Chris, currently self-employed as a barrister, graduated with a 1st class degree in physics from Imperial College and worked as an IT project manager before turning to law. He joined specialist intellectual property chambers 11 South Square in 2010 and is now well-established, with a wealth of experience in all intellectual property disciplines; his clients range from blue chip companies and household brands to SMEs and individuals. Chris joined Nominet as a DRS Expert in Autumn 2019.
Why did you decide to move from physics into IT initially?
Physics is the study of how the universe works, which is simply fascinating. On a more local scale, technology is the essence of how our world functions – similarly fascinating. I wasn’t driven to IT by a specific interest in any particular aspect of technology, but rather because the subject as a whole is interesting, and there isn’t any aspect of it that is dull.
What compelled you to study law and switch your career focus?
A huge part of working in business, and particularly in IT, is advocating your project to secure time, resource, budget, and so forth. I found myself increasingly enjoying the advocacy element to the point where a career change to becoming a barrister seemed natural. I highly recommend it!
Why did you decide to specialise in IP law?
A background in science and IT is useful when dealing with a lot of IP work – patents demand a technological investigation into how things work, copyright cases often require analysis of code, and a lot of trade mark disputes focus on the electronic use of brands. Fundamentally IP is – similarly to physics and IT – what we see around us. The brands I litigate are the same names we see on the high street; the technology I argue about is that which we use in our smartphones. That connection to reality is a major plus point.
How has the discipline changed during your decade in IP law?
Rather than what has changed in my discipline, it is perhaps more instructive to look at how things have changed in other disciplines. There is undoubtedly an increasing trend generally in business, including in law, towards ‘working more efficiently’. Unfortunately, that translates into having more to do but in the same limited amount of time, which inevitably leads to a reduction in standards and quality. I don’t see that as a sensible approach in general terms, but in the specific context of the law it’s terrifying. So far, lawyers practising in intellectual property appear to have done well to avoid being cajoled into this unwelcome march – long may that continue.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your day job?
One of the greatest challenges is also one of the greatest pleasures – almost everybody with whom I work is intelligent and determined. It’s a delight to work in an environment where people are passionate about what they do and intellectually rigorous about the way they do it. The challenge of this – of course – is that everyone playing in the league has to ‘keep their game up’.
When did you first hear of Nominet’s DRS and why did you want to join us as an Expert?
I have over the years been involved in the DRS on a number of occasions in the role of advising one or other of the parties to a dispute. The Nominet DRS is a fantastic initiative. From the Expert’s perspective, we benefit from exposure to dispute resolution from a judicial angle, which is hugely valuable in practice, in turn making acting as an Expert desirable and therefore ensuring all the Experts are of a high standard. That in turn is a major benefit to the parties involved. Disputes are determined at very reasonable cost by highly qualified individuals.
What do you enjoy about settling disputes – and what are some of the challenges?
The most interesting aspect is confining the decision to the evidence presented by the parties. It is all too easy to engage in speculation, inference and extrapolation, but to do so would be unfair in the context of an adversarial dispute resolution process where each party has the opportunity to put in their best evidence. Unfortunately, this can lead to the challenging situation in which a conclusion ‘feels’ wrong but is the only one available on the evidence.
Find out more about our DRS Experts on the website.