In person interview - Jeremy Phillips

JIPLP is launching a new series of In Person interviews (our readers may remember that the journal published several In Person profiles a few years ago - you can read them all here). This new round of interviews is designed to introduce our readers to some members of the IP community that have in common an outstanding passion for, and dedication to, intellectual property in all its forms. We have sought to bring together a diverse group of people, with different backgrounds, careers and perspectives - some are rising stars or renowned personalities in the field of IP, others are at the beginning of a promising career. All, however, have crossed the path of intellectual property and have experienced the same incantation. We hope that these interviews will inspire others to follow in their footsteps. And for all those that are already part of our IP community, the In Person series is not only an occasion to learn more about our colleagues, but also a great opportunity to reflect on the role that we all play in shaping the future of intellectual property.

For our first interview, we turned to our own Jeremy Phillips, the founder of JIPLP and of the IPKat, a person whose love for IP has been, is, and will always be, an inspiration for all of us. Jeremy's IP knowledge is as legendary as his desire to share it. His unparalleled contribution to IP cannot be translated into numbers (blog posts, articles, conferences, students, ...), but I think it is safe to say that Jeremy has been (and still is!) an amazingly patient, encouraging and supportive teacher for anyone interested in IP and willing to dedicate some time and energy to it.

A short note to all our readers: the In Person series features a selection of IP personalities chosen by the editors of JIPLP. However, we would be absolutely delighted if you shared your own In Person interview, either as a comment to this post, or via email. Further, you may wish to take our list of questions and ask them to your favourite IP people, sharing the resulting interviews with our readers. The In Person series, after all, is about each and every one of us!

In Person interview with Jeremy Phillips

How did you first become interested in intellectual property?

By chance. It’s a long story which I’m happy to tell anyone who wants to buy me a coffee …

Who were your formative influences in IP?

Melville B. Nimmer and John C. Stedman, who taught me that it was possible to take a lively interest in wider policy matters without losing one’s integrity as a black-letter lawyer; Royce Whale, for reminding me that at the end of every legal right and duty was a human being; finally, my students, whose questions and comments did more than anything else to shape my sustained interest in the subject.

What was the first IP-related task you had to undertake?

Defending myself from an allegation of passing off and copyright infringement when, as a student, I was involved in a delightful parody of a rather pompous official student newspaper.

What IP reform would you most like to see implemented?

I would like to see the task of comparing trade marks for similarity and likelihood of confusion taken away from trade mark examiners and the judiciary. This job should be handed over for an instant and irrevocable decision by a lay panel of ordinary people or, failing that, a panel of trained hamsters. It could only be an improvement.

Who or what is the IP owner’s worst enemy?

Individually our worst enemies are ourselves.  Collectively, economists whose models fail to take into account the way in which the IP systems actually work.

Who in IP today do you most admire?

As a class, the IP media and all the IP owners, practitioners, judges and administrators who do so much to ensure that our understanding of IP is not only shared but made speedily accessible to others.  As for individuals, the list would be a very long one since I have always been encouraged to see the admirable qualities of others.  Top of that list come people who have achieved great things through their persistence.  Top of the list come Dids Macdonald and Tove Graulund for their contributions to ACID and MARQUES respectively. Richard Arnold will be there too, as soon as he has achieved the allegedly impossible and installed initial interest confusion as a doctrine of English common law.

If you could not have been involved in IP, what would you have liked to be?

If I couldn’t have been involved in IP, I would still like to have been.  Failing that, there are two roles I’d love to have tackled.  Both require patience, intellect, an ability to accept and absorb quantities of painful criticism, good communication skills and motivational abilities and a deep understanding of the theory and practice of law: they are (i) managing a top-class football team and (ii) being a rabbi.

What IP publication/training course do you particularly recommend?

I wouldn’t recommend any course in particular, since the success of any programme depends far more on the needs, attitude and effort of a person taking it than on the syllabus, teaching staff and facilities offered. 

