As law course’s founding professors step down, two former students take their place

Brian Dawley and Ambar Nayate have replaced Steve Shumaker and Kent Sieffert in a patent prosecution course this fall.

Ambar Nayate and Brian Dawley chats in the conference room of Shumaker & Sieffert, P.A. on Thursday, Aug. 29.

Nur B. Adam

Ambar Nayate and Brian Dawley chats in the conference room of Shumaker & Sieffert, P.A. on Thursday, Aug. 29.

Joe Kelly

Eighteen years ago, two professors at the University of Minnesota Law School created a new course on patent prosecution. Now, two of their former students are taking their place.

As adjunct professors Steve Shumaker and Kent Sieffert step away from the course, Brian Dawley and Ambar Nayate will bring their own experiences to their lectures this fall. The course, called Patent Prosecution Practice, was the first in the law school to teach the practical side of working with an inventor and guiding their inventions through the patent process. 

Before Shumaker and Sieffert began teaching patent prosecution, there was only one intellectual property course, and it focused on the academic study of patents. Today, the law school offers almost 20 courses that cover patents and intellectual property, said Christopher Turoski, director of patent law programs at the University.

“The analogy would be farm to dinner fork, idea to patent,” Turoski said. “[In] a typical patent course, you read cases and learn the law…  In the patent prosecution course, you need to learn the law, but it’s more of a practical approach where you create a deliverable product.”

At the same time Shumaker and Sieffert started teaching the course, they also founded their own firm, Shumaker and Sieffert Patent Attorneys.

Dawley and Nayate attended the course on patent prosecution while at law school together. They then became partners at Shumaker and Sieffert’s firm within a year of each other. After finishing law school in 2007 and 2008 respectively, Nayate and Dawley would come in and help Shumaker and Sieffert with their lectures.

“They are young, dynamic, up and coming practitioners that have a growing practice,” Sieffert said of Dawley and Nayate. “I think both are positioned really well.”

Shumaker and Sieffert helped specialize intellectual property courses at a time when most universities and law schools hadn’t, Turoski said. 

“I think they’re big shoes to fill,” Dawley said of Shumaker and Sieffert. “What will be missed most of all is their personal stories.”

As Dawley and Nayate take their place, they hope to bring their own experiences to the classroom.

“I remember sitting in that classroom and recognizing the things I wasn’t good at,” Nayate said. “I would take those things I didn’t understand and try to tailor some of my teaching with that recognition of knowing what a student might not understand.”

Knowing each other for 13 years is something the two will use to their advantage when teaching side-by-side.

“It’s sometimes nice to have another person in the room to interject, ‘oh this happened to me, this is what happened in my practice,’” Dawley said. “It’s more educational because there’s two heads in the room instead of one.” 

Traditional academic courses can’t replicate the training that their course offers, Nayate said.

“I think the biggest impact is the students gaining confidence if they want to pursue patent prosecution as a career and having a general idea of what … day one will be like at a law firm,” he said.