“It wasn’t seen, it was absolutely invisible. There was not a single university in the country that offered it as an undergraduate course. There was no textbook in the subject, and there was only one university which offered it even as a postgraduate option.”
In the second of Oxford’s new series of Law Vox podcasts, Jeremy Phillips, editor of Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice, describes how the field of intellectual property law looked when he started his illustrious intellectual property law career.
Jeremy’s conversation with Law Vox also addresses how intellectual property evolved and grew to encompass many different features. He uses the analogy of Tracey Emin’s bed to explain how intellectual property touches many aspects of our lives without us consciously realising it:
“Tracey Emin’s bed is something which is so familiar. We all have a bed, which we don’t necessarily make every day, and we all have the typical mess which hangs around it. We don’t really see in detail, what it is that we leave behind us when we get dressed and go to work, because it’s so much taken for granted. That is very much the case with intellectual property – it so pervades everything we do. Every time you go to the shops, you’re making a decision. Shall I buy this product or that product? You’re actually relying upon years of patient work by intellectual property practitioners, in protecting brands, in patenting products, in registering designs, or containers and packaging, and lawyers who then license the distribution of products.”
As the conversation moves on Jeremy discusses topics which address how intellectual property interacts with the commercial world, and in talking about how the world of copyright in books, articles and literature forms a large part of this. Jeremy delineates copyright law’s parameters, and points to how intellectual property is a champion of creativity:
“Copyright doesn’t protect ideas, it doesn’t protect facts, it only protects the way in which you express them. If somebody comes up with an interesting scientific theory, and writes it down and publishes an article it’s there for everybody. The only thing they can’t do is to copy it, in the way in which it’s been expressed, but the idea there is for everybody to use. Intellectual property emancipates ideas, and encourages people to disclose them.”
In Jeremy’s discussion of trade marks, he uses the example of Wayne Rooney to show how trademarks are distinguishable from patents and copyright, and how trademarks frequently extend to areas that are decidedly non-creative on the part of the individual registering the trademark:
“Most trademark rights have nothing to do with intellectual property at all because they’re not to do with protecting the fruits of the creation of the individual. If you happen to be born with a name like Wayne Rooney, and register ‘Wayne Rooney’ as a trade mark, you can license your name in respect of sports products and all sorts of other things and make a lot of money out of it, but Wayne Rooney did not name himself. If he had any particular intellectual power it certainly didn’t go into creating himself. The basis upon which trademarks are protected is only that they enable ordinary people like you and me, consumers, to distinguish one lot of goods from another.”
Turning to the future, Jeremy describes what interesting questions might come up in intellectual property in the next few years that he is keeping an eye on, including dispute resolution in intellectual property:
“Well, it’s like asking me which of my children I love the best isn’t it? I love them all for their different qualities, and it’d be invidious to pick one. I will give you a couple of choices and I’ll tell you what they are because they don’t involve specific subject areas. One is the dispute resolution issue. If you have somebody who says: ‘This is my intellectual property right and you’re infringing it’, then somebody else who says, ‘I’m not infringing it,’ then whether it’s a patent or a trade mark or a design, it doesn’t matter, you’ve got a potential piece of litigation and I feel that a mature system like the intellectual property law system where we’ve had laws now for a long time, and the way in which the courts work is quite predictable should produce a situation in which cases can usually be solved before they go to court.”
If you want to learn more about what Jeremy Phillips thinks about the future of intellectual property law, you can listen to the full conversation on Soundcloud.
Featured image: ‘Headphones’, by kev-shine. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.