UCL Faculty of Laws


Dr Ilanah Fhima's 'The Public Domain' receives award from ECTA

22 June 2020

Dr Fhima’s article - 'The Public Domain’ – receives an ECTA (European Communities Trade Mark Association) Award 2020.

Dr Ilanah Fhima

Dr Ilanah Fhima, Reader in Intellectual Property Law and Co-director of UCL Laws Institute of Brand and Innovation Law, has received a prize in the ECTA Award 2020 for her paper entitled 'The Public Domain’.

The piece, first published in Intellectual Property Quarterly in 2019, explores the possibility of identifying and delineating the public domain in intellectual property law.

It critiques prevailing models of the public domain which tend to adopt a US-centric viewpoint (that may not reflect the EU-influenced UK), typically rely upon analogies to ‘the commons’ and focus predominantly upon copyright law at the expense of other fields of intellectual endeavour. The article explores whether an alternative rhetoric in ‘no property’ – tangible objects which cannot be propertised – or a potential analogy with public rights of access to land might provide more suitable alternatives. Ultimately, it concludes that it is impossible to draw a complete map of the public domain in terms of what should not be propertised and advocates for a positive conception of the public domain, based on individual uses that should always remain free, and the general public interests underlying those uses. The article argues that this more flexible approach allows the law to evolve in response to specific changes in technology and social conditions, while at the same time maintaining a focus on core non-negotiable freedoms.

ECTA, the European Communities Trade Mark Association, represents over 1500 trade mark practitioners based within the EU. The Awards have been established to strengthen ECTA's links with academics and academic institutions. Prizes are awarded to articles considered to make a significant contribution to the development of intellectual property law, based upon criteria including the depth of research undertaken, breadth and timeliness of the subject matter, quality of writing and originality of ideas.

Find out more about the ECTA Award (2020) competition.

Read Ilanah’s article, along with the other award winning publications, here.