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February 09, 2023 | Tom Ballard

Vol Court Session #1: A focus on intellectual property

Former UT Research Foundation intern who is now with an IP firm shares types of IP with students during first of five weekly sessions.

Derrick Davis, a University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) College of Law graduate and former intern with the UT Research Foundation, kicked off the spring session of the “Vol Court Speaker Series & Pitch Competition” erlier this week with a discussion of intellectual property (IP). It’s a subject he knows well, serving as an IP Attorney with LegalForce RAPC Worldwide, billed as a firm that protects more intellectual property than any other firm in the U.S.

During the first of four topical sessions ahead of the pitch competition of March 8, Davis’s presentation was titled “From Start-up to Cash Out: Legal Tips for Aspiring Entrepreneurs.” Roughly 30 students attended the hour-long session organized by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Davis covered patents, trade secrets, copyrights, trademarks, and, very briefly, confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), explaining the first four in some detail. “Patents are the area that gets the most attention,” he told the students, explaining that “patents grant the owner a short-term monopoly (of sorts) to practice the discovery or invention.”

Noting what anyone who has pursued a patent has experienced, Davis explained that they are expensive to obtain and even more expensive to enforce.

He described the other elements that fall under the IP umbrella this way:

  • Trade secrets refer to any piece of information that holds economic value by virtue of not being generally known or discoverable by others. “They are easy to obtain and can last forever,” Davis said.
  • Copyrights protect original works of authorship upon creation – think movies, music, books, paintings and sculptures.
  • Trademarks frequently involve words and logos that apply to goods and services.

By the time he had introduced the topic of trademarks, the students began to pepper Davis with questions that pretty much consumed the remaining time, allowing him to only briefly address confidentiality agreements and NDAs.

Next up on February 15 is Jake Rheude, Chief Marketing Officer at EcomHalo. The Ohio native and UTK alum launched three companies while still a student. One –SummerSett Foods LLC –  won three business plan competitions hosted by the Anderson Center – the 2011 “Fall Vol Court” and 2012 and 2013 “Boyd Venture Fund.” Those were followed by JuniorGolfInfo and GuruSkins.

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