Francis Gurry: IP Law Must Respond to New Trends
This interview was first published in 2013 Vol. 4 Issue 5 of De Minimis.
Melbourne Law School hosted the fifth annual Francis Gurry lecture last Thursday, with a very special speaker lined up: the lecture’s namesake, Dr Francis Gurry himself.
Gurry, who was introduced by MLS Professor of Intellectual Property Andrew Christie, currently serves as the highest-ranking Australian in a United Nations agency, in his role as the Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
Gurry is also a distinguished alumnus and professorial fellow of Melbourne Law School. He earned his LLB and LLM at the University of Melbourne, with a PhD from the University of Cambridge, and joined WIPO in 1985 after practising as a solicitor in Melbourne and Sydney.
In his introductory remarks, Christie recalled approaching Gurry and telling him that, “You used to teach me”. Gurry apparently then enquired as to what he taught Christie, who humorously replied, as any former law student might in a decade’s time, “Well, I can’t remember”.
Thursday night’s unforgettable lecture was Gurry’s second that week, having spoken on the subject of intellectual property law in Sydney the night before.
The Melbourne lecture easily packed out room GM15 and was streamed online through the MLS website due to large public demand.
In his lecture, his argument was simple: we need to rethink the responsibility of intellectual property law and the role it plays in today’s world, especially given the contemporary and radical shifts in how intellectual property law operates.
He then spoke on the changes that intellectual property law is currently undergoing in the face of three global shifts.
The first change, according to Gurry, has been the economic importance now placed on intangible rather than tangible assets, due in part to the rise of the ‘knowledge economy’.
Secondly, he noted the shift in the geographical centre from West to East, as China emerges as the largest patent office in the world.
Lastly, Gurry mentioned the political shift from state to non-state actors, which he credited to the Internet and social media. He said these phenomena have busted the state’s former monopoly on the control of information.
Students interested in intellectual property law have several options available to study. MLS offers JD electives such as Property in Invention and Creation and Cyber Law, as well as Law Masters subjects, including Patent Law.
The ongoing University of Melbourne Public Lecture Series provides not only good opportunities to re-think the law in a broader context, but also to meet the trend-setting professionals working in law and related fields. Upcoming public lectures are listed online at http://events.unimelb.edu.au/all/free-public-lecture.