Luke Dauchot won’t be surprised when high school students start taking classes in intellectual property (IP). “The day is not far off,” said Dauchot, a partner at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis. “IP is an important educational staple. In today’s economy, understanding IP and how to leverage it creates a significant competitive edge.”
Courses in intellectual property may not yet be in high schools, but last year USC Marshall’s Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies began offering The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Intellectual Property, a class designed to introduce college students to the ways IP works and generates value. A first-of-its-kind in the country, “We want to demystify intellectual property early on,” said Dauchot, who also is an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Marshall.
Dauchot developed the course for the Greif Center in partnership with medical innovator and philanthropist, Gary K. Michelson M.D, and former USC president C.L. Max Nikias. “Our thinking was, why relegate this to post-grad or law school?” he said. “We wanted it to be an undergraduate course because it doesn’t make sense to wait.”
IP for all
At this level, the idea is to help students appreciate the value of IP and recognize its impact on our economy. “We want them to understand the ways it can be used to advance their interests,” Dauchot said. “It’s not about turning students into IP lawyers. We want undergrads to take this course and know enough to ask the right questions. Whatever you’re doing you need to consider IP. You have to know to ask, ‘What about the IP?’ ”
"Students will never look at the economy the same way." --Luke Dauchot, Partner at Kirkland & Ellis and adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at USC Marshall
He said that while this can be particularly valuable for entrepreneurs, understanding IP is good for everyone. “The ultimate valuation of a business will often hinge on the strength of its IP,” said Dauchot. “That’s important to entrepreneurs, but the implications obviously reach beyond them.”
Property ownership has shifted in the United States since the 1980s. Back then, the value in large corporations was by and large a function of bricks and mortar. The advent of the digital age and other high-tech advances, along with a shifting labor market, has changed that equation. “Today, at least 75 percent of a company’s value rests in IP, such as in patents and trademarks,” said Dauchot. “That’s where the real value is. Companies must consider how they differentiate, how they gain an edge, and how they protect that edge.”
It’s a hit
At USC, the students have embraced the new course. After an initial marketing effort, it has been filled through word of mouth with a range of students from Roski School of Art & Design, Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Viterbi School of Engineering, as well as Greif and Marshall.
Dauchot teaches them IP as a value proposition, helping students see how it works and why from an economic perspective. He brings in people from businesses such as Google, Intel, Dolby, Apple and Nike that have a big stake in protecting their intellectual property. “These representatives bring unique ‘real world’ experiences and perspectives to the classroom that textbooks can’t provide,” Dauchot said.
After they take the course, “Students will never look at the economy the same way,” Dauchot said. “They will see the power of IP when they look around, and they will have an advantage over anyone who doesn’t understand it.”