KU law school to host nation’s leading annual patent scholarship conference

Thursday, April 09, 2015
LAWRENCE — Infectious diseases kill more than 10 million people each year, most of them in the developing world. The high cost of life-saving drugs is one barrier to treatment. Should strong patent protection, which drives up pharmaceutical prices, keep people from getting the medicine they need to survive?

It’s one of many questions that scholars will explore during the fifth annual Patent Conference on April 10-11 at the University of Kansas School of Law. Patent scholars from nearly a dozen countries and four continents – in law, economics, management science and other disciplines – will share the latest research on patent law, policy and business. The program is free, and registration is not required.

Plenary speakers include Colleen Chien, Santa Clara law professor and former senior adviser to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Eric von Hippel, economist and professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management; and A. Christal Sheppard, director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office satellite branch in Detroit.

“One of the most exciting aspects of PatCon is the opportunity not only to share bleeding-edge patent research but also to hear the debates this research spurs among the leading patent experts who attend,” said Andrew Torrance, professor of law and co-founder of the conference. “For example, one of the hottest topics in patent law today involves so-called ‘patent trolls’ and how they either promote or harm innovation. In fact, many of the scholars at PatCon have signed one of two competing letters sent to Congress just two weeks ago raising serious concerns about trolls.”

Other topics will include the role that patents play in inequality, international patent issues, patent policy, how to value complicated property rights like patents, whether patents promote or crush innovation, and exploding interest in design patents.

“Another exciting phenomenon is the rise of ‘big patent data,’ which scholars are increasingly using to answer fundamental questions about the patent system and even to challenge long-accepted legal doctrines,” Torrance said. “Some of the leading ‘big patent data’ experts will be presenting their latest, often surprising, results at PatCon.”

The School of Law hosted the inaugural Patent Conference in April 2011. Affectionately known as PatCon, the conference has snowballed into the country’s leading annual patent scholarship conference. It rotates among the law schools of its founding professors: Torrance; David Olson, Boston College Law School; David Schwartz, Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago-Kent College of Law, and Ted Sichelman, University of San Diego School of Law.

The program is co-sponsored by the KU School of Law, Hovey Williams LLP and Lathrop & Gage LLP.

Preview the schedule and speakers.

KU Law students’ brief wins second place at national moot court competition

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas placed second in the Best Brief category at the 2015 Federal Bar Association’s Thurgood A. Marshall Memorial Moot Court Competition, which was March 26-27 in Washington, D.C. Emily Barclay, third-year law student from Andover, and Gretchen Rix, third-year law student from Fremont, Nebraska, represented KU.

“We improved tremendously throughout the process of preparing for the competition,” Barclay said. “It was rewarding to see our scrupulous editing culminate in an award for our brief.” 

The FBA’s moot court competition provides a simulated courtroom experience for aspiring lawyers. This year’s competition centered on two issues: the constitutionality of a police search under the Fourth Amendment and a defendant’s right to present a defense under the Sixth Amendment. Students spent a month researching and writing their brief, then prepared for oral arguments with practice rounds coached by faculty members.

“The writing skills I learned through this process will be beneficial to my future litigation practice,” Rix said. “Our coaches, Alice Craig and Quinton Lucas, as well as many other faculty members, provided invaluable advice.”

“Our goal was that they really understand the law and issues surrounding the case,” said Craig, staff attorney for the Project for Innocence and Post-Conviction Remedies. “I think they achieved that and were one of the most knowledgeable teams I saw at the competition.”

The FBA team’s success comes on the heels of the school’s strong showings at three moot court competitions earlier this year. KU students came in second and achieved a Sweet Sixteen finish at the National Native American Law Students Association Moot Court Competition; won top brief and finished in the semifinals of the Transactional LawMeet Regional Competition; and brought home a top-five speaker award at the Jessup International Law Rocky Mountain Regional Competition. 

Photo: From left, Gretchen Rix and Emily Barclay.

KU law team finishes second in national Indian law moot court competition

Thursday, March 12, 2015

LAWRENCE – A University of Kansas School of Law team brought home second place after rising to compete in the final round of one of the largest National Native American Law Students Association Moot Court Competitions in history.

KU law students Corey Adams, of Wichita, and Maureen Orth, of Prairie Village, placed second in the NNALSA competition at the University of Arizona March 6-7. Two additional KU teams competed at the event, including Annette McDonough, of Phoenix, and Samantha Small, of South Haven, who advanced to the Sweet 16 round; and Grant Brazill, of Las Vegas, and Jason Harmon, of Orem, Utah.

The NNALSA competition tests students’ knowledge of Indian law by evaluating their legal writing and oral advocacy skills. Students submit written briefs and participate in a simulated courtroom experience.

“This year’s moot court problem focused on the extent of a tribe’s jurisdiction over a non-member Indian,” said Professor Elizabeth Kronk Warner, team coach and director of KU’s Tribal Law and Government Center. “The hypothetical non-member Indian sold important cultural property of the tribe to non-Indians, and the students were asked to consider whether the tribe could attach its adjudicatory and regulatory jurisdiction to her actions.”

Teams prepared for the competition by researching and preparing their written briefs, participating in practice rounds, and receiving feedback from faculty judges and teammates.

“All the KU teams contributed to our success in the final competition,” Orth said. “All six of us worked outside of practice to try new themes, new arguments and to give each other feedback.”

Participating in the competition helped students prepare for their future legal careers, Adams said. “I feel like I am much better at articulating a coherent legal argument. I see both sides of an issue and am better at making my arguments as concise and persuasive as possible.”

“Exceptional legal writing and oral advocacy skills are necessary to succeed in moot court competitions,” Kronk Warner said. “Students’ success in this competition is proof of their extraordinary skills, which are the foundation of the legal profession.”

With more than 70 teams, this year’s competition was one of NNALSA’s largest ever. KU students defeated teams from Columbia University in New York City, Hawaii and Seattle. The final rounds were judged by accomplished Indian law scholars and judges, including the chief justice of the Navajo Nation Supreme Court and a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. 

Photo: From left, Annette McDonough, Corey Adams, Grant Brazill, Professor Elizabeth Kronk Warner, Maureen Orth, Samantha Small and Jason Harmon.

KU tribal law conference to explore future of Indian education

Friday, March 13, 2015

LAWRENCE – Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn and experts from across the country will discuss the status quo of Indian education and how it might change in the future based on President Obama’s recent commitment to reform during the University of Kansas School of Law’s 19th annual Tribal Law & Government Conference today in Lawrence. 

The conference will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, March 13, at the Burge Union, 1601 Irving Hill Road. The conference is open to the public, but registration is required.

The federal government began rolling out plans last summer to overhaul the Bureau of Indian Education. Through reform efforts, the administration hopes to increase educational and employment opportunities for Native people across the country.

“This is a significant time for Indian education within the United States, as the Obama administration is committed to improving upon the status quo,” said Elizabeth Kronk Warner, associate professor of law and director of KU’s Tribal Law & Government Center. “Given the recent push for reform, this topic is particularly relevant to Indian country and legal communities throughout the United States. Further, given Lawrence’s historic connection to Indian education and Haskell Indian Nations University, it is particularly appropriate that the University of Kansas host a conference on this important topic.”

Washburn will open the conference with a survey of Indian education and the federal government’s role, along with an exploration of proposed reforms. Panel presentations on the history of Indian education at the collegiate and K-12 levels, and a nationwide survey of proposed legal reforms to Indian education will follow. Kronk Warner will close the conference with an examination of the ethical quandaries that typically face tribal lawyers and judges.

Panelists include:

  • Dawn Baum, senior attorney and Indian Education team leader, U.S. Department of Interior, Office of the Solicitor, Bureau of Indian Education
  • Mandy Smoker Broaddus, director of Indian Education, Montana Office of Public Instruction
  • Venida Chenault, president, Haskell Indian Nations University
  • Jill Eichner, attorney, Office of the General Counsel, U.S. Department of Education
  • Melody McCoy, staff attorney, Native American Rights Fund
  • William Mendoza, executive director, White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education
  • Connor Warner, instructor for Urban Teacher Education, University of Missouri-Kansas City

Two-and-a-half hours of CLE credit are approved in Kansas and Missouri. Register and preview the schedule on the conference website.

KU rises for third consecutive year in law school rankings

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

LAWRENCE – The 2016 edition of U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Graduate Schools” rankings confirms that for breadth and quality of graduate programs, the University of Kansas is unmatched in the state.

Forty-four KU graduate programs appear in the “Best Graduate Schools” rankings, more than all other Kansas universities and colleges combined. Ten KU programs appear in the top 10 among public universities nationally, and 38 are in the top 50.

“We want scholars from around not just the nation, but the world, to come to Kansas because they want to be a part of our teaching and research, either as faculty members or as graduate students,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.

“Our graduate programs educate leaders who will go on to make contributions in essentially all disciplines, in both the private sector and academia, and those contributions directly benefit the people of Kansas and our society. This breadth and depth of excellence is just one example of what a flagship research university can bring to the state it serves,” she said.

