IPR-people: Rosa Maria Ballardini – University of Lapland
In this article series IPR professionals tell about their careers. How they ended up working with IP, what they think about IPRs today and what do they do when they are not working.
Rosa Maria Ballardini
University of Lapland
How did you end up working with IP and in your current role?
I am originally from Italy. I grew up in a small village in the Alps. Following the path of most people who want to continue their studies over there, I choose to go to the closest University – Universita’ Studi di Brescia. Back then I was perhaps more interested in natural sciences and technology, but then decided to go for a law degree. Well, it turned out to be a good decision after all. After graduating from law school, this interest in tech and science was still there, with an addition: I also wanted to explore the world a bit. So I tried to reach out at programmes where my knowledge of law could be expanded to also cover my interest in tech and science – eventually I enrolled in an LLM program in IP & IT law at the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland. The best choice ever! Immediately I felt intrigued by the interfaces between IP law, technology and science. Legal research especially attracted my attention by the fact that academic research provides the opportunity not merely to study and understand e.g. the law, but also to highlight the possible inefficiencies existing within the current system and to propose alternative more workable solutions. It was clear to me that I had to continue after the LLM – I wanted to know more.
In 2006 I enrolled into a PhD program in IP law at Hanken School of Economics here in Finland, and starting from 2007 I was awarded a position in the INNOCENT Graduate School – here is where I met Emeritus Prof. Niklas Bruun and Prof. Marcus Norrgård, who then became my ‘guides’. INNOCENT was a grad school in IP law funded by the Academy of Finland. It had a close cooperation with several universities, research institutions, as well as with the industry – this was particularly intriguing as it allowed me to engage in constant co-operation with leading experts in IP law, but also technology and natural sciences. During my PhD studies I was also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be a visiting scholar for about 1,5 years at UC Berkeley – that experience was truly inspiring and eye opening. The PhD thesis focused on the IP protection of computer programs and was successfully defended in August 2012. After that I have hold various academic positions: a post-doc at Hanken first, and then a University Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Associate Professor and now full Professor of IP law at the University of Lapland, where I am currently also serving as the Vice Dean for research. The University of Lapland has given me a lot: great colleagues, nice humble working environment and especially a place where the work one does is truly valued and appreciated – for all this, I am especially thankful to both the Deans of the Faculty of law with whom I worked over there, Emeritus Prof. Juha Karhu and Prof. Soili Nysten-Haarala. And along the way I have been lucky enough to be directly and indirectly involved in research projects on many topics all related to law, technology and science – like my currently ongoing projects ValueBioMat, a multi-disciplinary research project funded by the Strategic Research Council of the Academy of Finland and researching more sustainable production and consumption techno-business-law and policy paths for plastics ecosystems (https://valuebiomat.fi/), and SHARE, a consortium funded by the Academy of Finland that I have the pleasure to carry on along with one of my dearest colleagues – Prof. Taina Pihlajarinne -, as well as with Prof. Jukka Mähönen, on issues related to IP law and sustainable innovations. Yes, it has been quite a ride from the small village in the Italian Alps – what a wonderful journey!
Something particularly memorable in your IP career?
Becoming a Professor. As obvious as it sounds. As a child, when playing on “what do you want to become as an adult?”, I would always answer: “A teacher”. But never would I have imagined becoming a law Professor in Lapland, Finland. And I did not realize that this was truly possible, until it actually happened. The reason why this is a particularly memorable moment for me is because only when that happened I fully understood that this was actually the job I had wanted to do my whole life.
What would you change in the field of IP?
IP law is a beautiful tool, it provides with important incentives to promote innovations and creativities, while also balancing societal values. But more could be done in and through the IP system to better balance values such as respect and care for the environmental, and tackle some of the major challenges we are facing, notably climate change and social polarization. These issues are what keep me very busy at the moment.
Compliments to a colleague
There are so many great colleagues that I would like to compliment every day of my life, on so many things. But if I have to choose one, I go for Emeritus Prof. Niklas Bruun, my doctoral thesis supervisor: inspiring, supportive, empathic, just – I think these are keywords that describe quite well how I see him. He is not only a cornerstone foundation of the Finnish IP scholarship and community, having for instance hold key positions in the field of IP and having written fundamental and solid pieces inter alia on IP law, but he is also a respectful, heartfelt, humble colleague – I am very proud to say that he has been part of my academic life.
How do you spend your spare time?
Well, two kids, a husband and a dog are quite good in filling my spare time. I am also a passionate runner and I love singing – regardless of the quality of my performances obviously.
What people don’t know about you?
I had no English skills what-so-ever up until I started my LLM in Scotland in 2003. I don’t deny that starting to study an LLM in English with zero English knowledge was kind of crazy and scary, but looking back I think it was worth the risk.
Pictures from Rosa Maria Ballardini’s archieve