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Assistant Professor R. Polk Wagner
Assistant Professor
R. Polk Wagner

“The ranks of people who are teaching and writing in IP has exploded in the last five years or so,” says Assistant Professor R. Polk Wagner. “Even five years ago you could count on at least both hands and both feet the number of people who were doing a lot of work in IP. I think now we’d have trouble coming up with a list, it’s so many.”

At Penn Law, Wagner is one of two new faculty members who specialize in IP. The other is Assistant Professor Gideon Parchomovsky. Together, they are expanding the curriculum, research, and student activities in IP law.

“The confluence of talent in law, business, medicine, and the applied sciences on one campus allows us to offer a richer law student experience than ever before, particularly in the rapidly developing area of IP law,” says Penn Law Dean Michael Fitts. In a law seminar one February night, Jonathan M. Smith, professor of computer and information science, visited the school to lecture about open-source software and intellectual property rights. He showed the key points of his presentation using a VGA (video graphics array) cable to connect his laptop to the display and talked in terms of UNIX, Linux, BSD and GNU.

The subject matter, the technology in the classroom, and the meeting of minds from Law and Engineering signal a new era from Robert A. Gorman’s formative days teaching IP subjects. In 37 years of teaching copyright, Gorman, Kenneth Gemmill Professor of Law Emeritus, saw it transform from “a boutique subject somewhat on the margins of the curriculum” into “one of the most heavily subscribed elective courses.” By the 1990s, he says, the copyright-related issues surrounding computer software, music, and the entertainment industry “began to affect the life of many, if not most, students.”

Thus, Penn Law began its “dramatic increase in interest and the burgeoning of course offerings and faculty members who are devoted to IP issues,” says Gorman.

 
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