In recent years, Windsor Law has become a magnet for students interested in studying and practising intellectual property (IP) law. A major reason is the Intellectual Property Law Institute (IPLI), a unique three-way partnership between the University of Windsor, The University of Detroit Mercy and Wayne State University.
The institute allows Windsor Law students to take IP law courses at any of the three universities, capitalizing on the wealth of regional expertise in cross-border IP issues.
Professor Myra Tawfik has been teaching IP and copyright law at Windsor Law since 1991. Every year, she would receive desperate phone calls from local artists, writers and businesspeople seeking legal assistance with IP issues. The problem, Tawfik says, is that there are few knowledgeable IP lawyers outside of Toronto.
That is when Tawfik had her “light-bulb moment”.
"Here we have this concentration of highly skilled and highly motivated law students and an underserved community in terms of legal resources in intellectual property law," thought Tawfik.
With support from the Law Foundation of Ontario, she launched the Intellectual Property Legal Information Network (IPLIN), a Windsor Law student group dedicated to community education and outreach on important IP legal issues.
Around the same time, Professor Francine Schlosser at the University of Windsor Odette School of Business launched a community outreach group for MBA students called the Centre for Business Advancement and Research (CBAR).
Recently, the two groups joined forces to offer a series of free, comprehensive entrepreneurship workshops to Windsor community members. The CBAR students focused on the logistics of planning and financing a business, while the IPLIN students coached entrepreneurs on how to protect their ideas.
"The tendency now if you're starting a small business is to start a knowledge-intensive business," says Tawfik, who explains that websites and software are business ideas that qualify as intellectual property.
This first set of workshops, which were developed and delivered entirely by University of Windsor students, focused on immigrant entrepreneurs in the community. The plan is to continue working with traditionally disadvantaged groups who do not have ready access to a network of resources for launching a successful new business. In the fall, the CBAR/IPLIN partnership plans to offer workshops for youth entrepreneurs in Windsor.
"The idea for this next round is to not only give them the information, but to work with them one-on-one," says Tawfik, who has found the outreach experience deeply rewarding. "Hopefully, next summer they will be totally poised to actually start their businesses."
Learn more about Professor Tawfik's exciting work at her faculty website http://uwindsor.ca/law/tawfik/.