A 37-year-old law professor at UCLA has won a $50,000 grant to study East Asian attitudes on patents, trademarks and copyrights--an area of law known collectively as intellectual property--and how such attitudes affect U.S. businesses competing in world markets.
The scholarly work is intended to provide down-to-earth guidance on transacting day-to-day business, but it isn't being paid for by a university or a nonprofit organization. Instead, the means for Professor William P. Alford to make the year-long study comes from one of the nation's top 10 law firms, Los Angeles-based O'Melveny & Myers,
O'Melveny & Myers, which describes itself as having "mostly business clients," established the grant to commemorate its 100th anniversary. "We intend to make the award a yearly event," said chairman Warren Christopher, who came up with the idea of funding an annual study of an issue related to law and business.
Christopher said Alford was chosen from 100 applicants by a committee whose members are John F. Akers, president and chief executive of IBM; Bruce MacLaury, president of The Brookings Institution; John McArthur, dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Business, and Susan Westerberg Prager, dean of UCLA Law School.
Alford didn't stand out just for his credentials, which include degrees from Amherst College, Yale and Cambridge universities and Harvard Law School, Christopher said. The committee was equally impressed by the timeliness of his proposal to study differences in attitudes about intellectual property.
Copyright and trademark infringement have become a sore point between Asian countries and U.S. industries ranging from cosmetic makers to computer chip manufacturers. Alford, a legal and Chinese scholar, said he intends to study the history of intellectual property law in Asian and American cultures to explain way the two cultures treat the concept so differently.
He said he intends to publish his findings in a book and a series of articles.
"The information will all be in the public domain," said Christopher, adding that O'Melveny & Myers wanted to contribute to the community as a celebration of its 100th year.
The firm solicited grant proposals on the "internationalization of American business" by advertising in scholarly journals and among university faculty. Christopher said it intends to seek proposals on the same general topic next year.