Starting Up My Interest in IP Law

“You’ll never know until you try” is one of my favorite quotes. My interests in college spanned multiple subjects, including Economics, English, and Political Science. I worked in business development and sales prior to beginning my legal career at Loyola this past fall. Although I am still exploring, IP is high on my list of legal practice areas because it connects to my prior experience working with startups. Here’s how I got involved:

Start Up Your Cars

At the onset of my freshman year at UCLA, I joined TAMID, a national on-campus organization that provides pro-bono consulting to Israeli startup companies. During my four-year tenure with TAMID, I worked with multiple startups. My experience primarily featured technology startups, and I took a keen interest in how these companies legally protect their ever-changing software products.

Before I explain the software, it might help to provide context about the type of startups I worked with. I spent the most time working with a startup called Autofleet because I was awarded a two-month internship with its founders in Tel Aviv, Israel. The opportunity to explore the intersection between technology and transportation, and how this could look in the future, piqued my interest.

Autofleet is a mobility technology startup. Generally speaking, mobility tech startups aim to increase transportation efficiency through their software products. Autofleet’s software platform effectively allocates vehicles to meet any source of demand, accounting for factors such as traffic, route pooling, and dynamic pricing. Fleet owners, in addition to ride-hailing giants like Uber and Lyft, can use this platform to maximize efficient vehicle deployment.

Photo by Denys Nevozhai, licensed under Unsplash

IP Questions Facing Startups

While working with Autofleet, I observed the relationship between tech startups and IP law. Software developers are challenged to protect a product that is constantly evolving. I saw the development team at Autofleet updating and editing its code daily. With a software product that’s always changing, protecting a startup’s IP assets can be difficult.

Why the many changes? Technology startups adapt their platforms based on customer response and the needs of the market. When new competitors join the market, software developers may be forced to differentiate their product. Developers may also need to pivot due to unforeseen  market forces (i.e., a global pandemic). All of these issues make the protection of IP complicated.

The flip side of protecting IP is avoiding IP violations. While interning, I wondered what precautions tech startups can take to ensure that they do not infringe on the IP rights of others. I am curious about the consequences a startup may face if it suddenly pivots and unknowingly infringes on the IP rights of another. Similarly, I am interested in how IP rights are litigated when two startups compete to first bring a service to market. When litigating an infringement dispute, I pondered what factors might determine which startup would have the upper hand.

Photo by Laurie Decroux, licensed under Unsplash

Starting Up Solutions

These thoughts and my desire to help startup companies were pivotal in my decisions to attend law school and pursue IP law. Now that I am a law student, I look forward to taking IP courses at Loyola that will shed light on these questions facing startups. I hope to learn how copyrights and/or patents can protect software, and if these are the rights that startups might be in danger of violating.

Landon Wilneff
Assistant Blogger
Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD 2024