Religious Thought and Intellectual Property Law in the 21st Century

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= Law Symposium in Minneapolis on April 5, 2013


"This spring a cavalcade of legal, bioethics and religious scholars and entrepreneurs in the intellectual property industry will converge on the University of St. Thomas School of Law campus to present and discuss their views on a topic that event organizers for the school’s annual Law Journal Symposium believe is cutting edge in a world that has become increasingly globalized by technological innovation – how can religious thought and traditions influence the practice of Intellectual Property law?

The 2013 UST Law Journal Symposium will take place Friday, April 5 and is co-sponsored by the Terrence Murphy Catholic Thought, Law and Public Policy. The event aims to tackle the aforementioned question and related topics as nearly one dozen presenters from around the country and the globe will share their research and opinions on a subject that event organizers hope will serve as a catalyst for a new approach to the study and practice of Intellectual Property law.

           “What has us so excited about this symposium is that as the intellectual property rights industry tries to keep up with technology in order to continue to support and drive forward innovation and as the economy globalizes, we are now sort of running up against these real fundamental assumptions about intellectual property,” said Phil Steger, Law Journal Symposium editor. “We are trying to get at these sort of legal questions that didn’t really occur to anyone before, and we are bringing in some of the best and brightest minds in this area to help answer the question of ‘How can religious thought and its tradition better inform us on the meaning and direction of Intellectual Property law?’”

The Symposium will feature paper presenters and panel participants from several different religious backgrounds including Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and Catholicism. The goal of bringing in this religiously diverse group of scholars and advocates, Steger said, is to shed some light on how various religious traditions can contribute perspectives and answers to the latest IP law questions and ethical dilemmas.

The lineup of speakers includes University of Virginia law professor and Intellectual Property law scholar Margo Bagley who will present “"The Wheat and the (GMO) Tares: Lessons from Plant Patent Litigation and the Parables of Christ," which will feature discussion on the ongoing U.S. Supreme Court case Bowman v. Monsanto.

The Symposium will also include remarks from DePaul University Law Prof. Roberta Kwall, whose presentation, entitled “Remember the Sabbath Day and Enhance Your Creativity,” will draw from themes found in her recent research that explores the intersection between intellectual property, cultural property and Jewish law.

Other speakers and panel participants, including attorney Jeremy Stern and open source entrepreneur Marco Fioretti, who are not affiliated with a particular academic institution but are nevertheless considered experts in the emerging study of the intersection of religious thought and intellectual property rights.

“We have several participants who will help answer those religiously -themed questions as they relate to intellectual property and we will also have some straight forward faith and social justice questions to tackle,” Steger said, “including ‘What is the nature of creativity? Where does creativity come from? How do you own the immaterial if God is the source of all creativity?’”

Steger said the Law Journal staff owes much credit to the idea for and development of the theme for the upcoming Symposium to UST Law Prof. Tom Berg, who, in addition to his work as a religious liberties scholar, has a professional background in Intellectual Property law.

“Prof. Berg just sort of brought to our attention that no one has really made a concerted effort to try to bring forward religious thinking into many these ongoing ethical questions about the direction of Intellectual Property law,” Steger said. “And yet it would seem to be that religious thought would have a whole lot to say on this idea of ‘stewardship,’ on both the legal issues and the assumptions about where the practice of IP law is headed.” (