Can you tell us about the Bucerius IP Center? When and how was it founded, and what is its mission?
The Bucerius IP Center (Center for Transnational IP, Media and Technology Law and Policy), was established in 2012, under the guidance of an Academic Advisory Committee made up of renowned international scholars. Creating the Center was a team effort of the faculty, primarily Prof. Karsten Thorn and BLS management, as well as with the support of DLA Piper, our founding partner. The Center’s goal is to promote international scholarship and teaching in the broader field of knowledge governance, of which IP laws form a significant part. We view the IP Center as a gathering point for scholars and students from around the world.
What are the Center’s current activities?
Now, at its five-year mark, the Center offers several teaching and research programs. The third class has graduated from its Certificate in Media, IP and Technology Law this year. Jointly with UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, we offer a summer program titled “International IP Transactions”, now in its fourth edition, that brings together students from 23 countries. The three-week course combines lectures by academics and practitioners, with small-group simulated negotiation exercises and workshops at Airbus and Google Hamburg.
The IP Center’s doctoral program includes students from Germany and other countries. Together with our research assistants they form a team of capable and enthusiastic researchers who participate in the Center’s diverse activities – conferences, lectures, workshops and publications.
2017 saw a major success: the BLS team won the Oxford IP Moot Court competition, a first for a school from a civil law country, whose students are not native English speakers.
Please describe a few of the new developments at the IP Center
First, and most exciting for us is the fact that the prestigious German IP Lawyers Association (GRUR) will sponsor a Senior Professorship for patent law at Bucerius. Effective 2018, it will be held by Prof. Theo Bodewig, former Chair for Patent law at Humboldt University.
Next, we are working on a post-graduate diploma in IP law, intended to fill the gap between the largely theoretical IP education received in university and the practice needs of law firms. The program is contemplated to start 2018 or 2019 and offered in cooperation with the Bucerius Education GmbH.
Further, the IP Center supported an idea competition for inventions solving local challenges in emerging economies, organized by the Helmut Schmidt University (HSU) Lab for Production Technology, as part of our interdisciplinary collaboration. The competition finalists met with IP Center researchers to discuss the IP issues raised by their inventions. The IP Center is contributing to a HSU Springer publication and interdisciplinary collaboration is ongoing.
Finally, we are also contemplating collaboration with the World Intellectual Property Association (WIPO) Academy on projects such as the IP summer program.
In short, the IP Center has seen significant growth since its inception and we plan to continue on this path.
What is the focus of your research?
The Center has published three books, Access to Information and Knowledge: 21st Century Challenges in Intellectual Property and Knowledge Governance and Innovation, Competition, Collaboration, with Edward Elgar, and An International Perspective on Design Protection of Visible Spare Parts, with Springer, as well as several articles. Earlier this year, our research assistant Constantin Blanke-Roeser received the first prize at the HSU conference on “Value creation through innovation” for his article “3D Printing as a Challenge for Patent Law in Europe” and has developed somewhat of an expertise in the field.
I personally am focused on international IP, which I teach both at UC Hastings and Bucerius, as well as on comparative IP law with a preference for design law. The most recent publication was with An International Perspective on Design Protection, mentioned above.
Lately, we have been dealing with patent law topics: we are closely following developments relating to the UPC, we have dealt with comparisons US – EU in the area of patentability and non-obviousness and we are currently looking at how patents impact the emerging field of open hardware.
Of course, our doctoral students each work on their own research. And we welcome visiting researchers.
How did you get interested in Intellectual Property? How do you manage your time and balance scholarship with practice while working between continents
Having received legal education in both the US and Germany, I have an inherently international perspective on the law, and culturally I thrive on the dual life between continents. My family is also distributed between the US and Europe.
I started law practice in Silicon Valley, whose economy runs on IP, so IP law seemed a natural thing. Gradually I moved to academic work, because it appeared more rewarding. Today I teach at UC Hastings in San Francisco in spring, and at Bucerius, in summer and fall. Other academic work, such as research, speaking and doctoral student supervision, is done year-round and often remotely. I have guest lectured at various law schools, including CEIPI University of Strasbourg, the Riga Graduate School of Law, Humboldt University and the Chinese Academy for Social Sciences. My (now quite limited) law practice at Squire Patton Boggs, San Francisco is also done in large part remotely.
With the growth of the Center, I spend more time in Hamburg running it. I love being at Bucerius - it is a stimulating environment with extremely gifted students and enjoyable and interesting colleagues in the faculty and management. Year-round, the administration of the Center is capably run by our Executive Director, Karsten Windler.
In past years, you have hosted several Alexander von Humboldt fellows at your IP Centers. What are the major benefits for such cooperation?
Collaboration with the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation has proved particularly fruitful. The IP Center, together with the International Office, has hosted several Alexander von Humboldt Foundation fellows in the German Chancellor Fellowship program. The fellows are typically young professionals, interested in integrating in the German environment and eager to share their knowledge and expertise. The Humboldt foundation makes it the fellows’ mission to work on lasting collaboration between their country of origin and their host institutions. One particular fellow stands out in this regard, Arpan Banerjee, a young professor of IP law from Jindal University in India. Arpan became involved with the IP Center in a number of different ways, by teaching classes, advising the Moot Court team, assisting in the Summer Program workshops. He also very effectively helped spread the word about BLS internationally. BLS is planning a joint conference with Jindal University for 2018. As the IP Center is entertaining new applications by potential Humboldt fellows, we look forward to future collaboration with the Humboldt Foundation.
What is the role of IP laws in the face of rapidly emerging technological change?
IP laws regulate rights to knowledge and information. In an economy, whose currency consists increasingly of knowledge, these laws gain utmost importance and their implications are far-reaching.
However, present-day realities present a challenge: IP laws were conceived for an industrial age, based on a national territorial and individualistic logic, while today’s innovation and creation occurs in digitally networked, collaborative, global innovation communities. The contribution of many minds is needed to ready these laws for dealing with future issues such as big data, climate change, blockchain technologies, artificial intelligence or machine creation. We will grapple with some of these topics in the lecture and discussion series, “Law and Innovation”, to start 2018 in cooperation with the law firm Fieldfisher.