The Spangenberg Family Foundation, a Dallas-based philanthropic organization established by the family of Case Western Reserve University School of Law alumnus Erich Spangenberg, committed $3 million to endow the university’s Intellectual Property (IP) Center.
The newly endowed Spangenberg Center for Law, Technology & the Arts will allow more opportunities for students to gain interdisciplinary, practical experience in the rapidly growing field of IP law. The pledge also provides faculty members and visiting fellows more resources to participate in important IP research.
“This commitment serves as a turning point and expands what our center can do,” said Professor Craig A. Nard, noted IP law scholar and the center’s director. “The Spangenberg family’s generosity not only impacts the lives of our students and supports our educational program, but allows us to counsel more entrepreneurs to help get their new ideas and products to the market.”
The hallmark of the IP Center is Fusion, a program in which JD, MBA and PhD science students collaborate to explore a new technology, build a business strategy around it and provide the legal assistance—including IP protection—to commercialize the venture.
Fusion students then transition into the school’s new IP Venture Clinic, where they handle real cases and represent startup ventures, mostly in Northeast Ohio. The multi-million dollar commitment, among the largest the law school has ever received, will allow the clinic to expand its reach outside the region.
“It’s about training students to represent the creator, innovator and artist,” Nard said. “It’s an interdisciplinary endeavor, including not only business and legal principles, but artistic design. How do you construct a start-up company to position it for funding? What should go into that venture? These are complex issues that our students are addressing.”
The Spangenberg Family Foundation, founded in 2008 by Spangenberg, his wife Audrey and their son Christian, has long been a benefactor of the Case Western Reserve law school.
Erich Spangenberg, a 1985 CWRU law school graduate, is founder and chairman of Dallas-based IP Navigation Group. Previously, he was a law partner at Jones, Day, Reavis and Pogue; senior vice president of investment banking at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette; and president of both SmarTalk Teleservices and Acclaim Ventures Group.
“With the Fusion program, Case Western Reserve law school brings an interdisciplinary approach to teaching IP law,” Erich Spangenberg said. “This is something you don’t see often in law schools, and one of the many reasons why we wanted to support the center’s mission. Under Craig Nard’s leadership, the center’s programs and curriculum reflect what today’s IP lawyers need: a deep understanding of the diverse array of legal and business tools to move forward with the commercialization and monetization on an intellectual asset.”
The Spangenbergs’ pledge also provides funding to expand externships and other experiential opportunities for students. For example, the school’s World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Research Lab, which kicked off last spring, runs like an experimental think tank and is aimed at generating team-based research projects. Based in Geneva, WIPO is the pre-eminent international institution responsible for developing, managing and coordinating international intellectual property. The lab explores cutting-edge issues between research and policy in international intellectual property at WIPO.
The commitment also enables the center to launch a conference series. The center will partner with Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society on a national conference in November 2014, based on a book, Creativity Without Law: How Communities and Markets Challenge the Assumptions of Intellectual Property, forthcoming in NYU Press and edited by CWRU law school’s Aaron Perzanowski and the Berkman Center’s Kate Darling.
“The impact of the Spangenbergs’ generosity knows no bounds,” the law school’s Interim Deans Jessica Berg and Michael Scharf said. “We can’t thank them enough for their support, which is paramount to our law school’s mission of moving forward as a national leader in intellectual property law.”