Sunday Apr 13, 2008

Let me try that answer again.

Last month, I was invited to speak to the USF Law School Intellectual Property and Cyberlaw Association. A nice group of students all with a shared interest in intellectual property law. I'm not a big fan of presentations, so I spent a few minutes talking about Sun and then opened it up for questions. And, there were many ranging from "how do you monetize products that you give away" to "what is the Peer to Patent project" to "what's your job like"? It was a very fun session.

But as I drove back to the office, I reflected on one particular question and wished that I had handled it differently. It was asked by a 3L (third year law student graduating this year) who wanted to know whether I thought the current macro-economic conditions were going to impact employment opportunities for this year's graduates. My response was that I've seen several of these downturns in my career and that they are cyclical. I also pointed out that the current economic conditions will likely impact every industry - except perhaps the energy sector. All in all, not a very comforting response on my part.

Here's what I should have added.

Despite the present economic environment, I can't think of a better area for future legal career opportunities than intellectual property law. Consider for a moment a few of the recent and more interesting IP cases like Viacom v. Google, Eros v. John Doe, Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley v. Roomates.com and A.V. v. iParadigms. Then realize that the technologies and business models underlying each dispute haven't existed much longer than you have been in law school. The pace of innovation around us is accelerating - not declining. Each year the universities of the world graduate even more engineering and computer science students with the facility to manipulate 1s and 0s in inventive ways. Every day there are new businesses emerging based on the digital economy that will touch every aspect of our lives whether it be in health care, entertainment, politics or consumerism.

And, there's something else to consider. What I have described here are U.S. examples. Current estimates are that only about 20% of the world's population is connected to the internet. Without doubt, when the rest of the world is fully able to participate in the digital community, even more innovation will result.

So, Mr. 3L. Take a deep breath. Spend the next few months preparing for finals and the Bar Exam. And, take comfort in the fact that even during this short period the intellectual property landscape will have changed - creating opportunities that you haven't imagined.

Friday Mar 07, 2008

My mid-life crisis

I'm reaching an age that has created a lucrative livelihood for many psychologists. According to them, it's when men start to act a bit oddly and is characterized by extravagant purchases of automotive horsepower. Well, I finally succumbed to the stereotype, but I went out and bought one of these. I found it used on craigslist of all places. It's in great shape and needs only a bit of work. But that's the beauty of it. It needs some work.

When you live in the center of Silicon Valley and work for an innovative company like Sun, there aren't too many opportunities to roll up your sleeves - technology pretty much does everything for us. The pace of technology advances in consumer goods has outstripped the ability of most of us non-engineers. Ever try to replace the battery in your iPod? So, it's a bit refreshing that I can adjust the carburetor and brakes myself. Don't get me wrong, I do appreciate and embrace innovation, but there is something immensely satisfying about tuning an engine on your own - even if it's one that sounds like a circa 1930's Russian tractor.

Oh, and the first nice day this spring, my carpool partner is in for a big surprise.

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