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by Jennifer Baldino Bonett
Who could have guessed that the big black box humming in the basement of Penn’s School of Engineering in 1946 would become a touchstone for controversy and launch a new way of thinking about the law? Half a century later, ENIAC, the world’s first large-scale, all-electronic, general-purpose digital computer, has begotten a techno-powered global information network that casts a new light on the ownership and power of ideas — and the laws now commonly known as intellectual property.
“IP is everywhere,” says Lee Petherbridge ‘02. “It relates to individuals through the brands of goods we purchase, through movies and music, and through machines and medications we use. Moreover, the competitive implications of IP may make it increasingly more difficult to provide good advice to business clients if a lawyer does not have an understanding of the IP issues involved. I think for many lawyers giving good advice will necessitate having some understanding of IP issues.”
Petherbridge, now an associate at Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, an IP firm in Washington,D.C., is one of the growing number of Penn Law alumni and students attracted to the area of intellectual property, the domain of copyright, patent, and trademark law. The mix of developing technologies (particularly computer and information technologies) with high-profile, controversial IP cases like Napster, the growing value placed on intellectual assets, and the emerging global economy has reshaped the teaching and practice of IP law.