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Gideon Parchomovsky, who joined the faculty in the fall, has research interests in IP, property law, fair use, the scope of patents, and patent law. “The complementary strengths of our IP faculty give the Law School a strong core,” says Fitts. “Their attention and energy will make Penn highly prominent in this area.” Wagner and Parchomovsky are planning conferences, says Wagner, in an effort to shape policy debate, legislative decisions, and judicial thinking about IP issues.
The faculty are also grooming their students for scholarship and policy development on IP issues. Wagner leads the Wilson Fellows in Law and Technology, now in its inaugural year. The Wilson Fellows are the top incoming students with an interest in IP law. In a specially designed seminar, Wagner works with the students on projects like a clinic for domain name and trademark dispute resolution and writing IP-related amicus briefs. A student organization called the Penn Intellectual Property Group, established in 2001, hosts speakers, panels, and a mentorship program. “There’s a group of students here who are not only very interested, but very active in doing a lot of real things with IP,” says Wagner.
“IP relates to so many other areas of law and other disciplines,” says Fitts. “We try to instill in our students that IP is part of a larger effort to promote innovation.”
Once in practice, graduates can expect to find IP-related issues laced through many areas of law — constitutional, commercial, property, contracts, corporations, and federal courts among them – and more law firms with an IP component. “There are a lot of career opportunities in it (IP),” says patent law expert Herbert F. Schwartz, JD/MA ‘64, a Penn Law adjunct professor and lecturer since 1981. “That wasn’t true 25 years ago. . . . What’s happening now is that IP law, which used to be the purview of specialized firms, is becoming more a part of the practice of major law firms.” But, he emphasizes, “the basic discipline” — grounded in copyright, patent, and trademark law — “is still the same.”
Penn came early to that “basic discipline,” with law school leaders like Leo Levin L’42, Leon Meltzer Professor of Law Emeritus, taking note of student interest in the areas of copyright, patent, and trademark law. They encouraged faculty members like Schwartz and Gorman, now known as giants in their fields, long before the subjects were en vogue. Penn Law is poised for another generation of innovation.
“Penn is one of the first elite law schools to make a real investment in IP as an area of curricular development,” says Fitts. “Many of the law schools with a focus on IP were ones that trained practitioners, and were not involved in guiding policy development. . . . Penn is on the leading edge in this regard.”