As student-athletes navigate the still-emerging complexities of the NCAA’s new policy surrounding name, image and likeness – also referred to as NIL – they’ll now have a homefield advantage: one of the country’s top intellectual property clinics.
“Our goal is to serve students who are negotiating NIL deals that might involve significant rights of the student but aren’t likely to generate enough revenue to justify hiring expensive specialized legal counsel,” said Mark Janis, Maurer School of Law professor and director of the Center for Intellectual Property Research. “While the sports pages are full of stories about six-figure deals for star college football and basketball players around the country, we think that’s the exception. We aim to help student-athletes locally who have some great NIL opportunities but don’t always get extensive media attention.”
Believed to be the first initiative of its kind in the country, this unique partnership is a win-win, Janis said. Student-athletes will get needed legal representation, and law students, working under the guidance of both full-time and adjunct faculty at the law school, will have the opportunity to develop and hone important skills while working with peers.
The Name, Image and Likeness Initiative will be available to more than 700 student-athletes at IU, with assistance provided on a first-come, first-served basis. It is also open to other IU students who have name, image and likeness opportunities.
“We expect to take on standard NIL deals and market representation agreements, and we’ll represent NIL clients using the protocols that we’ve developed in our work for clients over many years,” said Norm Hedges, clinical law professor at the Maurer School and director of the Intellectual Property Law Clinic.
“We run the clinic like a law firm, with experienced lawyers overseeing upper-level law students who are studying to practice in intellectual property law or related fields that would be relevant to NIL deals,” he said. “The only difference is that we don’t charge our clients lawyer fees.”
Starting in June 2021, the NCAA changed its policy, giving wide latitude for states to decide how or whether to regulate student-athletes’ name, image and likeness deals. That has caused a dramatic shift in the landscape of college athletics.
IU Athletics Director Scott Dolson said the initiative is an innovative solution to issues facing many Hoosier athletes.
“The opportunity to partner with the Maurer School of Law to provide our student-athletes with dedicated resources to help them navigate these intellectual property issues will be an invaluable addition to the already world-class opportunities we provide our student-athletes,” Dolson said. “This partnership will be a tremendous learning experience for both our student-athletes and their peers at Maurer, and is the latest example of our department’s commitment to integrate with the Bloomington campus community.”
Student-athletes interested in using the center’s services are asked to contact the Intellectual Property Clinic at firstname.lastname@example.org, specifying that they are interested in name, image and likeness representation.
“We admire the discipline and dedication that both our student-athletes and our law students exemplify,” Janis said. “It will be amazing to bring both groups together.”
As the NIL Initiative becomes established, the center expects to expand its name, image and likeness services beyond the Bloomington campus, as it has already done for its general intellectual property law services.