MSU Law Team Wins Second Place at Virtual Patent Drafting Competition

Brianna Loder, ’20, George Sang, ’20, and Lawrence Arsanos, ’20, competed together for the first time as a team at the Midwest Regional for the National Patent Application Drafting Competition on March 14, 2020.

Months of preparation led up to the event but just a few days shy of the competition in Detroit, everything changed.

Amidst health concerns and travel restrictions caused by COVID-19, the competition was moved online, and the team was forced to adapt.

Navigating a virtual competition with just days to prepare proved to be a challenge but the team wasn’t alone in taking it on. With support from MSU Law, including the team’s faculty advisor, Professor Jeff Carter-Johnson; their MSU Law alum coaches, Caitlyn Silverblatt and Cassandra Green; and the IT staff, the team was set up with a conference room in the law building and all the resources they needed to be able to compete.

Despite best efforts, technical difficulties were not unexpected. During their first-round presentation, the team was unable to see the judges on the other end, but they kept going.

“One of the biggest adaptations was having to sit down and talk to a phone, especially in the first round because we didn’t have the judges on screen. I looked at the phone like it was a person,” Arsanos explained. “We had our coach in the background saying, ‘Lawrence, look up, look up.’ I had to remember that I had to stare into the camera and look at them.”

Arsanos was the only member of the team who had previously competed at the event. “The competition tries to keep itself as close to how a patent prosecution would go,” he explained. “We start with a search, finding pieces of prior art, and based on what we can find, we narrow in on what we couldn’t find in our searches and build around that as our point of novelty and start drafting around that with some feedback from our coaches.”

While the competition may not have been in the format they expected and prepared for, the students, all of whom hope to work in patent prosecution beyond law school, said the experience taught them a lot about the patent process, and the unprecedented circumstances also taught them about who they are as professionals.

“It’s very practical hands-on knowledge that you don’t necessarily get at this point in your career,” Loder said. “Depending on where you work, you may not get to work with an invention right from the start and mold the application the way you want it to be, so it’s really great to be able to go to an employer and say we worked as a team, did this application, and were successful.”

“It helped show us we’re adaptive,” Arsanos added.

At the end of the day, the team was awarded second place at the Midwest Regional, impressing the judges with prior art they found to support their presentation. While unable to take a team-winning photo with their trophy at this time, the 3L students who will graduate this year have agreed that they will return to the Law College to share the moment together one day.