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Research Blog Series: Oral Histories & Intellectual Property

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Research Blog Series: Oral Histories & Intellectual Property

By 18 April 2018March 18th, 2021No Comments

For the Research Blog Series, Jose Bellido presents an oral history project collecting interviews with retired barristers, solicitors, civil servants, activists and academics, involved with intellectual property law.

Roy Nicholls, Stephen Gratwick QC, Geoffrey Everington QC,
Geoffrey Maw. 1968. Photo courtesy of Paul Everington

Project: Intellectual Property: Oral Histories

Investigators: Jose Bellido (University of Kent) and Lionel Bently (Cambridge University)

What did your research aim to do?
– Document, archive, and transcribe more than fifty interviews with retired barristers, solicitors, civil servants, activists and academics.

– Collect, reproduce and publish a number of unpublished material such as photographs of barristers, solicitors and intellectual property offices, sketches in court and syllabi of the first university courses on intellectual property in Britain.

– Write blurbs and produce biographical/historiographical data to introduce the interviews and the material collected.

How did you do it?
After contacting a series of potential interviewees, we sent them a series of topics around which we structured a conversation, which was recorded, transcribed and edited. We are in the process of uploading the material.

What are your key findings?
Our key finding was that it is necessary and important to record and collect personal accounts of previous generations of intellectual property practitioners at this temporary juncture for several reasons. The interviewees reflect on the ways in which intellectual property has shifted from a relatively limited niche of practice to a wider area of legal practice and academic reflection. The picture of the past emerging throughout these interviews shows the rise of intellectual property departments in law firms, the changing nature of professional relationships in the field and the significant impact on legal practice of some cases such as American Cyanamid (1975).

What impact has your work had so far/what impact do you anticipate it will have?
The project invites scholars to listen/read recollections of experiences from a previous generation of judges, barristers, clerks, solicitors, agents, activists and authors who have been involved in different ways in the shaping of the discipline. The main impact we anticipate of the project is for the future historian. It involves the possibility of writing a history that would probably reflect on the significance of the last decades of the twentieth century for the legal and social development of intellectual property law.

Challenges encountered/Lessons learned
The main challenge was technical and logistical.

Are there additional/new research questions still to be answered in this area?
There are still many areas to explore and there are still many people we would like to interview. As the archive is an ongoing project, we hope to expand it and keep it growing and sustainable. The second set of interviews will take place from 2017-2020 and will include mainly patent agents and solicitors.

How has your association with CREATe helped to take things forward?
Access to researchers; credibility and trust in the sustainability of the project and generally support to carry out the project.

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