Republished by kind permission of the INTA Pro Bono Committee
“I have always been a champion of the underdog, which explains my interest in pro bono work,” Susan Neuberger Weller shares. Susan, a Member in the firm Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo PC, has managed her firm’s trademark practice group from Washington D.C. for over 15 years. “Every business, profit or non-profit, needs a trademark and needs to protect that trademark for its own benefit and for the benefit of the public to avoid confusion.”
Susan’s practice has involved all aspects of intellectual property and related corporate business transactions, with a particular emphasis on domestic and international trademark and copyright searching, prosecution, enforcement, counseling and litigation. She works with IP firms worldwide in protecting and enforcing her clients’ IP rights. “I never had a trademark ‘mentor’, Susan recalls as she reflects on her early beginnings in trademark law. “I am totally self-educated.” She attended law school at George Washington University after graduating from the University of Miami cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in English, Economics and Psychology. “I was ready to graduate in three years with a double major, but decided I would probably like law and be good at it so I stayed a fourth year to pick up a third major to help with law school admissions.”
Susan’s interest in volunteer work extends beyond intellectual property cases. One of her first pro bono cases involved a Colorado custody battle for the child of a slain mother. “There were four parties vying for custody. It was a months and months long, bitter battle and trial, but the end result was I won custody for the father. It was a good feeling.” Since then, Susan has volunteered for various organizations, including Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the Girl Scouts, and she continues to offer her IP services to the Montgomery County Humane Society, National Network to End Domestic Violence, Greater Boston Food Bank, the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare, and even the John Kerry presidential campaign. “I love all the projects,” Susan explains. “I must say that the Schwartz Center is a very rewarding representation. It was started by a former Mintz partner while he was dying in an effort to make healthcare more compassionate for the dying. It now has an international presence and is helping caregivers all over the world. I have helped them every step of the way.”
Susan’s commitment to pro bono work for clients has been publicly acknowledged and is highlighted annually in Mintz Levin’s annual Pro Bono Report. She recognizes the importance of pro bono work, particularly as it relates to IP, because the protection and enforcement of IP that is valuable to the owner should not be impossible only because of the lack of sufficient financial resources. “Non-profits, for example, which engage in charitable fundraising need to avoid confusion to ensure their fundraising efforts benefit their organization and to ensure that the public is not confused about to whom they are donating. New companies need to start out on the right foot to avoid being accused of infringement and avoiding becoming victims of weak or unsupported claims of trademark infringement asserted by much larger companies with significant resources. These companies may not have the resources necessary to defend against such claims.”
The International Trademark Association (through the work of the Pro Bono Committee) provides a clearing house to connect eligible parties in need of assistance with trademarks with INTA member trademark attorneys. This trademark dedicated clearing house is the only one of its kind currently and performs a vital role in supporting one of INTA’s primary beliefs - “that all consumers and businesses benefit when trademarks are protected in a meaningful and consistent manner”.
To find out more about eligibility criteria for prospective clients or to enquire about volunteering in this wonderfully worthwhile programme, please visit https://www.inta.org/Advocacy/Pages/ProbonoClearinghouse.aspx