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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Robin Feldman: Shaping Patent Policy Through Scholarship

Professors Robin Feldman, Elizabeth L. Hillman, and Joan C. Williams pursue dynamic and timely fields of legal inquiry.
Professor Robin Feldman

Professor Robin Feldman

UC Hastings Professors Robin Feldman, Elizabeth L. Hillman, and Joan C. Williams chose to explore hot-button topics in their fields long before those issues became trendy. These professors are just three of the many UC Hastings scholars who have earned stellar reputations for having their fingers on the pulse of what’s coursing through society.

Credit UC Hastings’ academic culture, which fosters thoroughly researched work, vetted by colleagues, that espouses novel legal theories. Spanning every discipline, scholarship at UC Hastings infuses public debate and often translates into policy changes adopted by legislative and regulatory bodies.

Research by Feldman, Hillman, and Williams has triggered changes in legislation and rule making across agencies as diverse as the Departments of Justice, Defense, and Labor. The professors’ scholarly work in the fields of intellectual property, military violence, and work-life balance has been published in world-class law reviews and cited in court briefs; it has also reached mainstream audiences through blog posts and op-ed pieces.

Robin Feldman: Shaping Intellectual Property Policies

In the last year, intellectual property and patent law expert Robin Feldman published no fewer than seven full-length law review articles, a book for Harvard University Press, and a book chapter for Stanford University Press, as well as commentaries for publications like the Boston Globe and SCOTUSblog.

But Feldman is more than a prolific writer. She also presented her work to government bodies such as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the Federal Trade Commission, and the California Assembly Select Committee on Privacy. The Department of Justice solicited her 90-page “Intellectual Property Wrongs” article as a public comment, and the California Attorney General’s Office co-sponsored an event for start-ups with the Privacy and Technology Project, of which Feldman is co-director. In the fall, Feldman appeared at a DOJ/FTC workshop at which her empirical work on patent trolls was discussed prominently.

It’s not surprising that Feldman’s scholarship has been instrumental in policymaking. Her 2012 Stanford Technology Law Review article, “The Giants Among Us,” received considerable media attention and favorable reviews; technology historian George Dyson told the Chronicle of Higher Education that it was one of the best articles he had read all year. Since the article’s publication, the discussion of patent trolls has taken off exponentially. In June 2013, the White House released a comprehensive report on the topic, along with a series of executive orders and recommendations for Congress, which cited Feldman’s empirical studies. Her work was also cited in a speech in June by FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, calling for the FTC to initiate a broad-ranging investigation into patent assertion.

Similarly, Feldman’s article in Duke Law & Technology Review, “The America Invents Act 500: Effects of Patent Monetization Entities on U.S. Litigation,” was one of the most downloaded articles on the Social Science Research Network and was covered by dozens of news outlets.

“Academics are in an unusual position,” Feldman says. “We have the time to step back and look broadly at our own fields, as opposed to practicing lawyers or regulators, who may be driven by the insistent demands of what comes before them.” To determine topics for study, Feldman asks, “Where are the problems coming from? What are the solutions? What information is needed to make intelligent choices?”

In fact, these are the goals that animate the Institute for Innovation Law, which was founded this spring by Feldman and includes 10 faculty members. The institute focuses on “data-driven law making” and “implementable solutions,” she says.

She’s now studying patent troll data beyond lawsuits. “I’ve always felt that patent lawsuits are the tip of the iceberg. I am looking at the shape and quality of the rest of the iceberg.”

Read more from UC Hastings magazine here.

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