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Intellectual Property Rights as Allied Rights: Bill Cornish and the Making of Today’s Intellectual Property System

On Friday 17 March 2023, the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law (CIPIL) held the Annual Spring Conference 2023 entitled 'Intellectual Property Rights as Allied Rights: Bill Cornish and the Making of Today’s Intellectual Property System'.

In 1981, Professor Bill Cornish published the first student textbook on ‘Intellectual Property’. The book was to prove hugely influential, as academic courses on the subject proliferated around the country. In turn, it spawned a host of imitators, all of whom stuck doggedly with the template Cornish had provided (of treating patents, copyright and trade marks together). However, now in its 9th edition, and curated and updated by Professors David Llewelyn and Tanya Aplin, the text has never been surpassed.

One of the most significant aspects of the book was its very categorisation. Entitled ‘Intellectual Property: Patents, Copyright, Trade Marks and Allied Rights’, the textbook presented the distinct legal regimes as ‘allied’ in important respects. Forty years on from the publication of Cornish’s seminal text, ‘intellectual property’ has been cemented as a foundational legal concept. The term is deployed in international treaties, in regional instruments, in national constitutions, in domestic legislation; and is used to denominate governmental and non-governmental organisations, not least the World Intellectual Property Organisation, and the now numerous ‘intellectual property offices’ around the world. In the UK, the notion of ‘intellectual property’ serves to define the field of operation of distinct civil procedure rules, as well as the remedies available to litigators. Moreover, the concept figures in the names, and to define the operational fields of, professorial chairs; institutes (such as CIPIL, which was conceived under Bill’s watch and founded to coincide with Bill’s retirement), journals and scholarly organisations.

Of course, the concept of ‘intellectual property’ has not gone uncriticised, and its usefulness unchallenged. At this conference, we bring together scholars and practitioners, many of whom had a long and first hand relationship with Bill, to consider critically the origin, history, and utility of the notion of “intellectual property”, and more generally of thinking of trade marks, patents and copyright as “allied rights.”

Welcome and Introduction & Session 1: International Legal Conceptions of IP

Welcome and Introduction: Chair: Professor Sir Robin Jacob (UCL)

  • Professor Sam Ricketson (Melbourne) (Online/Pre-recorded): 'The Berne/Paris Divide - Obstacles to a Coherent Overview of the System'
  • Professor Brad Sherman (University of Queensland): 'What’s in and what’s out - TK, GRs, TCEs as part of the IP System?'
  • Dr Francis Gurry (former Director-General of WIPO): 'The Future of the Concept of Intellectual Property'

(Audio / Video)

Session 2: IP as a legal domain in the UK

  • Dr Jennifer Davis (Cambridge): 'A Very British Tort: Passing off between Intellectual Property and Unfair Competition'
  • Professor Tanya Aplin (KCL): 'Trade Secrets as a form of IP?'
  • Professor Kathleen Liddell (Cambridge): 'The IP Family: Are Pharmaceutical Regulatory Exclusivities in the Clan?'
  • Daniel Alexander K.C. (8 New Square): 'IP as a domain of practice'

(Audio / Video)

Session 3: Commonwealth / Common Law Approaches to IP

  • Professor Isabella Alexander (UTS, Sydney): 'Looking Out and Looking In: The Common Law of IP and the View from Australia?'
  • Professor David Llewelyn (SMU, Singapore): 'Family resemblances among IP protection in the Commonwealth?'
  • Professor Graeme Dinwoodie (Chicago-Kent School of Law) (Online): 'Constraints on, and Drivers for, a Unitary Conception of IP in the United States'

(Audio / Video)

Session 4: European Harmonisation of IP

  • Professor Pascal Kamina (Lyon): 'Codifying IP – a French Perspective'
  • Professor Annette Kur (MPI, Munich): 'EU IP Harmonisation – a Manifestation of ‘Property Logic’?'
  • Professor Ansgar Ohly (LMU, Munich): 'European Expansions of the Concept of IP: from Databases, via Press Publishing, to NonPersonal Data'

(Audio / Video)

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: