, Google and Lenovo, the HNBA Intellectual Property Law Institute[1] (IPLI) is making a difference.

Innovation is the lifeblood of the U.S. economy, and IP law is an increasingly important factor in America’s future economic strength. Yet, statistics show that Latino lawyers are underrepresented in the fields of IP and tech law. The low numbers suggest a lack of understanding about these fields, a lack of role models, and a misconception about the skills and background needed to practice. When the IPLI was launched, Latino IP attorneys were 1.8% of the profession. Now on its eighth year and having a 70% success rate, IPLI has contributed to an increase in the numbers.

Each year the IPLI selects up to 30 law students from law schools throughout the country to participate in this IP and tech law immersion program. Competition for spots in the IPLI is high. Selected candidates spend a week in Washington D.C., where the IPLI takes place. Travel to and from Washington, D.C., lodging, meals and materials are covered by the IPLI. The IPLI provides substantive instruction, hands-on practical experience, writing workshops, visits to U.S. government institutions related to IP law (Patent and Trademark Office, Copyright Office, Federal Trade Commission, House and Senate Judiciary Committee, U.S. International Trade Commission, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit), briefings from leading IP practitioners and congressional and executive branch authorities, mentorship relationships, and networking opportunities—all designed to give participants a broad understanding of IP law practice.

The IPLI is anchored by a briefing on issues in an active patent litigation case followed by attending live oral arguments on the same case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (“CAFC”). Attendees also receive a rare behind the scenes tour of the court and meet CAFC Judges and law clerks. The Honorable Jimmie V. Reyna of the CAFC hosts the group at the court and speaks to the students about IP law and the court’s role in its development.

[1] The IPLI is a joint enterprise with the HNBA VIA (“Vision in Action”) Fund, the HNBA’s 501(c)(3) arm.