On March 19th-21st, 2015, the 13th Annual Oxford International Intellectual Property Moot took place in Oxford, England. It is the largest student mooting IP competition in the world, attracting top IP talent from every corner of the globe. The moot is judged by some of the most prominent IP professionals and academics.
Every year, the Oxford Intellectual Property Moot Committee selects the top 24 teams to take part in the invitational oral rounds of the moot at Oxford University. To become eligible, each team must submit appellant and respondent facta in response to a moot problem that deals with at least two IP issues in a hypothetical jurisdiction of “Erewhon” (a semi-palindrome of “Nowhere”), a land which finds all case law and legislation persuasive, but none binding.
Over 50 schools submitted their facta in hopes of competing in Oxford. The top 24 teams were selected from countries such as: England, Germany, Singapore, China, Australia, India, the United States of America, and Canada.
This year, for the first time in the history of the moot, Osgoode Hall Law School was invited to participate in the oral rounds. The Osgoode team was comprised of Lou Chang, Jennifer Davidson, and Anastassia Trifonova.
This year’s team had a great deal of help in preparing for the moot. The team was tirelessly prepped and coached by biotechnical and pharmaceutical patent practitioners Sheldon Hamilton, Urszula Wojtyra, Andrew Mandlsohn, and Kevin Siu from Smart & Biggar / Fetherstonhaugh. The team also received assistance from Mark Biernacki and Brian Isaac of Smart & Biggar / Fetherstonhaugh; David Tait of McCarthy Tétrault; Andrew Shaughnessy of Torys LLP; Natalie Rizkalla-Kamel, Kevin Sartorio, Selena Kim, and Laurent Massam of Gowlings. At Osgoode, the team received support and guidance from renowned IP Law Professor David Vaver; Professor Giuseppina D’Agostino, Founder & Director of IP Osgoode; Michelle Li, Assistant Director of IP Osgoode; Professor Faisal Bhabha, Director of Mooting and Natia Tucci, Administrative Assistant of Mooting.
This year’s moot problem was based on patent infringement and breach of confidence. In the problem’s scenario, the Appellant, an agricultural biotechnology corporation called “Santos Halper Limited” alleged that the Respondent, “Ms. Van Outen”, was liable for breach of confidence by hiving genetically modified “Snowball bees” that swarmed onto her farm. Additionally, Santos Halper Limited claimed that Ms. Van Outen had infringed its patent rights by harvesting seeds for its “StampOut maize” that travelled onto her farm by way of wind pollination. Despite the numerous Simpsons references to keep the teams and judges laughing, the problem touched on many difficult issues that the world of IP currently faces, in particular, the clash of intellectual property rights with real property rights.
At Oxford, the events were a whirlwind of activity. On the day of arrival, each team mooted twice, once on the appellant side, and once on the respondent side. The day’s moots were concluded with cocktails at the University club and an opportunity to network with panelists and mooters. Day two brought two more rounds of competition. Of the four moots in the preliminary rounds, each had competitors from different countries, with different styles, and judges from different places, with diverse backgrounds. Stylistically, competitors had to gauge the room and alter their own strategy to match the conditions.
After the two days of mooting, participants and judges were all invited to a large lecture hall to engage in a master class on the issues of the moot entitled “IP Speeding the Plough?”, with world class experts in the field. This year, panelists included a top zoologist, Dr. Manual Berdoy, from Oxford University; Professor Daniel Kelves, a History Professor at Yale Law School with a specialization in the evolution of intellectual property in plants; the Honourable Mr. Justice Birss, of the High Court of England and Wales; Mr. Andrew Waught QC, a barrister with an intellectual property practice, who represents Monsanto in Europe; and Professor Tanya Aplin, a Professor of Intellectual Property Law at the School of Law, King’s College London and author of ‘Gurry on Breach of Confidence’. The master class discussed the history and the future of the bioagricultural sector and the importance of trade secret and patent protection to incentivize innovation and balance public interest.
The lecture was followed with a reception and dinner at Pembroke Hall, a 15th century building, where mooters, guests, judges and observers alike discussed the evening’s topics and posed questions to the panelists. At the dinner, the quarter-finalists were announced with only one Canadian team, University of Ottawa, making the cut.
The next day saw even more extraordinary mooting with quarter-final, semi-final, and final rounds of the competition. The final competition was between Monash University (Australia) and National Law School of India University. The teams faced a panel comprised of Lord Justice Floyd, Lord Justice Kitchin and, the Honourable Mr. Justice Birss. Both teams had a wealth of profound questions put to them and the high quality of answers they provided illustrated the tremendous amount of preparation that went into the competition. But at the end, there could only be one winner, and the court found the title belonged to the National Law School of India University.
Overall, the experience of mooting against the world’s best in IP was an unparalleled opportunity to bond over the craft of mooting with a wide variety IP professionals, academics and mooters. The Oxford IP Law Moot is a competition which perfectly embodies the international nature of the field. The Osgoode team had a delightful experience at the moot and is hopeful that this is the first of many years where Osgoode represents Canadian talent on the international level.
From left: Anastassia Trifonova, Lou Chang, Jennifer Davidson
Jennifer Davidson and Anastassia Trifonova are JD Candidates at Osgoode Hall Law School and IPilogue Editors.