Book Reviews

March 1, 2000

Guide to Intellectual Property in the ITIndustry
Baker & McKenzie, London, and Robert J Hart, B A (Oxon)
Sweet & Maxwell, 1998


Viri Chauhan is a freelance IT consultantwith engineering and legal qualifications. His current assignments include‘CABnet’ a programme implementing various IT products at the Citizens AdviceBureau. He has also started a research post at the University of West of Englandin IT and Law. He can be contacted at

I believe the more frequently asked questions from youngIT companies and IT entrepreneurs are:

‘What can I do without any IP infringement? What protection do I need to put in place to protect my company and my customers? How can I exploit my ideas quickly and effectively without any legal obstacles?’

rather than

‘How do I protect my company’s IP rights?’

I believe these companies recognise that IT moves sofast that going through the motions of protecting ideas, concepts and programscould prove more expensive than bringing to the marketplace an IT requirementwhich has only a short shelf-life. Once this is satisfied, they would move on tothe next venture.

With these questions in mind I set out to find out theanswers in Baker & McKenzie’s Guide to Intellectual Property in the ITIndustry.

The book is written by a team of lawyers from the lawfirm Baker & McKenzie and by Robert Hart who is a Chartered Patent Agent.This allows expertise to be drawn from a wide field but it does sometimes makeit harder for the reader to get accustomed to a particular style of writing.

The book starts boldly but correctly by introducing thekey IT concepts in three to four pages. Whilst an IT person would recognise theessence of the language, someone without considerable IT knowledge or experiencewould find it bewildering. However it does redeem itself by bringing the scopeof the subject back in to context, ie intellectual property in the IT industry.It also has a very useful list of abbreviations and a glossary of terms.

What are thought of as traditional IP subjects arecovered very well: Copyright, Patents, Trademarks and Passing Off, and Designs.The book also covers Moral Rights, Trade Secrets and Confidential Information.Subject areas like Data and Databases are covered and a whole chapter is devotedto the protection of Semi-Conductor Chips. The areas of the book whichparticularly stand out are Application of Copyright and Designs to ComputerTechnology, Enforcement, and Emerging Issues.

Each chapter starts with the explanation of aparticular subject which is very useful revision and then takes the reader toits significance within the context of IT. There is in-depth analysis of therelevant subject. It is initially difficult to answer the questions posed as itgenerally looks from the point of view of the owner of the IP rights, where,increasingly in today’s IT market, young companies are often asking thequestion ‘How do I avoid IP infringement?’. However, it is very systematicand thorough, and eventually my questions were answered.

Because of its detail and comprehensiveness, the bookis quite heavy reading. It would be useful perhaps to have a complementary casesand materials book alongside it to put the subject matter fully into context.

The chapter on Application of Copyright and Designs toComputer Technology is very good. It relates UK copyright law to computertechnology and puts it in context. It moves on to discuss the application of EULaw and its implications.

As I struggled through the chapters, my doubts aboutthis book slowly eroded. Just as I thought of something it missed, on furtherreading it did address the issue: for example the development of IT and IT lawin the US. I still felt it was perhaps necessary to go into more detail aboutthe IP and IT issues and development in the US as it is inevitable that the UKwill follow its trends, especially with the Internet; the boundaries of the lawnow are becoming more ‘joined up’, and therefore addressing this would proveadvantageous to UK practitioners and readers.

What it does lack is not in its content but in its‘user-friendliness’. The book states it is a guide, but it would have beenbetter if it extended to a modern style of presentation and perhaps more towardsa practitioner’s guide. This I believe would attract a wider audience.

This book without a doubt is hard going, but then thesubject area is quite complex. It probably would not be suited to someone new tothis area as it does help to have knowledge and experience in intellectualproperty law and information technology, and general engineering concepts, tobenefit greatly from the book.

Baker McKenzie have rightly identified a need for atext like this. They provide a detailed mid-grounding base needed to correctlyassess, analyse and act in response to the increase in the development of IP Lawand IT. With this in mind it would be a good idea to start having loose-leafsections at the front of these types of text where updates could be added.

Brain Storm by Richard Dooling(Vintage, 1999).


Richard Harrison is a partner in Laytons,a firm of solicitors with four offices nationwide. He can be contacted on 0171842 8000 or

This is a book about law and about computers. It isabout lawyers using computers. So I thought that it merited a review in thismagazine. It’s also about brain surgery and sex but that probably needn’tconcern readers of this magazine. I came across it whilst I was browsing in areal life non-virtual bookstore – not wanting to progress too far up the Amazon- in the course of searching out some holiday reading material. Somewhat sadly,the jacket blurb, mentioning things like ‘litigation’, ‘computer speak’,‘John Grisham’ and ‘Monty Python’, made it irresistible.

The book features Joe Watson, a first-year associate ata large corporate law firm in St Louis, Missouri. His job entails computerisedresearch for software copyright cases. He has the latest hardware and softwareand tends to think in computer-speak. One of the pleasures of the book is therecurring extended imagery drawn from operating system error messages – acharacteristic of humans who relate to closely to their IT systems. He verges onbeing what we are coming to describe as a ‘legal information engineer’.

But if we think that establishment pressures to be seento be doing pro bono work are getting a bit too much like moral blackmail herein the UK, Watson’s local court requires a rookie lawyer, in howeverprestigious a firm, to be nominated to represent an indigent criminal defendant.Watson happens to be saddled with an alleged minority-hating murderer: theminorities in this case being both black people and deaf people thus exposinghim to double jeopardy under the federal hate crimes legislation (the book isset early in the millennium).

And that is the premise for some glorious set piecesand flights of fancy. There are some splendid characters: the foul-mouthed,feisty, female criminal lawyer who helps Watson out; the glamorousneuroscientist, an expert witness, who proves that partial lobotomy can bothreform criminal tendencies and extrude the sexual urges of stressed-out lawyers.Or Todd Boron, the only partner in the firm’s history to achieve promotionthrough sheer billable hours:

‘Senior partners with big cases loved him because they could take him down to the loading dock and say: ‘Todd, in four hours two semi-trailer trucks are going to pull up at this dock with nine tons of documents produced in our client’s litigation with Aileron Ballistics Corp. Those documents must be scanned by optical character readers, summarized, indexed and they must be retrievable by author, recipient, witness, subject matter and keyword before the first of the month’ Whereupon, Byron would say, ‘The first of the month? Why that gives us twelve – wait thirteen days? Cakewalk with cherry pies and duck soup. Fish in a barrel of gravy.’ But between these performances he was shunned and pitied like an off-duty circus freak’.

Then there’s the glorious portrait of FederalDistrict Judge Whittaker J. Stang. So unlike our own DJ’s, Judge Stang is acantankerous, lawyer-hating, vindictive, capricious bigot who takes greatdelight in his own irremoveability and in refusing frivolous applications. Thedifference is that he cannot be sacked; they cannot be appealed. Yet, somewhere,there’s a heart of gold: the plot depends on this.

Probably, the plot’s not the thing: the legal satireand the computer pastiche create the entertainment. Of course, even such holidayreading has a message to those who speculate on the ‘future of law’: afuture which is digital and where the engineering of legal information addressesthe fulfillment of unmet needs.

The message is that, in the end, legal practice comesdown to avoiding litigation and often that means predicting the outcome oflitigation. Litigation depends on fact and the finding and manipulation offacts, however you crumble the cookie, depends on judges. And all of thecomputerised case management systems, digital research tools and informationkiosks in the world will not assist in the face of human frailties and anawkward tribunal.