The MBE Course: Field Fisher Waterhouse Meets Budding Entrepreneurs
snIPpets – January 2013
- Court of Appeal restricts the use of witness gathering exercises in trade mark infringement cases
- Warning for owners of trade marks with a "figurative figleaf of distinctiveness"
- Advocate General advises that registering a CTM should not be a defence to infringement
- 3-D Scrabble Tile: not a sign capable of graphic representation
- Use of a different form of trade mark can still be genuine use
- Yoghurt is Yoghurt
- China trade Mark Practice Note – Retail Services
- English Court flexes its muscles on declarations of non-infringement
- Proposal to make clinical trials less risky and online drug sales safer
- Court of Appeal confirms invalidity of patent for EXELON because it was obvious to resolve racemate using standard techniques
Patents / Competition
This article has previously been published in the University of Cambridge - CEN Focus Newsletter
Since 2007, law firm, Fieldfisher has been providing a set of legal lectures for the Masters in Bioscience Enterprise course after Ian Craig, a partner at the firm who has since retired, was asked to do so by Professor Chris Lowe. Ian, who had a previous career in the Royal Navy spending more that 10 years at sea working in submarines, had subsequently worked in Cambridge as a lawyer for a number of years and it was through his continuing relationships with the University that the opportunity to teach in the MBE course arose.
I joined Fieldfisher in 2004, following a previous but short-lived life as an academic in the Zoology department at this University (and some necessary re-training). Armed with the knowledge that my background was in the life sciences and that I had studied at Cambridge, Ian asked me whether I might be interested in coordinating the lecture course. I was naturally delighted for the opportunity and have been involved in coordinating the lecture series ever since. Pinning down over 15 different lawyers with busy schedules has been quite challenging at times but thankfully everyone involved is enthusiastic and keen to contribute. More often than not, the difficulty lies in limiting the number of lectures offered to fit with the busy MBE timetable. It certainly helps that Linda Allan, the Academic Director of the MBE course is very accommodating and a pleasure to work with.
The MBE course is an excellent offering to scientists wishing to learn business and entrepreneurial skills in the biotech and pharmaceutical sector. It combines teaching in the latest biotech developments with providing skills for the exploitation of biotech inventions including business, management, commercial and legal know-how.
This is the 11th year that the MBE course has been running. Unfortunately, it did not exist when I decided to leave academia in 1999. Had it been in place, I suspect that I may have well tried to join the course which would probably have led to a very different career path. Luckily, intellectual property is a particularly interesting and challenging area of law where I still get to apply my science skills.
The aim of the legal lecture series that we teach is to provide the students with an overall framework of legal issues relevant to biotech and pharmaceutical businesses. Thus whilst there is naturally a focus on intellectual property (particularly patents), which is key in this sector, we also cover other relevant areas such as competition, data protection and company law. It helps that Fieldfisher is a leading European law firm with expertise in all of these areas, including a number of market leading practices.
Over the years we have refined the course to make it current and relevant for the students and to include any important legal developments. Where possible, we invite speakers from business and industry bodies giving the students an insight of how law is applied in practice. So, for example, this year the Chairman of the Ethical Medicines Industry Group, Leslie Galloway, joined Dr Cord Willhöft one of my German colleagues specialising in pharma regulatory law to give a lecture on pharmaceutical pricing in the UK and Germany.
Many of those teaching in the course have a personal link with Cambridge whether it be that they studied in Cambridge, lived in Cambridge or have developed strong business relationships within the Cambridge community. We are keen to be part of the Cambridge biotech community as we see this as an exciting growth area and our involvement in the MBE course is an important part of this. This fits well with the philosophy of the firm which is to focus on industries that are highly regulated and with intellectual property and technology driven business models.
It is a privilege for those of us at Fieldfisher that have been teaching in the course for the past 5 years to have the opportunity to interact with such high calibre students especially given our links with the University and the City of Cambridge. The fact that the students come from over the world, with a mixture of work and life experience makes for a very interesting mix of people to teach.
We like to stay in touch with the MBE alumni and see how they progress in their careers. We have recently been assisting Desktop Genetics, an exciting company set up by founder Riley Doyle and co-founders Victor Dillard and Edward Perello, 3 MBE students from the 2011/2012 cohort after they won the 'Life Sciences Start-Up of the Year' award in the Cambridge University Entrepreneurs business creation competition. Desktop Genetics is developing a robot, the SynthBot, capable of performing automated DNA synthesis. The SynthBot has been specifically designed to run the time consuming, repetitive reactions needed to synthesise DNA, preventing costly mistakes and allowing users to focus on the experiments that really matter.
I asked colleagues that teach in the course to give me an insight of why they personally valued teaching on the course. For Eduardo Ustaran, a leading practitioner in data protection and privacy law it is the fact that "being in front of highly motivated, extremely inquisitorial, out-of-the-box thinking students gives us a different and very valuable opportunity to consider how to get our legal knowledge across". For Hastings Guise, a trade marks specialist: "there is no better way to deepen your understanding of your own discipline than by teaching it to a lively and incisive audience -- the MBE students are just that and it is great to have the opportunity to engage with them on these topics". For Sarah Ellson, our head of the Public and Regulatory Law Group it is "the opportunity to share and discuss with some of the world's future leading entrepreneurs the legal challenges and opportunities that the biotech sector faces".
And for me? Well my interests in the course are wide and varied but I particularly get a kick from helping the next generation of entrepreneurs to navigate through the regulatory, legal and commercial landscape to achieve their goals.