It’s been a terrific and busy year for the Innovation, Business & Law Center at the University of Iowa. The mission of the IBL Center is to enrich students’ understanding of the laws relating to entrepreneurship, creativity, competition, technology and corporations.  This year, the Center delivered on its mission in numerous ways, hosting two conferences and numerous speakers, helping to bring about new and updated classes focusing on innovation and the law, and supporting the College of Law’s intellectual property competition teams, who continued the tradition of success in national intellectual property competitions.  Thanks to all of the alumni and other supporters who made these events possible, from serving as speakers on panels to mooting student IP teams to providing direct financial support.

This year, the IBL Center hosted two major conferences just a month apart—the first large-scale conferences hosted by the Center in its history.  On August 29th, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office brought its China Intellectual Property Road Show to the University of Iowa College of Law. The Road Show focused on intellectual property protections in and in relation to China, with multiple panels of local, national and international speakers. Intellectual property protections in China play a large role in the modern business landscape, and this program brought these experts to the local community.   Attorney-attendees received 6.5 hours of CLE from this IBL Center-sponsored program.

On October 5th, many of the best academic minds in patent and administrative law gathered at the College of Law for the Administering Patent Law Symposium. The Symposium, co-sponsored by the IBL center and the Iowa Law Review, brought together over 15 legal academics, including John Golden, Melissa Wasserman, Rebecca Eisenberg, Jonathan Mossoff, and Colleen Chien. Notably, the Symposium featured two law professors who literally wrote the book on patent law: the casebook used in my Patent Law class was written by Robert Merges and John Duffy.

The format of the Symposium gave the students and other attendees an informative and entertaining view inside the world of patent law professors and the issues that they think about. Each panel consisted of four or five speakers who each gave presentations related to a central theme, starting with Constitutional constraints on USPTO administrative innovations.  The critical (and sometimes colorful!) feedback given during the panels gave the students a peek behind the curtain into the development of patent law theories.

Speakers and Workshops

In addition to its two marquee events, the IBL Center and its affiliates hosted an array of student-focused lunchtime speakers this year, ranging from entertainment law to trademarks to areas of rapidly developing technology.

On March 19th, Iowa Law’s own Professor Cristina Tilley spoke on media liability in the emerging area of algorithmically generated news stories in her talk “Recategorizing Defamation” on March 9th. News outlets have started using computer algorithms to generate, or write, news stories. However, when a computer program writes a news story, who is responsible when things go bad? Professor Tilley discussed that question and offered a path for how liability issues might be addressed in the future.

As part of the new “Technology for Lawyers” series, the IBL Center hosted two highly-attended student talks in the spring and one in the fall.  In March, UI computer science professor Omar Chowdhury talked about “Bitcoin and Blockchain Technology.” He discussed why there is such excitement surrounding Blockchain, the technology that enables cryptocurrencies, and how bitcoin fits into existing financial systems. Later in the semester, Dr. Hela Azaiez of the UI Molecular Otolaryngology and Research Laboratories discussed the emerging field of personalized medicine: medical practice tailored to a person’s particular genetic makeup. Dr. Azaiez explained how advances in genetic sequencing technology have contributed to our understanding of health and disease diagnosis, treatment and outcomes during her talk entitled "From Bench to Bedside: The Era of Precision Medicine and its Impact on Hearing Disorders." Both talks gave students a primer on these important areas of technology that the law will need to come to grips with over the course of their careers. 

During the fall semester, UI engineering professor Daniel McGehee spoke on “Legal Questions in Automated Driving.” Professor McGehee is the Director of the National Advanced Driving Simulator, one of the nation’s premier transportation safety research centers. Professor McGehee and his team are developing safe automated driving technologies, and those technologies are bringing new legal issues into view. He spoke on the varying degrees of automation in vehicles and how liability might be apportioned along the spectrum spanning from mainly human driven to fully automated vehicles. Professor McGehee even brought one of the Simulator’s modified vehicles, a Tesla featuring some of the Simulator’s automation technologies, for the audience to see.

