skip to content

A fund to support doctoral researchers in intellectual property has been established in honour of Professor Bill Cornish, C.M.G., Q.C. (Hons), F.B.A., who died last year (2022). Bill Cornish is widely recognised to have been "the father" of the academic field of intellectual property law in this country, having set up the first university course, at LSE in the 1960s, and written the first (and still the best) textbook to cover the field – the first edition of which appeared in 1981. Bill contributed hugely to the literature in the field, including through his Goodhart Lecture at the LSE, his Horace S. Manges Lecture at Columbia Law School and his Clarendon Lectures. In the 1960s and 1970s, he wrote over one hundred case-notes for the IP section of the Journal of Business Law. Bill was internationally recognised as the leading UK-based scholar in the field, being President of A.T.R.I.P. and Vice-President of A.L.A.I.

Spring Conference 2023The Centre of Intellectual Property and Information Law, which Bill had established on his retirement, has recently celebrated Bill's contribution by dedicating the Spring Conference 2023 to an examination of the concept of "intellectual property", around which Bill had organised his seminal textbook in 1981, which effectively established the convention of teaching patents, copyright, designs, trade marks, passing off and confidentiality together in a single course. The conference was chaired by former Lord Justice of Appeal, Professor Sir Robin Jacob, as well as a member of the current Court of Appeal of England and Wales, Lord Justice Sir Richard Arnold. The conference featured talks from former Director-General of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (and Cambridge PhD), Dr Francis Gurry; the leading IP silk, Daniel Alexander, K.C, from 8 New Square, the chambers where Bill held a door tenancy; Professor Sam Ricketson (Melbourne), a former LLM student of Bill's at the LSE, and Professor Brad Sherman (Queensland), an ARC Laureate; Professor Annette Kur, from the Max Planck Institute in Munich, where Bill had written much of the first edition of the textbook, and with which he held a close connection; Professor Ansgar Ohly (LMU, Munich), a former Cambridge LLM student of Bill's; Professors Pascal Kamina (Lyon) and Isabella Alexander (UTS), both former Cambridge PhD students of Professor Cornish; Professors Tanya Aplin and David Llewelyn, who both jointly authored later editions on Bill's textbook with him; as well as his CIPIL colleagues, Dr Jennifer Davis and Professor Kathleen Liddell. Recordings of the conference are available on the conference page.

Bill was a much loved Fellow and former President of Magdalene...The College warmly supports the initiative to create a fund in his memory Sir Christopher Greenwood

Further celebrations of Professor Cornish's life were held at Magdalene College, Cambridge, on 19 March 2023, where short speeches about Bill were interspersed with one of his other loves, music. The short comments were not limited to intellectual property and presented some of the breadth of Bill's interests. The Master of the College, Sir Christopher Greenwood, described Bill's huge contribution to College life, including as President, during which time Nelson Mandela visited; Professor Sir Robin Jacob recalled being taught by Bill at the LSE in the 1960s; Professor Lionel Bently, Bill's successor as the Herchel Smith Chair of Intellectual Property Law, described the huge influence that Bill's critical approach to intellectual property has had on subsequent generations of scholars; Professor Michael Lobban (All Soul's Oxford) explained Bill's immense contribution to the field of Modern Legal History, through the 1984 book, Law and Society in England 1750-1950, and the Oxford History of the Laws of England, 1820-1914, vols XI-XIII; while Dr Jonathan Morgan focussed Bill's leadership of the Centre of British Legal Studies in Warsaw, a contribution that was recognised by his being made a Companion to the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George.

The Memorial Fund will support doctoral research in intellectual property. Our aim is to have an endowed studentship, which requires us to raise £1.5 million. If we fall short of that, we will offer partial studentships or other support, as appropriate. If you would like to give to the Memorial Fund, please visit the online giving page. If you would like to discuss the possibility of a larger donation, please contact:

"Bill Cornish was a much loved Fellow and former President of Magdalene. As well as his University teaching, he is remembered with great affection for his supervisions.  The College warmly supports the initiative to create a fund in his memory." - Christopher Greenwood GBE, CMG, KC, Master, Magdalene College


Give online