On Thursday, January 25, 2018, the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law hosted its annual Symposium.  This year’s event, entitled Dramatic Changes: International Trade’s Effect on Intellectual Property and Human Rights, focused on the many conflicts between right holders and sovereign states as they relate to world trade.  Thanks to the presentations from this year’s world-renowned panelists, the moderators’ thoughtful questions, and the efforts of the Journal members, the event was a large success.  Special thanks are in order for our Senior Development Editor Reity O’Brien, our Faculty Advisor Professor Daniel Gervais, and our Program Coordinator Faye Johnson—without their hard work, planning, and expertise, this event would not have come together.


This year’s event included world-renowned panelists with expertise in intellectual property law, human rights, international trade, or some combination of the three.  It began with a keynote address by Professor Rochelle Dreyfuss from New York University Law School and Professor Susy Frankel from Victoria University of Wellington Law School, New Zealand.  Both professors are distinguished experts in the field of international intellectual property, and they discussed the impact of investor-state disputes, such as Philip Morris v. Uruguay and Eli Lilly & Co. v. Canada, on future international treaties among sovereign states.


Following the keynote address, Professor Gervais, who also serves as Vanderbilt Law School’s Director of the Intellectual Property Program, moderated the day’s first panel, which focused on intellectual property law.  The panel consisted of Professor Dreyfuss, Professor Frankel, and Professor Shubha Ghosh from Syracuse University School of Law.  After a brief question and answer session from the keynote address, Professor Ghosh—who specializes in intellectual property and technology commercialization—made a presentation that proposed an analogy between the US Constitution’s Dormant Commerce Clause and the WTO’s interpretation of international intellectual property provisions, using the term “Dormant IP Clause.”


Our second panel on human rights was moderated by Professor Ingrid Wuerth, who serves as Vanderbilt Law School’s Director of the International Legal Studies Program.  This panel consisted of Professor Sean Flynn from American University Washington College of Law, Professor Janewa Osei-Tutu from Florida International University Law School, Professor Cynthia Ho from Loyola University Chicago School of Law, and Professor Molly Land from University of Connecticut School of Law.  Professor Flynn made the case for a broader fair use right and addressed possible implications for international limitations on that right.  Next, Professor Ho discussed the complex interconnections between patents and human rights, remarking that more should be done to in fact address human rights issues.  Professor Osei-Tutu then contrasted conventional trademarks—which are typically owned by large corporations and receive strong intellectual property protections—against cultural designs that are created by individuals or tribes and typically receive little to no protection. Professor Land concluded with a presentation that focused on how intellectual property law has largely ignored human rights issues and suggested that other models of innovation might be used to improve the current regime.


Finally, the third panel on international trade was moderated by Vanderbilt’s own Professor Tim Meyer, who specializes in international trade and economics.  This panel consisted of Mr. Timothy Feighery—who is a Partner at Arent Fox LLP’s Washington, DC office and specializes in international arbitrations—Professor Robert Howse from New York University Law School, and Professor Jason Yackee from University of Wisconsin Law School.  Mr. Feighery spoke about NAFTA and the historical development of international treaties.  Next, Professor Howse discussed the funding obstacles of poorer nations faced with investor-state disputes and the funding options—including legal aid—available to them.  Professor Yackee then discussed the potential for conflicts of interest between international arbitrators and the parties appointing them.  After closing remarks by Professor Gervais, the event came to an end.


Again, the Journal thanks all of this year’s participants for their continued support and high-level academic discussions that led to the event’s success.  An official schedule and description of the event is available on the Journal’s website, and the live stream will be available on YouTube in the coming days.



Thomas E. Johnson

Editor in Chief, 2017–18

Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law



Comments are closed.