Professor Tanya Aplin
Professor of Intellectual Property Law
Date started at King’s
Challenges and achievements
When and what was responsible for you becoming interested in your academic discipline?
I first became interested in law as a discipline because my grandfather graduated with a law degree but never had the opportunity directly to apply this learning after he entered the Australian Army as an officer. I may also have watched too many episodes of LA Law as a teenager! As well, I was drawn to law because I enjoy logical and analytical reasoning and was curious to know the ways in which society was regulated through legal rules.
In terms of my particular field of expertise - intellectual property law – my interest was sparked during my undergraduate law degree by a well taught elective module and later the opportunity to write a dissertation on the moral rights of authors. My masters studies allowed me to deepen my understanding of intellectual property law and for my PhD I focussed specifically on copyright law issues relating to the internet.
What are your research interests, and what drew you to this area?
My research interests lie in the field of intellectual property law. Specifically, I examine how technological developments – such as digitisation, software, networked communications, databases and biotechnology - challenge the ways in which we regulate intellectual creations and innovations (via copyright and patent laws) and how these difficulties may be resolved.
I also work on the interaction between human rights and intellectual property, particularly the effect of classifying the right to intellectual property as a human right and also the emergence of privacy protection in the United Kingdom. Finally, I have extensively researched how the law protects confidential information and the situations in which confidentiality should be respected.
Tell us about a couple of your achievements that have been particularly rewarding.
Several of my publications have been particularly rewarding endeavours. I feel particularly proud of my co-authored book on the protection of confidential information because it was an ambitious project that sought to restate and synthesise the law on trade secrets and confidential information and is now the leading book in this field. The co-authoring process was intellectually very fulfilling, not least because we continually debated the correctness of our views and drafted and redrafted the text over several years. Some of my best writing appeared as a result of this robust but supportive intellectual exchange.
Another publication that has been especially rewarding is my textbook on intellectual property law. This was another co-authored text and I learnt an immense amount about my subject area and how best to present it to students in a clear and thought provoking way.
Do you have professional role models? Who are they and what do you find inspiring about them and their accomplishments?
I have several professional role models – a mix of senior female and male law academics. What I find inspiring about them is their breadth of knowledge and expertise, rigorous scholarship and deep commitment to excellent teaching.
What if any support has most benefited you in your career?
The support of colleagues and mentors has been hugely beneficial to my career, whether this has been through feedback on draft articles and book chapters, peer review of teaching or co-teaching, guidance on how to carry out leadership roles effectively, writing references or offering promotion and general career advice.
What do you feel is the most enjoyable/rewarding aspect of your job at King’s?
The most enjoyable aspect of my job is to be at an institution that prides itself on being a research-led, teaching committed institution. It is an enormous pleasure to be able to teach and supervise bright, able and engaged students and also to be in an environment that values research and enables me to pursue my research interests.
How do you balance the various demands of a career in academia: research, teaching/learning, administration?
Even when carrying out my most demanding and time consuming administrative/leadership roles, I allocate one day a week for research. In the past I have tended to balance these various demands by working long hours and too many weekends. My work practices have shifted in recent years, however, and what I tend to do now is cluster my activities – e.g. certain days or specific parts of the day for particular tasks. As well, I have come to accept that there are different rhythms to the academic year and to work with these as best I can. For example, term time often leans more towards teaching and administration than research, but out of term there are concentrated periods available for research.
How do you balance an academic career with life outside the workplace?
Balancing an academic career with life outside the workplace can be tricky and I’ve strived to achieve this for many years. For me, a few things have really helped. Having a guaranteed day off at the weekend where I don’t do any academic work is a great circuit breaker to the week. Taking a proper holiday once a year, as opposed to tacking on a few days annual leave to conferences, allows me to recharge the batteries. In addition, I tend to diarise doing the things that I love – seeing family, friends, going to the opera or football, exercising, for example – so that I keep these commitments and don’t let work overrun. Finally, a short daily meditation is a wonderful way of maintaining equanimity.
What have you learnt from your experiences that you would like to share with others?
There is always something to learn in academic life, no matter how long you have been doing the job, and many people contribute to our development and success. It’s important to have the humility and generosity of spirit to acknowledge these contributions and also to reciprocate by helping others.
Perfectionist traits need to be tempered lest they get in the way of finishing projects or lead to hypercritical attitudes.
Direct your energy to the things in your working life that you can influence and don’t waste time on the things that you can’t.
Try to avoid your day beginning or ending with checking/sending email.