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Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law

Tuesday, 11 January 2022

Professor Bill CornishIt 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.

Messages of condolence, tributes or memories of Bill are being collected on his memorial page, and will be published in due course.


Bill Cornish Memorial Fund
A fund to support doctoral researchers in intellectual property has been established in honour of Bill. If you would like to give, please visit: If you would like to discuss the possibility of a larger donation, please contact: