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Penn Law’s Journal of Business Law holds annual symposium discussing data privacy, intellectual property, and employment law

January 29, 2019

On January 26, Penn Law’s Journal of Business Law held its annual symposium, featuring several panels of experts that discussed topics such as data privacy, intellectual property, employment.

The all-day event, titled “Harmonizing Business Law,” was held at Penn Law in collaboration with the Center for the Study of Business Ethics, Regulation & Crime (C-BERC) at the University of Maryland, and focused on an innovative review of the harmonization of business law in the United States and across national borders. The symposium was also sponsored by law firms Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP; Schulte, Roth & Zabel LLP; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP; and White & Case LLP.

The symposium began with a panel on corruption, contracts, and corporations, before moving on to a panel about finance, sharing, and data privacy. The last panel discussed intellectual property and employment, and featured eight speakers.

Penn State Professor of Risk Management and Dean’s Faculty Fellow in Business Law Dan Cahoy kicked off the intellectual property panel with a talk on harmonizing minor invention rights in divergent global systems. Cahoy discussed utility models, a subset of limited, faster patents that are not available in the US but are offered in half the world’s countries. There has been recent research, which counters the idea that utility models are distinct invention forms, and Cahoy argued that utility models satisfy a need for a diversity of appropriability, concluding that overall utility model disharmony appears to provide benefits without major harms.

Mike Schuster, Assistant Professor of Legal Studies at Oklahoma State’s Spears School of Business and Suneal Bedi, a doctoral candidate in the Marketing and Business Ethics department at Wharton, introduced the topic of standardizing trademark fame metrics in the second talk of the panel. The pair talked about their research in product recall latency, in which participants’ recognition speed of business trademarks are analyzed, to determine whether brands should be categorized as famous in court cases.

“The original purpose of trademarks was not to protect advertising or distribution,” Bedi said. “The purpose of trademarks is to protect association [and] the speed at which you do that.”

Associate Professof of Law and Ethics at Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business Karie Davis-Nozemack and Assistant Professor in the School of Accountancy at Clemson University Kathryn Kisska-Schulze reviewed sustainability and tax innovation policies in the second half of the panel, which focused on employment. Davis-Nozemack posited that disharmony between employment tax and innovation policies exists currently because employment tax and innovation policies no longer pursue the original social goals that they did decades ago.

“What we’re seeing is that with the influx of baby boomers retiring as well as the extended life expectancies of people, we’re running out of money,” Davis-Nozemack said. “This is a bit scary, but 8 years from now, Medicare is set to expire.”

Kisska-Schulze said she believed that tax frameworks need to become more sustainable, or in other words, integrative, interdisciplinary, and intergenerational. Sustainability also would not displace other tax policy approaches, she said, but would be robust enough to incorporate them.

Lastly, Associate Professor of Management and Business IT at Framingham State University Karen Druffel and Professor of English at Framingham State University Lynn Parker gave a presentation titled “A 21st Century Response to a 19th Century Problem: Social Networks and Sweatshops.” Druffel discussed corporate social responsibility in the apparel industry such as anti-sweatshop efforts, which the speakers then connected to the ethics of Victorian textile mills. Parker contrasted the Victorian model of corporate social responsibility through “captains of industry” to modern day systems of crowd-sourced and financial performance-based ethics, highlighting the lack of substitutes for law and government in achieving those ethical goals.