If the adage is true—that the only thing harder than making it to the top is staying there—then Boalt Hall has reason to smile after U.S. News & World Report ranked its intellectual property (IP) program No. 1 in the nation for an 11th straight year.
“It’s always gratifying,” says IP professor Peter Menell, a director and co-founder of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology (BCLT). “When we started the program, no top-ranked law school had really focused on intellectual property law. Boalt had foresight in seeing changes that were coming with the Internet and an increased emphasis on information and biotechnology in the economy and the law.”
The program continues to soar on the strength of world-class faculty and extensive course and clinical offerings. Proximity to Silicon Valley and connections with the area’s top computer, biotech, and digital entertainment companies remain critical, attracting students and providing opportunities for summer internships and full-time employment. “We’re also the primary source of IP education for the Federal Judicial Center,” says BCLT assistant director David Grady. “A substantial portion of the bench has come to Berkeley for this 3-day program.”
BCLT hosts several events each year that draw guests from across the world, further enhancing the law school’s IP reputation. The center maintains relationships with universities in Korea, Switzerland, Israel, Holland, and Sweden.
“To hold this top ranking for 11 straight years is something we’re quite proud of,” says BCLT executive director Robert Barr. “We’ve built strong relationships with prominent policymakers, lawyers and academics, our adjunct faculty roster is full of top practitioners across several IP fields, and our regular faculty members are all world-class scholars.”
Taking Nothing for Granted
Most law schools have developed intellectual property programs over the past decade, with IP now recognized as an essential part of the curriculum. What has enabled Boalt to maintain its preeminence in the field?
“We haven’t rested on our laurels,” Menell says. “We’ve continued to expand the faculty, our cutting-edge research, and our work with the Federal Judicial Center. We’ve also built out complementary areas relating to telecommunications and cyberlaw, and with Robert Barr’s leadership BCLT has become more involved in the lifeblood of the technology law community.”
The first law school research center of its kind, BCLT operates at the forefront of technology law and policy issues. Over time, it has broadened its mission beyond the IP core to encompass antitrust, electronic commerce, entertainment law, biomedical ethics, privacy law, and a host of other legal areas affected by new information technologies.
Students also develop their skills at the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic, which enhances Boalt’s IP reputation through public advocacy in key cases and through collaboration with policymakers. It was the country’s first clinic that gave law students a chance to represent the public interest in core matters of high technology law, and it works to define how public values will be safeguarded in an increasingly high-tech world.
“We give students a high-level understanding of practicing law in this area,” says clinic director and Boalt professor Deirdre Mulligan. “They develop a strong knowledge base and actually use that knowledge in very sophisticated ways. Learning the law in a classroom is one thing, but learning the law when you have to provide advice to a client or participate in formulating policy, that’s law. That’s where the rubber hits the road.”
Keeping Ahead of the Curve
Meanwhile, the Berkeley Technology Law Journal (BTLJ)—the first student-edited publication to focus on the intersection of law and technology—remains the preeminent journal in its field. Each year, BTLJ publishes the Annual Review of Law and Technology, which includes more than two dozen student articles on the leading developments of the prior year.
“The role of students and their initiative is critical,” Menell says. “The student journal, student programs, and student involvement in IP-oriented moot court competitions have made a big difference.”
Boalt’s IP leaders remain diligent about maintaining excellence and staying current, an ongoing priority amid the rapidly changing nature of technology law. For example, Menell, fellow Boalt professor Robert Merges and Stanford professor Mark Lemley recently updated Intellectual Property in the New Technological Age (4th rev. ed 2007), the best-selling general IP casebook. They also released the third edition of Software and Internet Law, co-authored with Boalt professor Pamela Samuelson, in 2006.
“Keeping up with the technology is part of the fun,” says Barr, a former vice president for IP and worldwide patent counsel for Cisco Systems in San Jose, where he oversaw all patent prosecution, licensing and litigation. “It’s one of the things that attract people to this area, because the law is always struggling to adapt to new technologies. It’s challenging, but it also presents a lot of new opportunities.”
Case in point is “The Law and Business of Online Advertising,” a conference BCLT is co-sponsoring and hosting April 18. The conference will examine important questions about trademark implications, privacy law, regulatory policy and other issues that Barr says “no one even thought about a few years ago.”