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St. John’s Intellectual Property Law Center Makes Its Mark

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The scientists, inventors, artists, and creators who shape and propel our society have a common bond: they all rely on Intellectual Property Law (IP Law) to protect their creations. From patents to trademarks to copyrights, it’s a dynamic area of the law that tries to strike a balance between encouraging innovation on the one hand, and promoting the free exchange of ideas, information, and vigorous competition on the other.

At St. John’s, the study of IP Law in and beyond the classroom is guided by the Intellectual Property Law Center (IPLC), which offers students, faculty, and practitioners a unique forum for research, education, and professional development relating to the legal and policy issues of the knowledge economy.  

“The rapid pace of technological change presents really interesting challenges and opportunities for lawyers and policymakers,” says Professor Jeremy Sheff, who co-directs the IPLC with Professor Eva E. Subotnik. “In copyright and trademark, for example, the law is struggling to resolve claims to legitimate use of others’ work in an environment where digital technology makes accessing, sharing, and altering that work easier than it’s ever been. How should the law respond? These are the kinds of timely questions our students explore through the IPLC.”

Professors Sheff and Subotnik bring a wealth of experience to the IPLC leadership. Professor Sheff teaches and writes in trademark and patent law. Most recently, the Institute of Intellectual Property in Tokyo, Japan selected him as a 2016-17 Visiting Overseas Researcher. His monograph, Valuing Progress: A Pluralist Approach to Knowledge Governance, will be published by Cambridge University Press in late 2018.

Professor Subotnik’s scholarship and research interests focus on issues of artistic intent that arise in the realm of copyright law and policy. Her recent article, “Artistic Control After Death” (published in the Washington Law Review), was well reviewed in Jotwell: The Journal of Things We Like (Lots). In addition, she has most recently presented her work at workshops and seminars held at Stanford, Michigan State University, University of Kentucky, NYU, and Chicago-Kent/Loyola University Chicago law schools.

With the range of offerings that Professors Sheff and Subotnik coordinate under the IPLC umbrella, St. John’s Law students interested in IP Law have a well-defined pathway to follow.

They begin with an introductory course in intellectual property, which surveys basic concepts in copyrights, patents, trade secrets and trademarks. After successfully completing the survey course, students can take specialized elective offerings in these areas. Other electives help students hone their writing skills in license drafting and offer hands-on experience through externships in IP firms, entertainment agencies, and nonprofits. All along the way, students also receive support from dedicated career counselors with experience in IP Law.

To complement these curricular offerings, students build their professional networks through activities and events sponsored by two IPLC-affiliated student organizations: the Entertainment, Arts, and Sports Law Society and the Intellectual Property Law Society. The two groups joined the IPLC recently to host a year-end reception honoring two outstanding alumni from the IP field: Loren H. Plotkin ‘66, managing partner at Levine Plotkin & Menin LLP, and Nicholas M. Cannella ‘75, a partner at Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto. In addition, each year, one or two students are selected to become IPLC Student Fellows, who help to coordinate IPLC events and activities.

The IPLC is also home to the Intellectual Property Honors Program. Under its auspices, selected entering St. John’s Law students who plan to pursue intellectual property practice receive an annual tuition stipend of $10,000 to fund their studies, as well as special opportunities to engage in academic endeavors related to their field of interest for their full three years at the Law School.

“From the start of my first year, the IP Honors Program provided an opportunity for mentorship and advisement from the IP faculty,” says Amanda Hoffman '17, who starts work this fall in the Intellectual Property Litigation practice group at Paul Hastings LLP, where she’ll focus on pharmaceutical and life sciences patent litigation. “Those relationships continued as the IP faculty became my professors throughout my second and third years. I’ve also enjoyed the community of IP Honors Scholars. We have a common interest and help to support and advise one another.”

As an IP Honors Scholar, Hoffman had the opportunity as a 1L to participate with upper level students in the IPLC’s biennial IP Colloquium, which explores doctrinal, theoretical, and policy issues in IP Law. The Colloquium centers on regular presentations by outside scholars who are nationally recognized in their fields. It not only exposes students to a broad array of interdisciplinary scholarship, but also requires them to engage in both written and oral analysis and critique of that scholarship.

“The Colloquium is a cornerstone of the IPLC’s offerings and embodies our mission of supporting research to promote forward thinking and socially responsible legal and policy frameworks related to IP Law,” Professor Subotnik says. “It also bridges classroom learning to legal scholarship and law practice, which is an invaluable connection for our students to make as they hone the IP Law knowledge and skills they will use along their career paths.”

Sidebar: St. John’s IP Honors Scholars

Class of 2017

  • Alyssa D'Antonio
  • Olivia Cheung
  • Amanda Hoffman

Class of 2018

  • James Duckham
  • Cristen C. McGrath

Class of 2019

  • Philip J. Branigan
  • Arianna T. Clark
  • Antonio J. Guzman Dominguez