The schools of Engineering and Law both saw their rankings rise for the third consecutive year. KU’s special education program held its top spot among public university programs, while the largest gains for an individual program were for the part-time MBA program, which rose 10 places to be tied for 39th among public university programs. City management and urban policy maintained its top overall ranking, as public affairs-related disciplines were not re-ranked this year.

In health-related fields, nursing rose four places to enter the top 20 among public university programs, while family medicine, an area of focus for the university given the state’s shortage of physicians, rose to 13th overall and kept its 12thplace ranking among public universities.

KU graduate programs ranked in the top 50 nationally among public universities:

1.      City Management & Urban Policy
1.      Special Education
2.      Occupational Therapy
3.      Public Management Administration
4.      Public Affairs
5.      Clinical Child Psychology
6.      Speech-Language-Pathology
7.      Audiology
9.      Physical Therapy
9.      School of Education
12.    Medicine - Family Medicine
12.    Public Finance & Budgeting
15.    Printmaking
15.    Social Work
17.    Clinical Psychology
20.    Medicine - Primary Care
20.    Nursing
20.    Pharmacy
23.    Psychology
25.    Healthcare Management
26.    Aerospace Engineering
27.    History
31.    Political Science
36.    English
36.    School of Law
37.    Medicine - Research
37.    Earth Sciences - Geology
38.    Biological Sciences (see: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Molecular Biosciences)
38.    Fine Arts
39.    Civil Engineering
39.    Part-time MBA 

41.    Mathematics
43.    Sociology
44.    Chemistry
45.    Economics
46.    Environmental/Environmental Health Engineering
47.    Electrical Engineering
50.    Mechanical Engineering

Additionally, in the U.S. News and World Report rankings of online programs, KU’s nursing master’s degree program ranks 16th among public university programs.

KU students win top writing prize at transactional law competition

Thursday, March 12, 2015

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas School of Law made a strong showing at the recent Transactional LawMeet Regional Competitions in Kansas City and Chicago.

The draft agreement, written by Paul Budd of Deephaven, Minnesota; Kerry Hillis of Austin, Texas, and Chris Keyser, Lee’s Summit, Missouri, was deemed the best at the competition hosted by Northwestern University School of Law, while students Maria Caruso of Leawood, Trevor Jennings of Olathe and Dylan Long of Overland Park were named regional semi-finalists of the competition at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The Transactional LawMeet offers a “moot court” experience for aspiring transactional lawyers.

“The competition gave me hands on-experience with transactional law by simulating an asset purchase deal between a buyer and seller,” said Caruso, a third-year law student. “I had to go through the steps of understanding my client's interests and positions, drafting those interests into a contract, marking up a contract drafted by another team on the other side of the deal and then negotiating to come to some agreement while upholding my client's interests.” 

To prepare for the competition, team members interviewed their client, conducted research, then drafted an agreement that followed legal precedent, yet was still tailored to the client’s individual needs, Keyser said.

“I was able to work on a large, complex business transaction from beginning to final negotiations,” Budd said. “As a 3L looking to work as a transactional attorney, I think this is an experience that very few law students receive.”

Team coach Kenneth Lynn, adjunct law professor, was impressed with the students’ effort.  

“Their collective performance throughout the competition was outstanding,” he said.

The team also benefited from the expertise of alumni Stan Woodworth, L’78, Craig Evans, L’85, and Kelley Sears, L’74, who served as advisers.

“It was the first chance I've had to interact with attorneys representing an opposing party's interests in a business deal, which is a great deal different from drafting or analyzing a contract from one side,” Hillis said. “That was a very valuable experience for me.”

The National Transactional LawMeet tests students’ contract and negotiation skills. This year’s case simulation involved the sale of a family-owned business to a publicly traded international corporation.  Eighty-four teams participated in seven regional competitions.

Last year, KU brought home Best Draft Agreement from the Kansas City competition and advanced one team to the final rounds in New York.

Photo: Pictured from left are Paul Budd, Kerry Hillis and Chris Keyser.

Professor analyzes role of trade sanctions against Iran

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

LAWRENCE — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress on Tuesday as about 50 Democratic lawmakers threatened to boycott the address, offering the latest and one of the most clear microcosms of the debate about Iran’s nuclear program and strained relations among nations. A University of Kansas professor has authored an extensive look at the history of trade sanctions against Iran, noting that while they have had their intended effect, the problems are far from over.

Raj Bhala, associate dean for international & comparative law and Rice Distinguished Professor at the KU School of Law, has published “Fighting Iran With Trade Sanctions” in the Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law. 

