2008 Archive


New Robert Barr Scholarship Honors BCLT's Executive Director

Robert Barr's far-reaching impact on Berkeley Law and the intellectual property field will be honored in perpetuity through a newly created scholarship in his name. Three former co-workers of Barr, executive director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology (BCLT), have raised nearly $300,000 from 34 donors—29 of whom did not attend Berkeley Law.

Each year, the scholarship will be awarded to a student who has demonstrated financial need and a strong interest in technology law. The recipient will receive $10,000 per academic year, and engage in specialized studies with Barr and other prominent IP scholars at the school.

The idea sprouted while alums Mallun Yen '95 and her husband, Jason Lemkin '96, pondered how to allocate their recent gift to the law school. Yen worked with Barr at Weil, Gotshal & Manges and later joined him at Cisco, where Barr was its first vice president of intellectual property—and made Yen his first attorney hire. When Barr left Cisco in 2005 to run BCLT, Yen replaced him as head of the company's worldwide IP.

"It struck me that Robert has had a significant impact not only at Boalt and on my career, but also on the intellectual property community as a whole," Yen says. "Our contribution would have funded a scholarship named after Robert for
only a couple years.  We realized it would be that much more meaningful if we reached out to others he has touched over the years and had the scholarship continue in perpetuity."

So Yen enlisted the help of Bart Showalter, firm-wide chair of IP at Baker Botts, and G. Hopkins Guy III, a patent litigation partner at Orrick Herrington Sutcliffe. They had all worked closely with Barr, and together approached some of his current and former colleagues.

"Each of us started making calls and I don't think I got a ‘no' from anybody," says Showalter. "That reflects how much people think of Robert. This scholarship is perfect recognition for what he has meant to so many of us in the IP field."

A Giant in his Field

Described by Showalter as "the godfather of patent law in Silicon Valley," Barr began his professional career teaching at Berkeley Law before moving into patent practice at Townsend and Townsend. He became a partner there after just four years, later was a partner at Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison and Weil, Gotshal & Manges, and also served as an adjunct professor of patent law at Hastings from 1994 to 1999.

Barr helped to create the field of patent strategy and counseling for technology companies, and played a key role in securing Netscape's rights to market its pioneering web browser. Cisco tapped him to run its IP department in 2000 after Barr had served in the same role as outside counsel, and he built the company's visionary patent program from the ground up.

Upon returning to Berkeley Law in 2005, Barr wasted little time helping the IP program—ranked No. 1 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for 11 straight years—bolster its standing. His connections with the area's top computer, internet, and digital entertainment companies have made BCLT a community where attorneys, scholars, students and policy makers come together to tackle difficult issues at the intersection of new technologies and the law.

"Robert has greatly strengthened BCLT's bridge to Silicon Valley and the real world in which IP law operates," says Berkeley Law professor Peter Menell, a co-founder and faculty director of BCLT.  "His first hand knowledge of the way in which the Valley functions has proven invaluable."

Humbled By Scholarship

During a recent lunch, Yen and Showalter surprised Barr by presenting him with the letter they had written to solicit funds—and by announcing a scholarship had been established.

"I was incredibly honored and touched when they told me," says Barr, the son of a grocer and a secretary, and the first in his family to attend college, thanks largely to scholarships and financial assistance. "To know that the people who contributed are people I've worked with all my life is truly humbling. And I'm grateful that the scholarship not only honors my career but also benefits Berkeley Law, the IP program, the students, and BCLT."

Yen and Showalter both speak glowingly of Barr's knack for developing close working relationships that transcend hierarchy and occupational duties. "I joined Cisco for the express reason of learning from Robert," says Yen, Berkeley Law's 2008 Young Alumnus of the Year. "For 2½ years I planted myself in his office and we literally sat side by side talking through issues…. He is known and respected by the entire community, and has the ability to bring people together to achieve the best possible results."

Showalter shared several bonds with Barr, noting they they're both "MIT grads, patent geeks, and baseball nerds. We worked well together, our wives really hit it off, and Robert became an important mentor. How he treats people and the way he lives his life resonates with everyone who has worked with him."

To contribute to the Robert Barr Scholarship, please contact senior development director Diane Zimmer at (510) 643-8170 or dzimmer@law.berkeley.edu.

- By Andrew Cohen

6/13/2008