Moot Court Team Finishes Second in Nation at Trademark Competition

In February, Trevor Mason, ’20, Minelli Manoukian, ’20, Mark Babcock, ’20, and Joshua Hoebeke, ’21, received second place at the Chicago Regional of the Saul Lefkowitz Trademark Moot Court Competition and advanced to the National Finals set for March 21, 2020, in Washington, D.C.

For returning team members, Mason and Manoukian, their goal heading into this year’s Chicago Regional was to push themselves harder than they had in previous appearances at the event and to see just how far they could go. Preparation began in early 2019, starting with filling two open spots on the team. Babcock was the first recruit, and he brought Hoebeke into the group.

They received the problem in November and described it as fun and creative, atypical of the usual problems posed to teams at these competitions. At the core of the problem were two competing fueling stations, one of which had accused the other of imitating its unique roofing design.

“Usually the problem has to deal with something of particular constitutional importance, something that people get very passionate about that affects everybody – not saying that this issue isn’t important, it’s very important – but you could tell that the writers of this problem had their fun,” Babcock said. “The characters were just interesting. One of the people was really into gas-guzzling and energy drinks and donuts and anything fried; and the other person was a door-to-door kale salesman, he didn’t watch TV, he was the ideal ‘green’ person. The ridiculousness of these characters was so fun, but you also have to be serious.”

Their coach, Professor Jeff Carter-Johnson, worked with the team as they prepared their brief and arguments. “Any time we thought we had something great when we first started out, he was really good at picking apart the things we needed to look at in more depth or talking us through parts of the law that we may not have been familiar with,” Manoukian said.

On March 10, the in-person competition for the National Finals was cancelled amidst new COVID-19 regulations and growing safety concerns, and it was determined that qualifying teams would be ranked based on their Regional scores.

When the news first broke, despite coming in second place overall at the Chicago Regional, the team was nervous.

“It was scary for us because we only knew the teams at our competition,” Manoukian said. “There are five other regions across the United States, and we didn’t know how any of the other teams had argued, we didn’t know what their brief scores were, we were essentially going into the unknown.”

The final results were sent out via email, revealing that the two qualifying teams from the Chicago Regional came out on top nationally with MSU Law in second place and receiving the award for Best Oralist Team.

“We flipped out,” Mason said.

“Getting that validation and finding out that we managed to win Best Oralist was super amazing, especially since I’ve had the opportunity to hear every one of my teammates argue and see how they progressed throughout the competition and throughout our practices. It’s a really proud feeling,” Manoukian said. “It also gives you a good sense of confidence going into the field because you know, based on what the judges have told you and the rankings, that you do know how to speak in front of practicing attorneys and retired judges. Your advocacy is actually working.”