Also in September, Iowa Law Professor Anya Prince spoke about the emerging technology of genome editing and its intersection with health care and insurance law. Her talk entitled ““Who Pays? Access to Healthcare and Gene Editing Technology” explored the new technologies behind genome editing, their promise for treating human disease, the cost of those new treatments, and the ethical issues surrounding those treatments. Professor Prince delved into the different models of paying for genome editing disease treatments that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per patient, including innovative payment methods based on pay for performance (i.e. based on patient outcome), annuities, and reinsurance. She also explained how the new treatments bring up ethical issues related to access to health care and disparities in treatments amongst patients.

Capping the fall semester was Joseph Clamon, Associate Vice President for Legal Affairs for the University of Iowa Health Care, who spoke about the business of healthcare and its complexities and regulations, discussing the current health care system and the possible effects of future reforms.

Intellectual Property Law Society (IPLS)

The IBL Center continues to support the student IP Law Society’s program.  Last year’s co-presidents, Megan Hingtgen (JD ’18) and Lauren Taylor (JD ’18) put together a strong lineup of events, and current co-presidents Olivia Martzhan and Arianna Chronis are hard at work on the spring 2019 lineup. 

On February 19th, the Intellectual Property Law Society (IPLS) and the Federalist Society hosted Irina Manta from Hofstra Law to speak on "Why IP is Like Property and Property is Not What You Think!" I provided a rebuttal. This talk gave students a precursor for the Oil States decision that the Supreme Court issued later in the year.   

In a recurring and popular program, the Intellectual Property Law Society brought University of Iowa Trademark Licensing Director and Athletics Hall of Fame & Museum Director Dale Arens to the College of Law for his talk “Licensing 101” on March 23rd. Mr. Arens gave the students an inside view of the history and development of the University of Iowa’s trademark program and explained how he and his office protect the familiar “Herky” and “Tiger Hawk” trademarks. Mr. Arens discussed some of the legal and practical issues related to the University’s valuable trademarks and how their value is developed through a selective licensing strategy meant to “increase the size of the pie,” as opposed to splitting the pie into smaller pieces. Further, he compared and contrasted the University’s trademark strategy with other schools’. The students enjoyed the talk and look into the management of a Big Ten school’s trademark strategy.

The Intellectual Property Law Society also hosted a Patent Resume Workshop for students who planned to attend the Loyola Patent Interview Program, known amongst the students as the “Loyola Patent Fair.” The Fair is one of the prime avenues for students to get summer and post-graduation jobs at many of the top firms from across the country. The IPLS worked with Beth Woods, Managing Director at the legal executive search firm Major, Lindsey & Africa to advise students.

Capping the semester was a talk by University of Iowa alum Adia Z. May (JD, ’02) and LA entertainment attorney, who spoke on “Film, TV, and Digital Dealmaking 101: What’s the Deal?”. Ms. May talked about how she took her career from Iowa to Los Angeles to work in the world of entertainment law, and provided insights into a career working with clients and studios.


Emily Asp and Kassandra Ricklefs, both now graduates of the College of Law, won the 2018 Cardozo/BMI Entertainment and Communications Law Moot Court Competition in March.
The students were given a problem with two legal issues. Each team then wrote a brief and argued orally before a panel of three federal judges. Emily and Kassandra competed against 23 other teams from law schools across the country, emerging victorious in the final round. Ms. Asp and Ms. Ricklefs participated in this competition as part of the College of Law’s IP Advocacy course.

Two other recent College of Law graduates, Brandon Pakkebier and Tyler Latcham, reached the national stage of the AIPLA Giles Sutherland Rich Moot Court Competition. As a team, they were given a problem with two legal issues, wrote briefs arguing both sides of the case, and then argued before judges. They won the Midwest Regional and were designated as Best Oralists, before heading to Washington D.C.  Mr. Pakkebier and Mr. Latcham also participated in this competition as part of the College of Law’s IP Advocacy course.

