The 16th Annual Intellectual Property Scholars Conference: the Perpetual Question of Balancing of IP Rights

Jurgita Randakevičiūtė

PhD Candidate at Vilnius University Faculty of Law, Scholarship Holder at Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition

The Sixteenth Annual Intellectual Property Scholars Conference, which has recently been hosted by the Program in Law, Science & Technology at Stanford Law School, provided both experienced and young IP specialists with the opportunity to present their newly finished projects or works-in-progress and discuss questions regarding current status and further development of the IP legal order with their colleagues. To the extent, that I was able to observe the presentations taking place in plenary and parallel breakout sessions, I have tried to summarize the content of this significant and very intensive IP conference, which I had the opportunity to be a part of.

11-12 August 2016: the annual ‘Intellectual Property Scholars Conference’ (IPSC) was held by the Program in Law, Science & Technology at Stanford Law School. For the sixteenth time IPSC brought together a large number of IP specialists from all over the world to present their recently finished projects or works-in-progress, in order to receive comments from their colleagues (the full program can be accessed here). As every year, IPSC was co-sponsored by the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology, UC Berkeley School of Law; the Intellectual Property Law Program, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University; the Center for Intellectual Property Law and Information Technology, DePaul University College of Law; and the Stanford Program in Law, Science & Technology, Stanford Law School.

The conference had two main parts: (i) plenary sessions and (ii) parallel breakout sessions. During this two-day event all the so-called ‘traditional’ areas of IP law (copyright, patent, trademark and design protection), as well as closely related ones, such as, trade secret, big data, consumer protection, privacy, publicity and competition law have been touched upon to a certain extent. Additionally, many of the presentations demonstrated a firm position towards the interdisciplinarity of IP law. Such fields as, cognitive science, computer science, philosophy and, of course, economics were analysed not only as factors shaping our understanding of reality or as possible methodological sources, that could be used in making IP law more effective, but also regarded as the creators of new objects, processes and concepts, that require new IP regulation. Furthermore, a significant part of the presentations had a clear international dimension, while discussing the role of international IP institutions and the IP law-based possibilities to deal with global problems, e.g. access to medicines and environmental issues.

Despite a wide array of analysed IP and related questions, varying from international to rather national aspects and from more philosophical to clearly practical ones, many presentations boiled down to discussions directed to the issue of balancing the interests between the IP right owners and the users of IP law-protected objects. The latter point was discussed in the context of questions such as, whether IP is still an adequate tool while solving certain global or local problems, regulating new phenomena created by human ingenuity and effective when promoting innovation and serving public interest. Taking into consideration the controversies between the participants of IPSC, this could seem as a perpetual question when it comes to defining of how IP law should be like. Although, at the moment, reaching an immediate consensus on this issue seems rather unlikely, it is essential to raise these questions, and such events, as IPSC, seem to be a suitable environment for doing that.

The next IPSC will be organized by the Intellectual Property Law Program at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University. There, taking into consideration this year’s experience, one should expect further in-depth investigations on the IP legal order followed by intensive discussions.

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