Google Grants Cardozo $200,000 to Launch Project to Close U.S. ‘Patent Gap’
In a press release distributed on August 21, 2017, Cardozo Law School announced that Google had awarded them a $200,000 grant to launch the Cardozo/Google Project for Diversity, an initiative designed to help close the “patent gap” in the U.S. by “becoming the go-to destination for women and other underrepresented entrepreneurs in need of patent assistance.”
Professor Aaron Wright, an Associate Clinical Professor of Law at Cardozo Law School and the person in charge of the initiative, said the Cardozo/Google Project for Diversity is expected to create “a network of representatives” in order to provide legal services on a pro bono basis to underrepresented groups that are seeking to file patents. Wright disclosed that the program will be available to “African Americans, Latino Americans, and female entrepreneurs in need of legal assistance.” Cardozo will also provide its own legal counsel to underrepresented groups.
According to the press release, 92% of patents do not have a woman listed as a primary inventor, and 82% do not have a woman inventor at all. The release also mentioned that U.S. born minority groups make up just 8% of U.S. born patent holders.
“Nobody understands why there is a patent gap,” said Wright. “We believe that there is a lack of access to the legal system.”
According to Wright, the cost of filing a patent is often prohibitive and expensive, usually priced at around ten thousand dollars. The cost is high because the specialized nature of patent lawyers means there are less of them. Such a large cost for patents is often difficult for entrepreneurs to handle in the early stages of forming a business. By providing free legal counsel, Cardozo hopes to remove the financial barrier, allowing for more underrepresented inventors to patent their ideas.
Cardozo alumnus, John Labarre, is senior legal counsel to Google. According to Wright, Labarre asked to meet with Melanie Leslie, the Dean of Cardozo, and Wright in the fall of 2016. It was then that Labarre expressed his frustration with the patent gap and the group set to work to find a solution.
The group saw an early success this August when they received funding from Google. However, Wright expressed that the project is still in its early stages.
“There is still a lot of work that needs to be done, and a director still needs to be picked,” he said.
The grant for the Cardozo/Google Project for Diversity was announced shortly after an incident regarding Google’s diversity programs this past summer.
On August 7, 2017 Google engineer James Damore was fired for circulating a memo that suggested that men are better suited for jobs in technology than women.
“I'm simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don't see equal representation of women in tech and leadership,” wrote James Damore in his memo.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Damore’s memo was intended to “criticize Google’s efforts to increase diversity at the company.”
Wright affirmed that the memo and Google’s decision to award a grant to Cardozo were not connected and that the Cardozo/Google Project for Diversity was in motion long before Damore’s memo and firing took place. He also asserted that Google will play no role in the administration of the program and that Cardozo has not been influenced in any way by Google with regard to the Cardozo/Google Project for Diversity.
Cardozo Law School was founded in 1967 by Yeshiva University. It is famous for The Innocence Project, an initiative to vindicate wrongly convicted people by the use of DNA technology that may not have been available at the time of the original trial. Cardozo’s website reports that it is ranked number 14 in the nation for practical training and 1st in New York by The National Jurist.