This year’s teams, who will compete in the INTA Saul Lefkowitz Moot Court Competition and AIPLA Giles S. Rich Patent Moot Court Competition, are already hard at work on their briefs.  If you are interested in being a guest judge during oral argument practice sessions, please contact professor Christina Bohannan.

Course Updates

The Iowa Medical Innovation Group, or IMIG, assembles teams of students from an array of disciplines to develop a product that solves a medical need. Teams are typically comprised of engineering, law, business and medical students.

This past year saw the launch of IMIG 2.0, which places the responsibility of identifying an existing need in the hands of the students.  The IMIG 2018 teams focused on identifying and solving needs in rural healthcare and among aging populations. The students interviewed numerous stakeholders, from patients to caregivers to administrative personnel charged with making purchasing decisions. They then combined their skills and expertise to develop a solution to their identified problem, including a prototype, business plan, and analysis of the legal issues. Two of the teams plan to continue with business development and seek to raise seed capital through pitch competitions in the spring. 

Numerous guest speakers participated in IMIG this year, including Barry Brettschneider  (JD ’71), who also served as the guest judge for a mock Helsinn v. Teva oral argument in my Patent Law class, and the UI’s new Chief Innovation Officer, Jon Darsee (undergraduate ’82), who helped bring the product featured on the cover of the Stanford Biodesign textbook to market.

IMIG 2019, which begins in just a few weeks, will focus on healthcare needs in sports and athletics.  If you’re interested in serving as a team mentor—especially if you participated in IMIG during your time at Iowa Law—please let me know.

Adding to the existing curriculum in innovation and the law, professor Anya Prince introduced a new course on Genetics and the Law in the spring of 2018. Genetic and genomic technologies are transforming how diseases are diagnosed and treated, raising myriad legal issues. Professor Prince teaches students at the College of Law about this emerging field in medical innovation. Students learn about issues related to genetic testing, privacy, informed consent, genetic research, and more.


Thanks to the generosity of Lata Setty, J.D. ’91, and her son, Deven Ramachandran, the College of Law continues to offer the Dr. Satya & Prema Leela Setty Scholarship in the area of intellectual property.

The Iowa Intellectual Property Lawyers Association has also voted to provide two additional one-time scholarships for students interested in intellectual property law.  Recipients of these scholarships will be selected in spring 2019.

Upcoming Events at the IBL Center

The theme of this spring’s IBL Center talks is “Artificial Intelligence and the Law.”  Lunchtime programs, which run from 12:30-2 pm, include:

  • February 1 - Prof. Daniel Martin Katz of Chicago Kent Law on "The Limits of Legal Automation"
  • February 7 – IPLS talk, Tom Irving, Partner at Finnegan (D.C.) and author of IP Watchdog
  • February 22 –UI College of Law Prof. Paul Gowder on "Is Legal Cognition Computational? (When will DeepVehicle Replace Judge Hercules?)"
  • March 15 - IBL Center Technology for Lawyers Series: UI Prof. in Computer Science Rishab Nithyanand on "A.I. and Big Data in the Advertising Ecosystem"
  • March 28 - Prof. Pam Samuelson of Berkeley Law on “AI, Copyright, and Ownership Rights

If you are in the area, you’re welcome to drop by for any of these talks!

In Conclusion

As in past years, IBL Center activities were financially supported by the David M. Hellwege Fund.  To augment this fund and allow for more flexibility in programming, this year we created a separate Innovation, Business & Law Center fund for those who wish to support the mission of the Center.

I would also like to thank everyone who participated in IBL Center events this year.  At Iowa, we are blessed with a wealth of talented alumni and other supporters, and it’s through your efforts that we are able to have a robust program.  There are undoubtedly people who were not mentioned, and we thank you all.

It has been a great year, and I look forward to another in 2019!

Jason Rantanen

Professor of Law

Ferguson-Carlson Fellow in Law, and Director, Innovation, Business & Law Program

University of Iowa College of Law