“Iran has been a part of my life since high school. I’ve been fascinated by it; I’ve been frustrated by it for many years,” Bhala said. “I’ve had professional, educational and personal experiences with Iran ever since. The purpose of this article is to explain, analyze and critique the most comprehensive set of trade law sanctions ever imposed by the United States, or any country, against another country.”

Iran’s nuclear ambitions are at the heart of the disagreements. While Iran claims it is not interested in nuclear weapons and only wants to pursue peaceful nuclear energy, the U.S., Israel and many members of the United Nations claim the world simply cannot allow the country to develop nuclear weapons.

Bhala details the four main types of sanctions, imposed by the U.S. and endorsed by the United Nations:

  • Foreign direct investment or FDI
  • Import and export
  • Financial sanctions
  • Human rights sanctions.

The sanctions have had the intended effect of weakening Iran’s economy, Bhala said. The FDI sanctions alone forbid countries from making investments of more than $20 million in Iran’s energy sector.

“We all know Iran is blessed with abundant energy resources. However, it needs to pump that oil and natural gas out of the ground, export it, have it refined, re-import it and sell it, either domestically or internationally,” Bhala said. “Not being able to reap those foreign investments has clearly damaged that vital sector.”

The financial sanctions have also been effective, as any transactions with Iran became illegal under the orders. The sanctions also outlawed correspondent banking, a major feature of international banking and letters of credit involving Iran, the primary instrument of trade finance.

While effective, the sanctions have evolved because they did not quell the behaviors they were intended to stop, Bhala said. In the case of energy exports, Iran has worked around the limitations because of strong demands in nations such as China and India with burgeoning populations in the process of industrialization.

Iran also could circumvent import and export sanctions as transporters, insurers and others did not always know whether the cargo they carried or insured was of Iranian origin or destined for Iran. So, the U.S. brought freight companies and insurers within the ambit of the sanctions regime.

The ability to circumvent sanctions not only led to tightening of restrictions over time, they also generated significant lessons, Bhala said. History shows that sanctions work best when the United States does not act alone and imposes sanctions in concert with allies. The record also suggests the United States should work closely with friends and allies to help them comply with sanctions. 

“It’s not reasonable for India to shift all of its energy needs away from Iran overnight, for example,” Bhala said. “That’s impossible to do and not something that we should expect.”

Actions can have unintended consequences, and they should be monitored to help improve sanctions as well, he wrote. One example is the high rate of plane crashes in Iran due to lack of modern spare parts and high-quality aerospace engineering servicing. Loss of innocent life is not acceptable and can and should lead to improvements to sanctions when it is shown to happen, Bhala said.

With updates, sanctions have achieved their intended outcomes and brought Iran to the bargaining table as an interim nuclear deal is now in place, which Bhala details in the article. While disagreements persist, they are still practical teaching tools for anyone hoping to enter the field of law. The sanctions affect business, real estate, financial, economic and many other sectors of law.

“It’s an incredibly diverse array of sanctions, and there are criminal penalties for violating them,” Bhala said. “It would be malpractice if we were not teaching our students about them, and as a moral issue, it’s a fascinating question of, ‘Do sanctions work, and do we have the right to impose them?’”

The strained relationship between the U.S. and Iran also has the potential to improve. If both sides were able to prevent nuclear armament through sanctions, it would be a triumph of international law and show that negotiations on complex, decades-old problems can work, if they are undertaken in good faith and with empathy.

“I think there’s a lesson of hope here,” Bhala said. “For almost 40 years our relationship with Iran has been extremely poor. I don’t want to see these problems passed on to my daughter and her generation. This is a problem my generation should fix, and I think we can.”

Marysville student finishes among top-five moot court competitors

Friday, February 27, 2015
LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas School of Law brought home fourth place and third-year law student Katie Malott was named the fifth-best oral advocate at the Jessup International Law Rocky Mountain Regional Competition in Denver, which was Feb. 19-22.

The event pitted KU law students’ written and oral advocacy skills against 20 teams and approximately 75 individual speakers from 11 states. The KU team includes third-year students Kasey Considine of Dartmouth, Massachusetts; Katie Malott of Marysville; Michael Wise of Olathe, and Steven Wu of St. Louis, as well as second-year student Jacqueline Patton of Wichita.

“Participating in this competition taught me that you can never be too prepared,” Malott said. “It would be wrong to think a judge might not ask you a specific question and then not research that issue, because likely, if you thought of the question, the judge will, too. Collaborating with other people, whether it be on the team or in an office, is important. We all had to work together and help one another.”

The Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition is the world's largest moot court program. It features participants from more than 550 law schools and 80 countries. The competition involves a simulated dispute between nations before the International Court of Justice.

