Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Daniel Coughlin, Coughlin Law Firm
Nov. 16, 2022
By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University
Patent pending. We frequently see those words on a label but may not think about the process required to gain such a designation.
Today we’ll meet a small town Kansas law firm that specializes in helping clients across the nation protect their intellectual property.
Attorney Daniel Coughlin is founder and principal of the Coughlin Law Office LLC in Sabetha. Stuart Aller is the patent agent in the law firm.
Pictured, from left: Stuart Aller, Daniel Coughlin, Tamra Coughlin | Download this photo
Coughlin is a Michigan native. While earning a doctorate in biochemistry at the University of Michigan, he researched a product that was thought to be patentable. “I was intrigued by the patent process,” he said.
Coughlin earned a law degree at the University of Toledo. Through a church youth group, he met and later married Tamra who was born in Sabetha. While working his way through law school, Coughlin built and programmed control panels at a Sabetha manufacturing company. He recognized that patents help encourage inventors by protecting their innovative ideas.
In 2012, he opened the Coughlin Law Office in Sabetha. Over time, he found a niche in developing and filing patents for his clients.
In 2020, Hiawatha native Stuart Aller joined the firm. Aller graduated from K-State with life science degrees and worked as a scientist for the State of Kansas before moving back to his hometown to teach. Aller met Coughlin and started doing technical writing for the firm during the summers. Aller became interested in the patent work that supports innovation.
“I’ve always been interested in science and technology,” Aller said. He sat for the patent bar exam, which is a specialized form of legal certification. “There’s something like a 40% pass rate,” he said. “It was definitely the hardest exam I’ve ever taken.”
Aller passed and, in 2020, became certified by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as a registered patent agent. He joined the Coughlin firm in offering their KanPat® intellectual property services.
“An inventor will come in with some idea and we will work though it to identify the key factors that make it new and unique,” Coughlin said. Then they develop a proposed filing complete with technical drawings and explanations. Ultimately this is filed with the U.S. Patent Office.
“It is not necessarily a quick process,” Coughlin said. Filings are subject to in-depth review by patent examiners. “Depending on various factors, it can take 2-3 years at the fastest or up to 5-6 years for a patent to issue. However, ‘patent pending’ can usually be achieved in just a few days or weeks.”
“(Working with clients) is one of the best parts of the job,” he said.
Coughlin Law Office recently worked with a K-State student to patent an improved hitch pin. In another case, they worked with an inventor who had been turned away by a big city law firm, but Coughlin and Aller ultimately obtained a patent for him.
Sabetha is a fruitful home base for the company due to the multiple innovative manufacturers found in the community. However, the firm’s reputation has grown far beyond the region.
Coughlin Law Office has done patent work for clients across the nation, from Florida to Washington state. They have also done international work on intellectual property protection in such places as Japan, Brazil, Australia and South Africa.
That’s remarkable for a law firm located in a rural community such as Sabetha, population 2,545 people. Now, that’s rural.
“We get lots of referrals through our loyal clients who appreciate a rural small town law practice with this capability,” Coughlin said. As the law firm’s website states: “We strive to provide professional services with small town warmth and integrity.”
For more information, see www.kanpat.com.
Patent pending. Those simple words reflect a complex process, led in this case by a law office in rural Kansas. We commend Daniel Coughlin and Stuart Aller of the Coughlin Law Office for making a difference by encouraging innovation and protecting intellectual property in a small town setting. The benefit to rural Kansas should be patently obvious.
Audio and text files of Kansas Profiles are available at http://www.kansasprofile.com. For more information about the Huck Boyd Institute, interested persons can visit http://www.huckboydinstitute.org.