Boston College Law School's burgeoning Program on Innovation and Entrepreneurship couldn't have picked a more relevant and foresighted event to kick off its 2018 activities.
In January, BC Law Associate Professor David Olson and adjunct faculty member Sayoko Blodgett-Ford coordinated a seminar, "Turning Challenge into Opportunity: Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Privacy & Security," at IBM's Cambridge-based security facility. The event, the fifth to be organized by the PIE program, focused on data and what companies such as Facebook do with that information. Just a few months later, Mark Zuckerberg, the social networking site's founder, came under intense scrutiny for failing to safeguard users' data in the wake of revelations that voter profiling firm Cambridge Analytica harvested personal information of as many as 87 million Facebook users.
"The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal vividly illustrates that personal data has become one of the most valuable assets in our modern age, and it's central to our daily and future commerce," said Olson, PIE's faculty director. "While we could not have predicted Facebook's misuse of the information, the occurrence underscores the need for lawyers and students to fully understand the multiple and complex issues and challenges that result from technological innovations."
PIE, officially launched last October with a panel about the role of law in an innovation economy, draws on BC Law faculty's intellectual capital and student energy to develop activities and programs designed to build bridges between BC Law and the innovation and entrepreneurship communities in Greater Boston.
"It's particularly fitting that, as part of its mission, BC Law should embrace a deep engagement with these important areas and with the novel legal issues they raise," said BC Law Dean Vincent Rougeau at PIE's launch.
"We believe that PIE sets BC Law apart," said Olson in a recent interview. "Our educational focus on cutting-edge technology and enterprise, and the crucial, concomitant legal issues so inextricably linked to innovation, enriches and better prepares our students for a rapidly changing, global legal environment.
"Simultaneously, it advances our mission of service to the legal community, and frames entrepreneurship and innovation in terms of service to society."
PIE hosts three types of conferences, explained Olson. "First, we bring speakers to campus who can educate our students about innovation, entrepreneurship, and the corresponding legal issues. Secondly, we facilitate discussion—both on campus and in the community—on important I&E [innovation and entrepreneurship] topics. Lastly, we promote scholarly research and discussion on I&E."
Following the prescient cybersecurity conference, in February PIE co-hosted the third Annual Sports & Entertainment Symposium, "Entrepreneurship and Sports Law," at which Blodgett-Ford, the chief privacy officer and a firm member at Westwood, Mass.-based GTC Law Group PC & Affiliates, moderated a panel on data privacy and protection in wearable tech, such as activity trackers and smartwatches.
Recent and upcoming spring events include the session "Mobile Apps: Innovation and Entrepreneurship," and "Powering Change: Women in Innovation & Creativity" to coincide with World Intellectual Property (IP) Day, an annual celebration of IP's role in stimulating innovation and creativity.
This October, PIE, in collaboration with Boston law firm Ropes & Gray, will host a two-day "summit" for U.S. lawyers and entrepreneurs on intellectual property law specific to the European Union. Seven panels featuring more than 15 moderators and speakers will explore thorny legal issues and risks relating to trademark protections, cross-border transactions, patents, and cybersecurity posed by not only conducting business with a unified Europe but by the upcoming exit by the U.K. in 2019.
"PIE's year one has been, and will be, very busy," said Olson, who counts more than 15 sponsored or co-sponsored events either completed or scheduled during PIE's first 12 months. "During year two, we plan to facilitate more scholarly activities related to PIE, to focus on its scholastic core so that it's grounded in a rigorous academic approach."
—Phil Gloudemans | University Communications