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Queen Mary Intellectual Property Research Institute

QMIPRI Spotlight Series: Professor Johanna Gibson

In the sixth part of our series showcasing the research of members of Queen Mary’s Intellectual Property Research Institute (QMIPRI) we focus on Professor Johanna Gibson, Herchel Smith Professor of Intellectual Property Law.

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Professor Gibson’s main research interests are in the fields of intellectual property and the creative industries. In particular she is interested in the areas of fashion, film and animal welfare. In addition to this, she is also an expert in critical theory.

Professor Gibson is Editor-in-Chief of the Queen Mary Journal of Intellectual Property (QMJIP) and is Series Editor for Intellectual Property, Theory, Culture (Routledge). She is also Series Co-editor (with Trevor Cook) for Intellectual Property: Practitioner Series (Edward Elgar Publishing).

Professor Gibson has also held numerous research council grants and private research consultancies across a range of issues and areas in intellectual property, consumer behaviour and welfare. She has advised industry, government, NGOs and practitioners around the world and has been a visiting scholar to several universities including the Queensland University of Technology and Monash University, both in Australia, as well as the University of Toronto in Canada.

Between 2007 and 2014 Professor Gibson was Director of the Queen Mary Intellectual Property Research Institute and Director of the Intellectual Property Institute between 2010 and 2013. Before joining Queen Mary she practised law in Melbourne at a top tier firm, specialising in Intellectual Property, Media and Communications Law and Competition Law.

In addition to her extensive research, she has considerable media experience and has appeared on several television and radio programmes and has been interviewed by outlets including the Wall Street Journal, CNBC, the BBC, The Guardian and The Times.

What do you consider the most significant aspects of your work to be?

“My own university studies were across law, critical theory and art history, and science (ethology) and this gives my own research and writing a strong interdisciplinary base. Most recently, I have combined intellectual property, critical and legal theory, and domestication and behaviour science, to develop a theory of ethological jurisprudence of property and intellectual property in Owned, An Ethological Jurisprudence (2020). This was actually the first in a trilogy developing this approach.

“I have just finished the second book – Wanted, More Than Human Intellectual Property. The third book – Made, The Nature of Intellectual Property – will be finished later this year. To be able to look at intellectual property through the lens of animal cognition and behaviour has been extremely rewarding and enjoyable, and I hope ultimately significant, to return to the original question!”

What is your proudest achievement when it comes to your research?

“I feel extremely happy and rewarded when research reaches a diverse audience, is meaningful across different disciplines, and makes a critical contribution to debate. But I’m not sure if that is pride or satisfaction. Perhaps the thing I’m most proud of personally is that I am the first woman to hold the Herchel Smith Chair in Intellectual Property.

“While my work often makes me very happy, I think pride is probably something I feel more in others, so I’m probably most proud of all of my students. And this pride is something that is still about my research, as we are extremely fortunate at Queen Mary to be able to teach in our research interests and strengths. I teach LLM courses in intellectual property and fashion, intellectual property and film, and in animals and the law, all of which have emerged out of specific research interests.

“I always feel very proud when I see the development of students over the course of a module, and the production of innovative and insightful work in their essays. For example, each year a producer and some external visitors attend my Business of Film class and they watch the students’ film projects, or attend their prospectus presentations as part of the commercial panel, or workshop with them on specific aspects of the development process. And every year the feedback is always that the students have produced such excellent and imaginative work and that, indeed, I should feel very proud.

“My fashion students have also been treated to sessions with designers and industry professionals, and again they have always remarked how creative and intuitive the students are in their commercial and legal analyses. And I was extremely proud of my recent students in Animal Law, Media and Culture, who all achieved distinctions!”

Is there anything surprising to come out of your research?

Yes! That dogs domesticated humans and invented property. But you will have to read Owned, An Ethological Jurisprudence of Property: From the Cave to the Commons for more on that exciting tale!

Read more about Professor Gibson on her Queen Mary profile page.