It should come as no surprise that intellectual property and registered patent attorney Michael Stewart is an innovator. It should also come as no surprise—at least for those who know him—that he has used his expertise and entrepreneurial spirit to give back to the community.
Not only has Stewart dedicated hundreds of hours of his time providing pro bono legal services to those in need, he has also rallied others to join him in establishing committees, programs, and organizations designed to do the same.
One of Stewart’s greatest accomplishments was as co-founder of annual “World IP Day” programs throughout the United States, working in conjunction with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO). In recognition of his work, the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) honored him in 2013 with its “Project Award.” In 2016 World IP Day was celebrated in more than two dozen locations in the United States.
He also helped establish the Public Education Committee within the AIPLA. The focus of the committee is to educate the general public and general legal practitioners on the various forms of intellectual property and its value to them as individuals or counselors. Stewart has dedicated thousands of hours educating the public through this committee, including travelling throughout the United States, and developing educational materials on a wide range of different topics the committee has made available to other members of AIPLA to further educate the public.
In addition to his public education work, Stewart has worked with others to establish several pro bono programs throughout the country that help patent practitioners work more seamlessly with indigent clients. He was also asked to join a nationwide pro bono task force and attended the initial establishment meeting at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, DC.
Stewart even found time to help develop a university outreach program where private practitioners and representatives of the USPTO teach classes related to intellectual property, engineering, and business to law students all over the United States.
He has spoken throughout the country at the request of various organizations, including the USPTO, and the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Virginia. Yet, even with his worldwide reach, Stewart did not forget his home state of Michigan.
Stewart has educated the public on the importance of intellectual property to audiences throughout Michigan including at the Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional USPTO location in downtown Detroit, the University of Michigan and Lawrence Technological University. Two years ago, as one of a group of patent practitioners dedicated to helping low-income individuals receive meaningful legal advice, he helped create the Michigan Patent Pro Bono Project (Patent Project), a partnership between the State Bar of Michigan Pro Bono Initiative and the Bar’s Intellectual Property Law Section. The Patent Project works to partner patent practitioners with individual pro bono clients. Since its inception in November 2014, the Patent Project has received almost 70 requests for pro bono patent legal services. It also provides malpractice coverage to attorneys participating in the project.
As much as Stewart enjoys building and innovating, he also has a heart for doing the day to day work of pro bono legal representation. For example, he has represented women survivors of domestic violence before the Oakland County Circuit Court on behalf of the Women Survival Center.
Needless to say, Stewart’s dedication, idealism, motivation and innovation have helped hundreds of lawyers, leaders, and low-income individuals here in Michigan and throughout the world.
-Eisha Vatsal, Robert Mathis, and Lynn Ingram contributed to this story.
Published September 6, 2016