New director broadens goals of IP program
By BRANDON BRESLOW (3LAS)
For many companies, the trade secrets that make them successful are rarely discussed in public. But what happens when the United States or international
governments demand the information to keep up with federal regulations?
This is one of many issues that Elizabeth Rowe helps students understand as the
new director of the Levin College of Law’s Intellectual Property Law Program.
“There is a misconception that intellectual property law is for people interested in
science,” said Rowe, an associate professor at UF Law. “But the field has integral relationships with pressing issues important to the economy, such as business, policy and technology.”
The college’s program provides a wide view of these relationships, requiring completion of courses such as introductory patent and copyright law and offering seminars on corporate espionage, sports law and franchising. Upon completion of the program’s requirements, students are awarded the Certificate in Intellectual Property Law at graduation.
Since accepting an appointment to the position in 2010, replacing former UF Law
Professor Thomas Cotter, Rowe began building a new student-oriented website
to attract students interested in intellectual property law and provide coverage of the college’s program.
“The website is meant to be a one-stop, comprehensive resource not just for those
registered for the certificate,” Rowe said. “I want to be able to reach the broader audience of students interested in (intellectual property) who aren’t in the certificate
In addition to course information, the website includes resources in finding and
applying for available jobs and internships. Rowe established and maintains relationships with government agencies such as the United States Patent and Trademark Office, as well as law firms and businesses in the private sector for the job placement of technical and nontechnical students in the intellectual property program.
“Since taking over the program,” Rowe said, “I’ve taken a more proactive approach
in providing job placements for students.”
Coming directly from private practice in the area, Rowe is steeped in the practice
of intellectual property law. After receiving her juris doctor from Harvard Law School in 1996, she worked as an associate specializing in intellectual property and employment litigation at Hale & Dorr LLP in Boston, where she eventually made partner.
Since becoming an assistant professor at UF Law in 2005, Rowe has published
several legal articles on issues facing the field. Her most recent article, “Striking a
Balance: When Should Trade Secret Law Shield Disclosures to the Government?”
was published in March in the Iowa Law Review. It focuses on the gap between the
protection of trade secrets and government regulations that could require businesses to hand over those secrets if necessary.
The article uses the hypothetical scenario of “black boxes” of information being
in the more than 8 million vehicles recalled by Toyota in 2010. Rowe addresses
whether the government could seize the black boxes as part of an investigation
even if Toyota argued that the boxes contained trade secrets.
“We need to be able to do the analysis in such a way that we are only protecting
the information that is a trade secret,” Rowe said. “If it is a trade secret, then we
need a better way to determine the government’s need for the information relative to the company’s need to keep it secret.”
William Page, senior associate dean for academic affairs, said Rowe was a natural
choice for the role of director considering her experience and investment in the field.
“We’ve already seen that she makes a great counselor to the students and administrator for the program,” Page said.
While remaining immersed in the field of intellectual property, Rowe’s focus remains on developing the college’s program into one of national prominence. Her plans include conferences to discuss trends and issues facing the field and creating a board of alumni from graduates of the intellectual property program.
“I’ve conceptualized the program in such a way that it will be something
broader than providing the certificate,” she said.