Path to a Patent  

Kyle Ryman headshot

Texas Law alum and McKool Smith Associate Kyle Ryman ’20  was issued a patent on Feb. 20 for technology that covers his app Scholati, designed to assist students in a variety of educational settings, from high school to graduate programs, in preparing for exams.  

The app is a product of Ryman’s own path to educational success.  

A self-described “average student” while attending Texas A&M University for his undergraduate degree, Ryman arrived at Texas Law from the U.S. Army, where he was an infantry officer. “I was a very systems-based commander—it wasn’t about heroics on a daily basis,” Ryman says. Instead, he established processes to ensure daily incremental steps would lead to major results. “That was my general philosophy coming out of the Army,” he says.  

Ryman paired that philosophy with observation of his wife’s experience in medical school. “Medical school students read the research on how to study effectively,” he says, which included using a technique called spaced repetition. It involves reviewing study materials at increasingly long intervals.  

Law school closed-book examinations require memorizing an “incredible” volume of material despite having limited time, so he tried applying the space repetition technique. For Ryman, the technique “was kind of this match made in heaven.” 

“I went into law school with a very systematic approach to studying. It was wildly successful—more than I thought it would be,” he says. In his 3L year, Ryman was named a vice chancellor for earning the second-highest GPA in his graduating class, inducting him into the law school’s most prestigious honor society.    

Independent Study  

Ryman at the AT&T Hotel and Conference Center in spring 2017
Ryman at the AT&T Hotel and Conference Center in spring 2017 

While at Texas Law, Ryman had an independent study with Distinguished Senior Lecturer Graham Strong on what turned out to be a very relevant subject. “I literally wrote a student note on effective study techniques in law school,” Ryman says.   

He produced what Strong calls a “phenomenal” 60-page paper, “A Science-Based Theory of Systematic Studying in Law.” 

That unpublished note describes some of Ryman’s principles, including creating outlines and using spaced repetition. “The research I did with Graham Strong really helped solidify my thinking and greatly aided in my eventual development of the app,” Ryman says.  

The paper itself impressed his instructor. “It was the best product of its kind that I have encountered in my nearly 45 years of teaching in a law school setting,” Strong says. “What Kyle’s work was designed to do, and what it accomplished, was to draw together ideas from cognitive science and what he called ‘systems thinking’ to construct and defend one kind of model for law school study; as he put it, to provide ‘new law students with… a systematized roadmap to prepare for the closed-book, issue spotter final exam.’” 

Issue spotter exams present the test-taker with complex factual scenarios, asking them to identify all the possible legal issues contained in the scenario and to analyze the merits of every claim a party in the scenario might bring forward. 

While Ryman believed anyone could apply his study technique, teaching it was difficult. “I was really cobbling together a lot of independent things. And one was relying on my own skills with computers to automate the creation of flashcards,” he says.  

“I thought to myself, ‘Is there a way to remove the skill aspect, make it easy for people to create effective outlines, and then automatically generate these spaced repetition flashcards for them to study?’ And that’s when I said, ‘Okay, I need an app to do that.’”  

Scholati is Born  

Following graduation from Texas Law, he collaborated with his Army friend and web developer Jackson McGehee to launch a startup (also known as Scholati) and create an app.  

But there was an eventual problem: Ryman—who at the time was working as a law clerk for Judge Don Willett at the Fifth Circuit while running their startup nights and weekends—had already found his passion. “I wanted to practice law. I didn’t want to commit the next 10 years to an education technology company,” he says, referring to the length of time typically needed for successful startups to make it.  

“I chose to be a lawyer,” Ryman says. So, as he went into private practice, Ryman shut down their startup and focused on his law career.  

Patent Process  

Still, Ryman pursued a patent for Scholati. He explains that to qualify for a patent, an invention needs to be new and novel. And Ryman says that’s true of Scholati, which is unlike anything he’s seen before or since. “That was why I wanted to make it,” he says. “Because there was this need, and it wasn’t being filled by the market.”   

“What’s new and novel is the way we assist students with structuring their outlines,” he says. “And then converting those outlines automatically into spaced repetition flashcards.”  

Ryman says they filed for a provisional patent application on March 3, 2021, then a non-provisional application on March 1, 2022, and waited. Unlike many similar patents (a utility patent), Ryman and McGehee enjoyed a relatively expedited process. “Applicants can spend years with their inventions stuck in ‘prosecution’ going back and forth with the examiner over why their invention should be allowed or amending the ‘claims’ defining their invention so that the examiner will allow a patent,” Ryman explains.   

But their application was spared all that. In late summer 2023, they received notice an examiner had reviewed the application and was going to allow it to be patented. So next, they paid a fee and waited some more. With the patent issuance in February 2024, the entire process took almost three years. “And that’s relatively fast,” Ryman says.  

(He’s in good company among fellow Longhorns. The University of Texas System is No. 3 among the top U.S. universities granted utility patents in 2022, according to a ranking from the National Academy of Inventors.)  

The technology can be applied much more broadly than in just law school.”  

Kyle Ryman ’20

Ryman envisions a variety of students using Scholati or the underlying principles. “The technology supports many different subject matters,” he says, noting his wife used it for her internal medicine boards and the patent application discusses learning in a college history course.  

“The technology can be applied much more broadly than in just law school,” he says.   

Law Practice  

Meanwhile, in his role as associate with McKool Smith in Austin, Ryman’s practice focuses on business disputes, intellectual property, commercial litigation in Texas State Court, and appeals in the federal circuit.  

As for Scholati’s future? Ryman wants to donate it. “I am looking for an organization in the education space to donate all this technology to,” he says. “Because I kind of like being a lawyer, and I ain’t giving that up!”   

Securing the patent application was a positive learning experience for Ryman.  

“This whole process has been really beneficial to me in my day job, because now I understand patents,” he says. “I understand what product founders are going through—I’ve lived this.”  

Category: Alumni News