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It is with great sadness that we have to announce that Bill Cornish, Professor Emeritus and inaugural holder of the Herchel Smith Chair in Intellectual Property here at Cambridge, has passed away. We remember Bill for his pioneering work in intellectual property law and his outstanding contributions to law in its social context, his intellectual rigour, his generous and friendly character and for his amazing support to generations of students and fellow academics in their studies of intellectual property and beyond - in Cambridge, at the LSE, in numerous places in Europe and around the world.

After more than twenty years of developing intellectual property as an emerging subject at the LSE where Bill teamed up with like-minded academics such as Robin Jacobs and Richard Lloyd, he came to Cambridge in 1990. He was the inaugural holder of the Herchel Smith Chair in Intellectual Property Law from 1995 to 2004. Bill also pursued keen interests in the European dimensions of intellectual property protection and the approach taken in Civil Law jurisdictions - recognised for example by his election as Scientific Member to the (then) Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Patent, Copyright and Competition Law (now MPI for Innovation and Competition) in Munich. Bill’s global reach as a scholar is further reflected in his role as President of the international Association for Teaching and Research in Intellectual Property (ATRIP) from 1985 to 1987.

At Cambridge, he was the inaugural Director of the Law Faculty’s Centre for European Legal Studies (CELS), and played an essential role in facilitating research on intellectual property, eventually leading to our Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law (CIPIL). Bill’s immense contribution to the field of intellectual property was essential in bringing together the discrete areas of copyright and neighbouring rights on the one hand and industrial property rights on the other. He has been the lead author of many editions of Intellectual Property: Patents, Copyright, Trademarks and Allied Rights which was first published in 1981 and served as the standard text on the subject, instrumental for establishing ‘intellectual property’ as a major topic in the UK, the EU and globally. For his pioneering work, Bill was recognised by being made a member of the British Academy in 1984. Among the many other honours that Bill received, he was awarded a Cambridge LLD in 1997, was made a Bencher of Gray’s Inn in 1998, was awarded Honorary LLDs by the Universities of Edinburgh and Adelaide in 2004 and 2018 respectively and became a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 2013.

As well as being an outstanding legal academic, those of us who had the privilege of knowing Bill will remember him as an extremely kind, thoughtful and funny colleague and as a great friend and supporter. A biography of Bill, recordings of conversations with him and some lovely photos can be found in the Cambridge Squire Law Library’s Eminent Scholars Archive.

Our thoughts are with Bill’s wife Lovedy and his family.

We have already been contacted by many people who wished to share their memories of Bill. If you have messages of condolence, tributes or memories of Bill please do record them below, and we will compile and publish them in due course (photographs can be sent for inclusion to


"Bill was a hero of mine. I got into IP because of him, more specifically his Australian-ness, his charm and his fantastic textbook, “Intellectual Property” full of fearless, pithy views on the policy of IP law and its proper scope. Bill was an inspiration to anyone coming from the outside, worried they might not fit the mould. I’m sure he was responsible for the large number of Antipodeans who mysteriously practise IP in London and have made it their home. My deepest condolences to his family. " (Simon Malynicz QC)

"A kind and enormously accomplished scholar in so many fields, whose legacy will long continue — he is missed by so many whose lives he touched. Condolences to his family on their and our loss." (Anon)

"I first met Bill in 1981 at Adelaide Law School, where I was commenting on a paper of his on passing off. I met him for the last time in 2012 on the occasion of his donation of his intellectual property collection to the Adelaide Law Library which the Law Librarian said represented the equivalent of 70 percent of the Law Library’s annual book-buying budget. This gesture typified Bill’s support for intellectual property research and teaching. Possibly because of his Australian origin, Bill pioneered a comparative approach to intellectual property scholarship. He was one of the founding fathers of intellectual property teaching in Europe and he was unfailingly helpful to scholars around the world." (Anon)

"This is very sad news indeed. My condolences to Bill's wife and family in their loss. My work in IP was entirely due to the publication of his 1981 textbook, the basis on which I was able to introduce the teaching of IP in QUB in 1982. I shall always be grateful for Bill's encouragement and help at various points in the years that followed. Both in IP and in legal history, he was an inspiration." (Norma Dawson, Queen's, Belfast)

"I must be among the earliest PhDs on classic copyright who were supervised by Bill Cornish which was awarded in 1976 by the LSE. I could not have asked for a better supervisor. Kindly and painstaking, his gentle guidance was of enormous help to me. The result was the basis on which I built my career. To Bill I shall always be hugely grateful." (Gavin McFarlane)

"Thank you Bill for your friendship and support over the years. Rest well - you will be much missed." (Charlotte Waelde)

"Professor Cornish was a remarkable person - a true pioneer of IP law teaching and scholarship, and a very kind man. He leaves a wonderful legacy. I offer my condolences to his family and friends." (Dr Luke McDonagh, LSE)

"Very sad to hear about Bill. I still remember our conversation about the relationship between intellectual property law and world trade law, and his talk was so kind and nice. It's a big loss for CIPIL, but his influence is long-lasting. May his soul rest in peace." (Ge Chen, Durham Law School)

"He was an amazing person who always supported students from around the world." (Dr Indunil Abeyesekere, Sri Lanka)

"Prof Cornish was a wonderful teacher. His ability to explain the complexities of intellectual property law and place the subject in a principled context was second to none. It was a real privilege to have been taught by him. My sincere condolences to Prof Cornish's family and colleagues. He will be greatly missed." (Kathryn Pickard )

"Bill Cornish was an exceptionally generous and kind-hearted man with a great sense of humour. Many students and younger academics have greatly benefited from his advice and support over the years. He will be truly missed." (Christoph Antons, Macquarie Law School, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia)