January 2017 Bar Bulletin
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January 2017 Bar Bulletin

UW Law: Empowering Possibility through Innovation

By Katherine Hedland Hansen


Can you take a robot to court if it steals your creative work? Do businesses have a right to restrict where Pokémon Go lures players? Is artificial intelligence a threat to national security? These are just a few of the myriad questions raised about how technology and the law intersect. People seeking answers to such complex questions trust the faculty experts at the University of Washington School of Law.

Home to the renowned Center for Advanced Study & Research on Innovation Policy (CASRIP), the interdisciplinary Tech Policy Lab, tech-related clinics and J.D. and LL.M. curricula, the law school leads public dialogue around law and technology.

“All over our country and all around our world, legal professionals are grappling with impact of technology,” said Dean Kellye Testy. “With CASRIP, UW Law is at the forefront of these conversations.”

CASRIP is home to the law school’s academic programs and scholarly leadership in intellectual property, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. CASRIP works domestically and globally to link law and policy to the innovation economy. Professor Zahr Said assumed the role of CASRIP director in the fall and oversees the collective of faculty scholarship and programs. The law school provides critical programs and cutting-edge research about how technology and law influence “things that matter in people’s daily lives,” she said.

“I’m eager to continue to make CASRIP even greater than its many individual strengths, so that we can make even deeper contributions to law and policy as technological innovations advance ever more rapidly,” she said.

In addition to its research and teaching activities, CASRIP sponsors many notable events, such as the annual Summer Institute and the Global Innovation Law Summit. The Summer Institute is the benchmark for extended intellectual property summer programs in the United States.

Said has many exciting programs planned for the upcoming year, including The Art and Science of the Deal, which will examine various aspects of how IP and technology law affect business.

Other symposia will delve into topics such as new communication technologies in the digital age, the rise of augmented reality platforms as reflected by the recent frenzy over Pokémon Go and the impact of IP on global health. Said will welcome numerous prominent scholars, including Harvard Law School professor and Berkman Center for Internet & Society Faculty Director William Fisher III; professors Pam Samuelson and Steven Solomon Davidoff, both of Berkeley; and Siva Vaidhyanathan, of the University of Virginia.

“We’re bringing together academics and practitioners to share ideas about global innovation and its impact on business and society,” Said explained. “Sometimes law gives, and sometimes it takes away. We have to be mindful about how we use legal means and pursue initiatives aimed at how law can be used as a tool for good.”

Said found her niche in IP law through literature. She earned a Ph.D. from Harvard in comparative literature and wrote her dissertation on Shakespeare’s influence on Arab writers. It tackled identity politics from the perspective of postcolonial theory, and it offered evidence that Arab writers were borrowing Shakespeare to innovate Arabic poetic forms. But it felt like a labor of love, not the beginning of a career in Arabic literature. A friend suggested that because she loved crossword puzzles, she might enjoy tax law.

Said went to Columbia Law School thinking she would pursue international human rights or immigration policy, which overlapped with some of the political and cultural questions in her dissertation. She changed course after someone happened to give her an article about trademark law by Columbia Professor Jane Ginsburg, and Said stayed up late into the night reading it.

“I was riveted,” Said recalled. “I went to see Jane and told her this is what I wanted to do; it aligned with the part of my dissertation that was all about borrowing and innovating.”

Since then, much of her research and teaching has focused on copyright law, which combines her love of the law with her interest in aesthetic theory and cultural influence.

Like others who work to connect the law school and its students to the community and the world, she says the law school’s location near world-leading technology companies like Microsoft, Nintendo and Amazon provides students with outstanding opportunities to connect with change makers who lend their talents teaching and advising students.

“I am astounded by the quality of adjuncts we have,” she said. “They enable us to offer a range of truly terrific classes.”

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