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Wayne Law business, patent clinics offer resources to entrepreneurs

March 21, 2014

DETROIT – New businesses, such as Detroit-based RegainGo and LithSafe, are getting a boost from Wayne State University Law School’s two business clinics.

Students in Wayne Law’s Program for Entrepreneurship and Business Law work under the guidance of experienced attorneys in two clinics – Business and Community Law Clinic and Patent Procurement Clinic – offering free legal services and advice to qualifying Detroit-area startups and nonprofits. Students can get real-world experience while helping the revitalization of Detroit.

Owners of RegainGo and LithSafe said the help they got from the clinics’ students was a key part of them getting their businesses up and running.

“They were instrumental in helping us with privacy policy and terms of service,” said entrepreneur Jason Beale of Warren. Beale, with partner Clark Covert of Dearborn, started RegainGo, a service that connects homeowners with contractors. “They also helped us get trademarks for our name and for our logo.”

RegainGo was incubated at Detroit’s TechTown, a nonprofit business accelerator started by and affiliated with Wayne State University. That’s where Beale heard about the Business and Community Law Clinic.

Other entrepreneurs ask him how he’s managed to accomplish so much of his startup work in such a short time, he said. “We tell them we used the resources of Wayne State’s law clinic. I always tell people the clinic was instrumental.”

He’s using the Patent Procurement Clinic’s services, as well, and expects to gain patent approval for aspects of RegainGo’s technology by this summer. The process has gone much faster than he expected, thanks to the clinic’s affiliation with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Beale said. It’s the only affiliated clinic in Michigan.

Second-year law student Candice Coats of Inkster, who has a master’s degree in business administration from Syracuse University and a bachelor’s degree in applied engineering science from Michigan State University, worked with RegainGo and other businesses in the Patent Procurement Clinic.

“I am grateful for having such a rewarding experience and having the ability to work with clients so early in my career,” Coats said. “I absolutely love working directly with small businesses and individuals in the community. Business is what shapes our country, and the growth and well-being of businesses as a whole is going to help our local economy.”

RegainGo.com will do business using a website featuring a Google map. Users, for free, can key into their own neighborhoods and see virtual “yard signs” or pins showing what contractors’ jobs have been completed nearby. When users click on a pin, they’ll get a description of the work done, see photos of the project and get information such as how much it cost, how long the job took and a 15-second video of the homeowner’s comments reviewing the work.

It’s a referral service that won’t cost consumers anything, Beale said. Instead, the contractors will pay to show off their work via RegainGo’s maps.

Beale and Covert have partnered with the Home Builders Association of Michigan and National Association of the Remodeling Industry and are bringing contractors online now. Beale’s background includes finance, real estate and marketing, and Covert has construction management experience.

Gerry Flood of Birmingham and Ron Butler of Detroit, owners of LithSafe (formerly LithFire-X), also are using Wayne Law’s patent clinic to secure the rights to one of their developments – a network of tubing for fire suppression that would connect to the front of the lithium-ion battery packs in hybrid and electric vehicles.

Flood is a big proponent of alternative energy, but lithium-ion batteries have a built-in problem, he said. If they catch fire, even after the flame is extinguished, chemical reactions inside the battery continue, creating the potential for an explosive incident.

“What we’ve developed not only puts the fire out, it cools the battery,” Flood said. “There’s a general lack of understanding about the risks.”

Patent clinic students liked what they heard about LithSafe’s business idea and went to work doing a comprehensive patent search as well as helping the entrepreneurs apply for their pending patent.

“It was just fantastic,” Flood said. “It got us all set. The work was beautiful. We only had to pay for the drawings, and they did all the work.”

Like RegainGo, LithSafe got its start through TechTown, and that’s where Flood heard about the clinic.

“We also specialize in emergency training for these fire suppression systems,” he said. “We were granted a contract with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop a test cell that would allow them to safely test vehicle battery packs. We developed and designed the test cell for them, and then trained their personnel. That got us up and running.”

Flood and Butler met two years ago in a sales training course. Butler is a retired firefighter with a master’s degree in education. Flood’s background is in insurance, alternative fuels, management and fire suppression systems.

LithSafe has some corporate customers already and soon will be training AAA towing and claims workers about lithium-ion battery fires and the dangers involved.

“Both LithSafe and RegainGo are poised to contribute to the economic revival of Detroit,” said Assistant (Clinical) Professor Eric Williams, director of the Program for Entrepreneurship and Business Law. “Supporting our community is an integral part of Wayne Law’s mission.”

Photo captions:

Jason Beale, left, and Clark Covert, founders of RegainGo, used Wayne State University Law School’s business and patent clinics to help get their Detroit-based company going.

Candice Coats, a second-year law student at Wayne State University, helped startup business RegainGo apply for a patent for some of the firm’s technology.

Gerry Flood, left, and Ron Butler founded LithSafe and have a patent pending for their business thanks to the work of student attorneys at Wayne State University Law School’s Patent Procurement Clinic.