The George Washington University Law School installed three endowed professors of intellectual property (IP) and technology law last week, marking a major academic investment in an increasingly fundamental legal arena.
A ceremony Tuesday afternoon honored faculty members F. Scott Kieff, installed as the Stevenson Bernard Professor of Law; Dawn C. Nunziato, installed as the Theodore and James Pedas Family Professor of Intellectual Property and Technology Law; and Daniel J. Solove, installed as the Eugene L. and Barbara A. Bernard Professor of Intellectual Property and Technology Law.
“Today is absolutely unique in my lifetime: I've had the privilege of being involved in such installation ceremonies, but never had the opportunity to participate in installing three endowed professorships at once,” GW President Mark S. Wrighton said. The professorships they received, being endowed in perpetuity, “will be here as long as the university itself.”
GW Provost Christopher A. Bracey, who began his GW career as a law professor and still holds a faculty position at GW Law, expressed pride in the school he calls his “intellectual home at GW” and pointed to personal connections with each of the three honorees, including having worked alongside Kieff at three separate institutions—first at the same law firm, then as visiting assistant professors at Northwestern University, then as faculty at Washington University in St. Louis—before helping recruit him to GW.
“I’m personally thrilled to see each of these individuals recognized for their pioneering research, their policy work, their education and their service to the university,” Bracey said. “When you receive an endowed professorship, it not only celebrates your past and present work and contributions, but also anticipates transformative contributions to legal education, knowledge production and the world of ideas, and perhaps most importantly a significant and impactful contribution to society.”
IP law is concerned with “protectible, intangible assets” that may range from books, films and music to medical or other technology, according to a definition from the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition. The field is rapidly evolving as technology becomes increasingly complex and innovation expands into virtual spaces.
GW Law Dean and Harold H. Greene Professor of Law Dayna Bowen Matthew emphasized the school’s long history and its promising future in the field of IP and technology. GW Law alumni have worked to protect groundbreaking technology since the 1870s, when attorney Marcellus Bailey—a member of what was then the Columbian College Department of Law’s first-ever graduating class, in 1866—filed a patent for Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone. This year, a record 48 GW Law students will receive their juris doctorates with a concentration in IP and technology law. And the school recently launched its Intellectual Property and Technology Law clinic, enrolling its first cohort of eight students from 40 applicants this semester.
“All three of our distinguished honorees are gifted scholars, teachers and internationally renowned leaders at the forefront of their disciplines, and all three have selflessly given up their time and talent to help fulfill our law school to great new heights,” Matthew said.
Kieff served from 2013 to 2017 as commissioner of the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC), having been nominated to that post by President Barack Obama, recommended unanimously by the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Finance and confirmed by unanimous consent of the Senate. In emotional remarks, Kieff remembered being sworn into the position on a field Bible carried by his grandfather during combat service in Europe in World War II.
The Stevenson Bernard professorship is funded by generous estate donations from the late Eugene “Gene” L. Bernard, J.D. ’51, and his wife Barbara, and from the late Frederic C. Stevenson, B.A. ’34, J.D. ’38. Bernard served as an officer in the U.S. Navy, practiced intellectual property law for many decades in Washington, D.C., and in 1980 argued successfully before the U.S. Supreme Court in Dawson Chemical v. Rohm & Haas. Stevenson served as an attorney for the U.S. government, employed by the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, until he retired.
The Bernards and Stevenson “were tremendous friends and generous supporters of GW Law,” Wrighton said at the event. “Upon their passing, their estate made a transformational gift which has had an immediate impact on the school and intellectual property program. We want to extend our appreciation for them and their support for the university.”
Nunziato is an internationally recognized expert on free speech and the internet and the author of “Virtual Freedom: Net Neutrality and Free Speech in the Internet Age.” She singled out “the intellectual freedom we have as professors” as a point of gratitude—the freedom “to write about, to teach about, the subjects that I happen to be most interested in at the moment,” from the First Amendment to social media regulation.
Donors Theodore and James Pedas, in whose honor Nunziato’s professorship is named, attended the ceremony in person with their wives. The brothers became involved in motion picture exhibition, distribution and production while attending GW Law. They founded the Circle Theatre company, which emphasized independent and foreign films as it expanded throughout the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area, and Circle Films, whose production roster included early films by the Coen brothers. Nunziato thanked the brothers directly, both for supporting the professorship and more specifically for “Raising Arizona,” one of their productions and a personal favorite film.
Solove is one of the world’s most cited experts in privacy law, the founder of TeachPrivacy, a privacy and cybersecurity training company, and the author of numerous books, several textbooks and even a children’s fiction book. Solove recalled being interested in privacy and the transformative potential of the internet in the mid-1990s, when many considered it “a passing fad.” The growth of privacy law as a field has been gratifying and exciting, he said. Like the Stevenson Bernard professorship, the Eugene L. and Barbara A. Bernard professorship also is funded by the estate of Gene and Barbara Bernard.