As for publications, I’d strongly recommend sticking to primary sources — Conventions, statutes, case law and so on — supplementing them with other people’s commentaries only where necessary. In that regard I’m naturally prejudiced towards JIPLP and the IPKat weblog, not just because of my personal involvement in them but because, for the decade before my retirement, they represented around 90% of the material I read.

What is your favourite song/book/film?

Song: you can’t be around for as long as I’ve been and just have one favourite song.  Three close runners-up for the favourite spot, in no particular order, are Mahler’s “Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen”, The Electric Light Orchestra’s outstanding 1973 version of “Roll Over Beethoven” – a real period piece -- and The Incredible String Band’s cryptically profound “Cousin Caterpillar” — and there are about a hundred alternative songs that would have made the list of near misses if I was in a different mood when compiling it.  The winner, though, is “Rainbow High”, from the original recording of Evita where it is sung by Julie Covington.  Apart from the sheer power of the music, which makes it so difficult to sing, the words are compelling. They reflect the brash self-confidence and conceit, the ambition and the resolve that are so valuable if properly used and so destructive if abused. They also recognise the causative link between illusion and the reality it creates.

There should be a category for most-hated music too.  Into this category fit Max Bygraves’ eternally irritating “Tulips from Amsterdam”, Idina Menzel’s ubiquitously noxious “Let It Go” and the grindingly turgid Pachelbel Canon.

Book: in English, it has to be The Gruffalo — one of the most perfect pieces of text ever crafted: it has structure, content, wit and wisdom, and it maintains momentum and the reader’s interest from start to finish.  Outside of that, the massive, spectacular textual embroidery of the Babylonian Talmud, in its combination of Hebrew and Aramaic, is a compulsive read that, once started, one can never master — but neither can one ever put it aside. 

Film: it has to be a dead heat between “Les Enfants du Paradis” and “Les Parapluies de Cherbourg” — two French films that are each one-of-a-kind.  They just about fend off “Blues Brothers”, “Ratatouille” and “Paddington” …

What’s your favourite meal …?

The opening salvo would be a ball of boiled gefilte fish and beetroot and horseradish source with fresh, warm white challah to whet the appetite, followed by a shot of Woodford Reserve to clean the palate. I’d continue with my wife Sara’s 100% perfect chicken soup.  The main course would feature roast chicken with its crisp skin garnished with paprika complemented by a selection of assorted green spices, with a spread of roasted root vegetables, all washed down with a decent Cabernet Sauvignon.  To conclude: blackberry and apple crumble, followed by a long, hot glass of water with sliced lemon, some real (70% entry-level) plain chocolate and a couple of cubes of crystallised ginger.

… and with whom would you most want to eat it?

My favourite dining companion is my wife Sara and I always enjoy feasting with my family.

Turning to the intellectual property community, first there is my noisy meal.  I enjoy sharing my meals with lively, well-informed and opinionated debaters.  My ideal IP conference table of 10 would likely include Hugh Hanson, Howard Knopf, Eleonora Rosati, Alex von Muehlendahl, Verena von Bomhard, Massimo Sterpi, Mark Summerfield, Robin Jacob and Tobias Cohen Jehoram. 

Then there’s my quiet meal, to share with friends whose best thoughts are too easily cut off by the excited interruptions of others and who have to be listened to carefully in order to be fully appreciated.  Around this table sit Neil Wilkof, Darren Smyth, Francis Gurry, Shireen Smith, David Nimmer, Fidelma Macken, David Stone, Tan Tee Jim, and Bankole Sodipo.

What brand most closely reflects your personal ethos?

Oxford University Press: it’s old, wise, pernickety, committed to quality and traditional — yet always willing to try something new, and generally right even when it’s wrong.

What three words best describe you?

Not for publication.

If a genie offered you three wishes, what would they be?

One of my favourite jokes concerns a man who, when offered a wish, asked to be absolutely irresistible to women.  When he woke up the next morning, he discovered that he had metamorphosed into a bar of chocolate.

Since I can’t second-guess the outcome of my wishes, I would decline to make use of them.