Meet Nari Lee

(IPRinfo 2/2012)

In our “Profile” series we present prominent professionals from the field of intellectual property rights. For this issue we interviewed Dr Nari Lee, Assistant Professor in the department of Accounting and Commercial Law at the Hanken School of Economics.

What got you initially interested in the intellectual property rights?
When I was doing the postgraduate study in law in Korea, the Uruguay Round of negotiations for GATT /WTO agreements including intellectual property was being finalized. The Korean media at the time was saturated with various articles claiming the unfairness of the final consensus package, in particular TRIPs agreement, which sparkled my curiosity.

Is there enough education in the field of IPR?
I believe this depends on region and the level of education. In Europe, the US and Northeast Asia (Japan, Korea), now there seem to be more IP specific programs which are offered for students with multi-disciplinary background at university level. In contrast, developing countries seem to lack the capacity and resources to offer substantive IPR educations at higher education institutes, still and the general education of the public may be even more difficult.

Is there need for further harmonisation of the legislation concerning intellectual property rights in the EU?
For a non-EU national legal researcher, the process of harmonization of laws in EU is a fascinating subject. In principle, I strongly believe any harmonization, which removes procedural barriers, complexities and reduces costs in acquiring, using and asserting IPR is a good thing. I tend to be more hesitant as harmonization that may create overlapping layers of rights and structures, which create more complexity and costs. Unified Patent Court for EPC and EU in principle is a great idea forward in principle, which however, may in practice, end up becoming the harmonization of the second kind.

What should be the main focus and goal of IPR research?
Any academic research in intellectual property rights needs to take or at least be aware of the broader systematic and contextual perspectives, either to evaluate or to improve the system of IPR. While it is important to connect to the practice of by correctly describe the law, it is crucial function of an academic research to inform the peers in social sciences as well as the decision makers on the points of IP law.

If you were a dictator who could change the outcome of any decision in the field of intellectual property rights, which decision would you choose to change?
To answer this question, I was torn between the opinion of the US Supreme Court for Bilski (Bilski v. Kappos, 130 S. Ct. 3218) and State Street Bank and Trust Company v. Signature Financial Group, Inc., 149 F.3d 1368 (Fed. Cir. 1998). If I had not only the authority but also could control the time, I think I would choose to change the outcome of the State Street Bank decision as it has lead to various decisions culminating in Bilski. If I only have the authority, and no power to turn back the time, then I would modify the opinion of the Supreme Court for Bilski decision to categorically exclude business method from patent protection, while leaving the finding of the Court to reject machine or transformation test intact.

What do you personally consider as the most important issue governed by intellectual property rights, regarding for example your work?
As a negative right of exclusion, intellectual property right governs the individual’s access to knowledge and information and as a corollary to education and learning. Subjecting the access to knowledge and information and education of the general public to the private and potentially arbitrary control has to be always socially justified by careful balancing.

Nari Lee
o Born 1971
o Title of doctoral (LL.D) thesis (2002) “Patent Eligible Subject Matter Reconfiguration and the Emergence of Proprietarian Norms – The Patent Eligibility of Business Methods”; Title of doctoral (Ph.D) thesis (2010) “Exclusion and Coordination of Fragmentation – Five Essays toward a Pluralistic Theory of Patent Right”
o Assistant Professor, Dept. of Accounting and Commercial Law, Hanken School of Economics (current)
o Associate Research Fellow (since September 2011 -), Max Planck Institute for Intellectual Property and Competition Law, Munich, Germany.
o Visiting Associate Professor of Intellectual Property (2005-2011), Hokkaido University, Japan.
o Program Director (2009-2011) Munich Intellectual Property Law Center, Munich, Germany.