News & Media

TRIPS Symposium at TJSL

Published: April 11, 2011

Mostly Controversy By Eric Bernsen, 2L.

Last Friday, TJSL’s Center for Law and Intellectual Property (CLIP) and the IP Fellows Program hosted a standing-room only symposium which certainly lived up to its name “The TRIPS Agreement and the Global Integration of IP Law: Convergence or Controversy?” when panelists from several industries discussed—and certainly debated—the intricacies of the Agreement on the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and its effects on global commerce.

Keynote speaker Tim Reif, General Counsel to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, gave considerable insight into complex questions that our government routinely faces regarding the protection of international IP rights.  When answering “How do you protect products that leave the U.S.?” a question that invariably spawns heated debate, Mr. Reif explained the U.S. Government’s standard protocol, from identification of problems, to engaging allegedly offending countries, to ultimately pursuing litigation should the issue remain unresolved.  His discussion covered not only high-tech patents but also concerns about pharmaceutical patent rights, while highlighting the politics that lie at the very core of any international intellectual property dispute.

The three panels ranged from the general international enforcement of IP rights, to the effects of TRIPS on patent, copyright, and trademark rights in various countries.  The panels were comprised of distinguished guests from local IP firms Foley & Lardner, Wilson Sonsini, and Morrison & Foerster, Chicago firms Eckman Basu and Olsen & Cepuritis, as well as professors of law from Chicago-Kent School of Law, UNLV Law School, and SMU Dedman School of Law.  Each panelist delivered informative and enlightened explanations regarding the effects of international IP rights enforcement on the U.S., India, China, Russia, Brazil, Vietnam, and other countries.

The third, and most lively panel of the day, produced an animated conversation as the audience witnessed the dichotomy of views that continues to play out between a developing country such as Vitenam, and an established economic power such as the United States.  Professor K.J. Greene was the referee and moderator as the standing-room only attendance looked on.  Professor Xuan-Thao Nguyen from SMU Dedman, delivered an impassioned discourse, explaining the inequities inherent to TRIPS that affect Vietnam, while Jared Jussim, Executive VP, IP Dept., and General Counsel for Sony Pictures Entertainment (and Dicky Fox, of “Jerry Maguire” fame) was outspoken in his support of strong copyright protection and its significance in global commerce.  The David vs. Goliath discussion that ensued was certainly a sight to behold. 

The TRIPS Symposium Committee: faculty co-organizers Professor Claire Wright and Adjunct Professor Randy Berholtz, as well as the seven student organizers, Man Huynh, Michael Huynh, Brian J. Link, Jen McCollough, Tristan Younghaus, Qiojing “Bambi” Zheng, and Eric Bernsen, spent countless hours preparing for this wildly successful event.  The Committee would like to extend its deepest gratitude to CLIP, the Center for Global Legal Studies, IPLA, and ILS for their support and effort in helping to bring this event together.

“I believe the TRIPS Symposium was very successful in that it encouraged US IP lawyers to learn more about the impact of our country's international IP agreements on their own practices,” said Professor Berholtz. “ It also helped international trade lawyers understand the needs and concerns of US companies and their attorneys who are interested in protecting their intellectual property in foreign markets.”

“I think that the intellectually stimulating conference was well received both inside and outside the TJSL community,” said Professor Julie Cromer Young, Director of the Center for Law and Intellectual Property.  “It took a challenging subject and presented it from multiple angles so that conference participants could learn not only the background information, but the philosophical debates that practitioners and diplomats encounter routinely.”