Nick earned a first class law degree in Nottingham and practiced with leading international law firm Herbert Smith for over 25 years. He was a partner in the firm’s IP and technology practice for 18 years, latterly with 7 years as Worldwide Head of the IP group. The many clients he acted for included the well-known Amstrad, British Gas, BSkyB, the FIA, Harrods, IBM, Intel, the Motion Picture Association, Nokia, and Unilever. He is currently Chair of the DRS Expert panel.
When and why did you become involved with Nominet’s DRS?
Back in 1995 or thereabouts I was invited to a meeting of the various parties who had been running the UK’s domain name space, which led to the forming of what became Nominet. I was then asked to join the original DRS panel. My involvement was prompted by having acted for Harrods in proceedings in the High Court to recover the harrods.com domain name – this was one of the first cases concerning domain names to come before the English court.
How was the experience of taking the role of Chair left vacant by your well-known predecessor, Tony Willoughby?
I have known Tony my entire professional career as he was a partner at Herbert Smith when I joined its IP department as an articled clerk. He has been someone who I have learned a huge amount from over the years. He’s done a great job of helping formulate the DRS Policy and guide it, and its success is a tribute to the work he and others have done. I think the Policy was pretty well established when I took over as Chair and I hope I continue to help guide it in a way that builds on its success.
What has changed during your years with the DRS?
The entire way the Internet has developed and how fundamental it has become to day to day life. The way domain names are used is also much more subtle and flexible now than it was in the early days. It’s relatively rare to encounter out and out cybersquatting disputes now, but there are many more varied business practices which leads to the filing of abusive domain names under the DRS.
What has been the most unexpected or interesting aspect of this role?
That after nearly 25 years I am still doing it! And that what was at one time a small part of my activities as an IP practitioner at Herbert Smith has continued after my retirement from full time practice. The role continues to throw up new issues and intellectual challenges
What do you feel this role has taught you, or may have helped in your other work?
That most cases are straightforward, but that difficult cases really can be very difficult indeed. You need to make sure your decisions make sense to someone who is not necessarily steeped in DRS practice, especially for the losing party.
What led you to practice IP law specifically?
I originally set out to become an electrical engineer and then, for various reasons, switched to law. It came as a complete surprise when I started to practice with a big City law firm to find there was a relatively obscure (in those days) department where you could deal with litigation all about how law related to technology, and where my engineering background was of real use. I joined them when I qualified and have spent my entire career doing that sort of work.
What do you find interesting about this area?
How fast technology has changed, how mainstream it has become and how it intersects with almost everyone’s daily life. We are living through a technological revolution which I suspect will have effects at least as profound as the invention of the printing press. Where it’s going to end up is impossible to predict.
What interests do you have outside your work?
Cars and motorbikes, skiiing, downhill mountain biking, sailing, and I’m about to see if I can handle kite surfing. I suspect it will be the last scary sport I am likely to attempt. These days I spend most of my time in the French Alps, a place I love.
What technological advancements are you most looking forward to in the future?
Anything that means I don’t need to have six remote controls to work the home entertainment system, which currently drives me mad.
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