Creative Clark County High School Students Generate Intellectual Property Challenges

Southern Nevada is becoming a hotbed of technological innovation.

One group of local inventors has drawn up plans for an electric-powered plane. Another cluster of creators drafted designs for an ecofriendly public bus. Still others have created video games. Some of the technologies are novel and patentable, with potential uses in broader industries.

But there's a catch: These innovators are high school students. And when they invent through the Clark County School District's science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs, the question becomes, who owns the rights to their work --- the kids or the district?

It's an increasingly common question, said Mark Tratos, an intellectual property attorney and a managing shareholder in the Las Vegas office of law firm Greenberg Traurig. Students are more interested than ever in high school science competitions, as both media attention and college scholarship money can flow from successful inventions.

"Students are looking at science fairs and student experimentation as a way to increase their overall attractiveness to college recruiters," said Tratos, who added the caveat that school budget cuts could cut the trend short if money for STEM initiatives dwindles.

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