“This year’s team continued the tradition of KU’s success in the Jessup program,” said John Head, Robert W. Wagstaff Distinguished Professor of Law  and the team’s faculty adviser. “It gave these students a great opportunity to learn a vast amount of international law in a short time and to hone their advocacy skills in a highly prestigious program. I’m so pleased for them, and of course especially proud that Katie Malott received special recognition for her talents and performance.” 

The Jessup team’s success comes on the heels of KU Law’s moot court victories last year. KU had a top-five speaker at the Jessup regional competition and brought home first-place honors for their written brief at the Stetson International Environmental Law Moot Court competition in 2014. The Jayhawks also advanced to the final rounds of the 2014 National Transactional LawMeet.

Top competitors in KU’s in-house moot court competition represent the university at national and international competitions. Clinical Associate Professor Pam Keller oversees the moot court program. 

Pictured above, from left: Steven Wu, Kasey Considine, Katie Malott, Jacqueline Patton and Michael Wise.

Law professor's book explores role of international development bank

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

LAWRENCE — A University of Kansas law professor has authored a book that thoroughly examines the operations of the Asian Development Bank, both to help people understand how the institution works and to help consider how the institution that invests billions of dollars every year in developing Asian and Pacific nations can improve.

John Head, Robert W. Wagstaff Distinguished Professor of Law, has written the third edition of The Asian Development Bank, part of the International Encyclopedia of Law series. This edition of the publication was co-authored by Xing Lijuan, law professor at the City University of Hong Kong and a KU Law alumna.

One of four of the world’s regional multilateral development banks, the Asian Development Bank was founded in 1967 as a way to help countries develop through infrastructure projects such as roads, airports, hospitals, schools, power generation, irrigation systems, rural credit and many others. Over the years, much criticism has been leveled at the bank for how it operates, where its funding comes from and its resistance to change and improvement.

“Enormous misunderstanding of the multilateral development banks — including the Asian Development and the World Bank as well — exists around the world,” Head said. “In other books, I have offered my own critiques of these institutions, including the ADB. In this book I try to explain more about how that particular institution works, hoping this can serve as a firm factual foundation for considering how it can and should be improved.”

Among the most frequent criticisms of the Asian Development Bank is that it is operated on a weighted voting system. Nations that invest more heavily in the bank can have more influence on what projects are funded, leading to charges of bias, favoritism and other criticisms in how funding is assigned. In the book Head and Xing explain in detail how the weighted voting system works, why that is the system in place and the legal implications it has. Similarly, many claim the United States, Canada, France and other wealthy Western nations have too much influence. The authors explain the two largest reasons Western nations are involved: First, it is in their interest to help insure a stable Asia; second, only with the involvement of rich nations can the Asian Development Bank mobilize the financial means to provide large amounts of funding for all manner of projects.

Similarly, there are common misconceptions about the sources from which the Asian Development Bank derives its funding. Most of the money is not collected from taxes but instead from private sector investors buying bonds, the integrity of which are backed by the bank’s member nations, the authors explain.

“Therefore they’re safe investments,” Head said of the investments. “A lot of people, and especially institutional investors, will buy those bonds from the Asian Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and others because they’re safe and have a high AAA rating.”

Head is quick to point out he is not an apologist for the Asian Development Bank or other regional multilateral development banks. His goal with the book was to increase understanding, because unfounded criticism can prevent improvement among the banks.

“There is a lot of noise, and unfortunately it drowns out much of the valid criticisms,” Head said. “The Asian Development Bank and its sister institutions are too important to allow silly or unfounded criticisms to dominate the discourse over how to bring about the dramatic reforms they need to undertake.”

An expert in international commerce and investment, international economic law and comparative law, Head is intimately familiar with the book’s topic. In the 1980s he was a staff attorney for the Asian Development Bank, headquartered in Manila, Philippines, and later served as a legal counsel for the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C. In those roles he learned the value of possessing a deeper understanding of varying legal systems and cultures before offering criticism. Both legal and cultural problems are much more likely to be understood and workable solutions reached, he said, when cross-cultural understanding is attempted and accomplished.

Head emphasizes that such large institutions do not change easily, but through understanding and reasoned criticism the Asian Development Bank and others can address their problems and achieve changes. In Head’s view, these would include improving the weighted voting system, broadening participation by non-state actors, strengthening funding structures and placing ever more emphasis on environmental protection, social justice and gender equity.

“The main goal that Dr. Xing and I have for this book is to provide an objective and non-value-laden descriptive account of how the institution works,” Head said. “If anyone is interested in learning about and critiquing how the Asian Development Bank works, they can take a look at what we have written in this book.”


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