World Intellectual Property Organization

IP Summer School on the Banks of Lake Geneva

September 2005

Still smiling after a four-week diet of IP.
Still smiling after a four-week diet of IP.

The July sun shone through WIPO’s windows on a lively gathering of young professionals and students. It included trademark attorneys from Eastern Europe; science graduates from Africa and Australia; a Russian economist; a specialist in traditional Chinese medicine; a Chilean telecommunications executive; Ph.D. law students from Egypt, Kenya and Kazakhstan.

These were the 37 young achievers who had successfully applied to spend the summer of 2005 immersed in the study of intellectual property (IP) at WIPO’s Worldwide Academy Summer School in Geneva.

For four weeks they lived – at least by some accounts – on a diet of IP and Swiss chocolate. They heard lectures from WIPO experts, they conducted intensive research into chosen topics, they presented their findings, and they talked – often late into the evening.

WIPO Magazine met the students, exhausted but still ebullient, on the final day of the course to hear what they had to say about the experience.

The group were unanimous in their appreciation of the opportunity that the Summer School had given them to learn, not only from the WIPO experts, but – perhaps even more importantly – from each other. By comparing their experiences and discussing IP issues among themselves they were able to build beyond the lectures, to learn about the differing IP practices in each other’s countries and, as one student put it, “to understand just why harmonization is such a challenge.”

“We learned a lot and we laughed a lot,” said Maria Gomez from Venezuela. She urged the Academy to consider running similar summer schools in Spanish in Latin America, or in Africa, so as to spread the opportunity as widely as possible.

Adam Flynn had flown across the world from Australia, having wanted to attend the Summer School for several years. “Being together with colleagues from developing and developed countries, from the old world and the new, has given me a different understanding of IP,” he commented. He singled out presentations from guest speakers from the Swiss IP Office and from WTO as particularly instructive. Enthused by the research projects, he wished it had been possible to pursue these in greater depth.

Adam’s regret on this score was shared by Swiss law student, Alexandra Zachman. “I feel as if I only scratched the surface,” she said. “I came away with certain issues that I really want to study further.”

Broadening horizons

Several participants spoke of having been motivated to apply for the course by the challenge of broadening their horizons. Galateia Kapellakou, a Greek patent lawyer, reflected that she now felt ready to look beyond patents to other areas of IP, such as copyright or new plant varieties. Deepa Vohra from India described how she had felt herself stagnating in her work as a trademark attorney. “Now I have another dimension.” She announced that she had just received an offer of a teaching post. She looked forward to being able to spread better awareness of IP in her new role, and would be looking to WIPO for help with information materials.

The scope for all the participants to act as future “IP ambassadors,” able to aid greater understanding of IP, was a recurring theme. “We will be able to use tools from WIPO to put together seminars, for example with chambers of commerce, in our home countries,” said Rosa Castro, a graduate in law and economics from Venezuela. Thomas Roy Kadichini, a patent attorney who had already been actively involved in talking to schools about IP, endorsed the importance of outreach.

A number of the participants had several years of IP-related professional or academic experience under their belts, albeit in some cases within a specific field. Others were relatively new to the world of IP. While all were expected to have at least attained the level of the Academy’s free distance learning course, the DL-101 General Course on Intellectual Property, the differing levels of IP expertise among the students was a challenge for the teaching staff. Not that it was necessarily always those with the most experience who shone. “Some people with backgrounds in, say, chemistry or mathematics performed really highly,” remarked Carlos Mercuriali, who works for a law firm and is writing a book about IP and the Internet.

“The first time I really heard of IP was less than a year ago, when I did some work for a pharmaceutical firm,” said Susan Bergin, who had just graduated with a degree in medicinal chemistry from Trinity College, Ireland. Realizing that, without IP protection, research-based companies like the one she had worked for would be unable to afford to innovate, she decided that she needed to know more. Research on the Internet had led her to the WIPO Summer School, “– and now I’ve been accepted for a Masters in IP.”

Justine Cresswell, coming from a background in journalism in Capetown, South Africa, brought yet another perspective to enrich the group, and offered constructive feedback. She also reminded the course organizers that the participants – some of whom had never before traveled to Europe – had faced the challenge of getting quickly to grips with daily life in a foreign city at the same time as plunging into full time study at the Summer School.

High standards

“Having reduced the course from six to four weeks, we put the students under a lot of pressure,” commented Tshimanga Kongolo, Head of the professional training section of the Academy, who was responsible for the Summer School course. “But they all rose to that challenge. This was an impressive group, who produced research projects of a very high standard.”

As he presented them with their course certificates, the Academy Director Mpazi Sinjela encouraged the students to keep in touch with WIPO and with each other: “You arrived as 37 individuals; you leave as a network,” he concluded.

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