By Jane Whitehead
Third-year student Kevin Kahn is drafting document requests in a trademark dispute between his client NautiGirl and global lifestyle brand Nautica.
He is seeking documents, clothes, logos and anything else to distinguish between Nautica’s sailboat symbol and NautiGirl’s trademark—a cocktail-brandishing sailor-girl behind a ship’s wheel with the tagline “Dare to be naughty!”
“I’m trying to play a chess game and anticipate any documents that might help me with my argument that they have no rational reason to reach out to us,” Kahn said.
Still a half-year from graduating and taking the bar, Kahn is representing real clients through the Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship Clinic, a recent addition to Suffolk Law’s 10 in-house clinics that range from health law and immigration to criminal defense and juvenile guardianship. Ranked among the top 25 nationwide for six years by US News & World Report, Suffolk Law’s clinical programs have now reached the top 20, placing 17th in the 2014 guide.
This is now the second year the IP clinic has represented NautiGirl, with each new batch of students reviewing the filings and memos of past clinical students, said clinic director Eve Brown. Brown supervises the eight clinical students and is the attorney of record on all litigation cases.
This fall, Kahn and third-year student Christina Mott helped Brown prepare for depositions. (Unfortunately, the sessions were in New York at the start of exams, so the students couldn’t attend.) In the spring, the students will use the deposition transcripts to prepare a motion for summary judgment.
Like in a law firm, Brown meets with students weekly to discuss ongoing cases and the clinic has a database of past briefs and memos that students can use to refer to previous work.
“It’s really better than the traditional partner-associate relationship, because the projects they get are not necessarily ones that would run down to a young associate,” she said.
Previous clinical student Alexander Chiulli JD ’13 said working with real clients was invaluable. Chiulli helped represent MonsterFishKeepers, a small company that hosted online forums for exotic fish enthusiasts. Multinational beverage company Monster Beverage contended MonsterFishKeepers’ logo and brand name infringed its own trademark in a David-and-Goliath dispute that drew the attention of The Boston Globe in March 2013.
“It taught me to ‘think like a lawyer’ and trust my analytical process,” said Chiulli, now a law clerk in the Rhode Island Supreme Court. “This sounds rather simple, but it’s hugely important to trust yourself as you speak for and represent others.”