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Friday, October 23, 2020


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Law school panel discusses property vs human rights

Three speakers discussed regulations for patent rights regarding medicine on a global scale as a part of the 24th Annual Emanuel Emroch Lecture at the University of Richmond School of Law on Thursday.

As part of the 11th annual symposium put on by the Richmond Journal of Global Law and Business, Richmond law professor Cynthia Ho gave the key-note address in which she explained the basics of patents and how they relate to pharmaceuticals in international markets and societies. The three panelists were Rodney L. Sparks, a senior biotechnology patent counsel at the University of Virginia Licensing and Venture group, Michael Miller, chairman of the department of plastic surgery at the Ohio State University Medical Center, and Krista Cox, a staff attorney for the Knowledge Ecology International organization.

The discussion, held in the Honorable Robert R. Merhige Jr. Moot Courtroom, ranged from the argument that intellectual property should never be taken from a person to the argument that human life is always more important than profit.

"Just as you wouldn't take my kidney from me, my ideas are part of my property," Miller said. He said that, although he performed plastic surgery on cancer patients and had considered himself a compassionate person, he had disagreed with making it legal to take away another person's idea.

Cox countered his point and said, "I value human life so greatly that when you have existing drugs and are withholding them because of price, you are doing a disservice."

The entire discussion was complimented by a New York Times article published on Monday about how India's government gave a drug manufacturer the right to make and sell a generic copy of a cancer drug that was patented by Bayer.

Julia Bizer, one of the student symposium editors, said that the Richmond Journal of Global Law and Business had wanted to choose a topic that would have been timely and pertinent, and the New York Times had proved the relevancy of the medical patent topic.

"We really wanted to find [a topic] that would merge international law issues and business or corporate law," she said. The topic was especially relevant because the Richmond School of Law offers courses about Intellectual Property law.

Second-year law student Brittany Hamilton also helped organize the symposium and said she had been really happy with the way it had turned out. In addition to law students and faculty, about 40 professionals from outside the university had registered to attend the event.

Hamilton said she had yet to take courses in intellectual property law, but the symposium had given her an opportunity to learn about the different sides of the arguments involved with the field.

Richmond Law alumna Heather Fairbanks also attended the symposium and said, although the topic had not related to her current law practice, she had enjoyed the opportunities provided by the law school to continue to learn about new and relevant topics.

Contact reporter Chrissy Wengloski at

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