People  |  01/18/2022

In Memoriam Prof. William R. Cornish (1937–2022)

William Rodolph Cornish, External Scientific Member of our Institute and Professor Emeritus at the University of Cambridge, passed away on 8 January 2022, at the age of 84. Bill Cornish was a world leader in the field of Intellectual Property Law to whom our Institute owes an extraordinary debt of gratitude.

William R. Cornish (1937-2022)
William R. Cornish (1937-2022)

During a year abroad as a schoolboy, the Australian discovered his love of Britain and Europe and, back in Australia, felt cut off from the world. In 1960, after studying law at the University of Adelaide in Australia, he returned to the United Kingdom and applied himself for postgraduate studies at the University of Oxford. As early as 1962, he began teaching as a lecturer at the London School of Economics, where he had a fateful encounter. An exchange with his colleague and friend Otto Kahn-Freund sparked an interest in Intellectual Property Law, which had hardly been developed in England until then.

Bill Cornish had a special relationship with our Institute: In an interview in 2015, Cornish reported that Munich became the most important research site in the field of Intellectual Property in Germany from 1966 onwards with the foundation of the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Patent, Copyright and Competition Law (as the Institute was called at the time) and that he paid his first visit to this “intellectual Mecca” in 1978, during research for his textbook on Intellectual Property. Many more visits were to follow.

He played a formative role in the Institute’s journal IIC - International Review of Intellectual Property and Competition Law as a member of the Editorial Board from 1990 to 2019.

Bill Cornish researched and taught at the most important universities in England, including Cambridge, the London School of Economics and Oxford, and was elected a member of the British Academy in 1984. He received numerous scientific and social awards and honors.

We have lost not only an outstanding scholar, but also a very warm-hearted person and good friend. We will miss him very much.

Detailed information on the life and work of William R. Cornish as well as an extensive obituary can be found on the pages of the University of Cambridge.