Law Students Meet White House IP Czar

Law Students Meet White House IP Czar
Lynn Safranek
Law School Office of Communications
October 15, 2010

Chicago Law students gained firsthand insight into the U.S. government's intellectual property strategies when the White House's Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator recently visited the Law School for a town hall meeting.

Victoria Espinel is the first person to hold the post of Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, informally known as the IP Czar, a position created by Congress in 2008 with the passage of the PRO-IP Act. Before her confirmation in 2009, Espinel was a law professor at George Mason Law School and previously had served in the the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative as the chief U.S. trade negotiator for intellectual property and innovation.

In her town hall meeting at the Law School, Espinel described her office's duties and objectives, which include coordinating intellectual property policies across federal government agencies, creating a data-driven model to measure the economic contribution of IP-intensive business sectors, and protecting American business interests in overseas markets, particular in China. This last initiative, she said, is critical to President Obama's goal of doubling U.S. exports within five years.

Students interested in intellectual property issues, including members of the Intellectual Property Law Society, questioned Espinel about the office's staying power, its motivations, and its take on recent international policy changes. General counsel from Chicago-area corporations also attended at the invitation of the Dean of Students Office.

One student asked Espinel if her office was developed to appease the entertainment industry, which has historically contributed heavily to the campaigns of Democratic candidates.

While the entertainment industry is one that has severe intellectual property protection needs, especially overseas, it isn't the only business sector that is receiving attention from Espinel's office, she said. When it comes to staying power, Espinel acknowledged that the next presidential administration could let her office go by the wayside, even if it was created by legislative mandate. However, she said, intellectual property issues have been embraced by both left- and right-leaning politicians.

Another student asked Espinel's opinion on which industry might be most helpful in doubling U.S. exports. Small and medium-sized businesses in the high-tech industry have great export potential, she said. Her office is working to make sure businesses of those sizes have a fair chance at succeeding overseas by counseling them through complex international export rules and by approaching countries with overly stringent policies.

Nationally known speakers like Espinel make regular trips to the Law School for lunchtime talks with students. Check out the Law School's Events page to see who else will be stopping by.