Benjamin Hopper

PhD Candidate

I am a first-year PhD candidate, Teaching Fellow and researcher at Melbourne Law School. For the past two years, I have been a Teaching Fellow in Harvard Law School’s CopyrightX program.

I am primarily interested in the everyday impact of intellectual property regimes, and on understanding those regimes through empirical research and the application of social theory. In my research, I investigate the historical, doctrinal and theoretical aspects of most categories of intellectual property law, including patent, trade mark, copyright, design and geographical indications. I also investigate the interaction between “traditional” knowledge and “modern” intellectual property regimes.

In addition, I study competition law, environmental law, and animal rights law.

Before my current academic path, I was a senior associate in the intellectual property and communications team at Ashurst (formerly Blake Dawson), where I acted in proceedings before the Federal Court, Full Federal Court and High Court. My legal practice covered, among other things, technology and pharmaceutical patent litigation, brand protection, copyright advice and agreements, and IT contract negotiation. I have also worked on development projects in China and East Timor.

I hold an LL.M. from Harvard Law School, as well as a Juris Doctor, B.A. (Hons) and Diploma of Modern Languages (German) from the University of Melbourne.

Thesis Title

Patents and Traditional Knowledge: A Case Study of the Impact of Patent Laws on the Production and Distribution of Miao Traditional Medicines in Guizhou, China

Thesis Summary

Building on work undertaken for my master of laws thesis at Harvard Law School, and standing apart from the myriad normative accounts of intellectual property (IP), my PhD thesis will develop an empirical account of the role of IP laws in socio-economic development. I am developing operationalised conceptions of IP and socio-legal methodology to examine the interaction between IP laws, traditional knowledge practices and socio-economic development. I will then use and test this methodology in examining the role of IP laws in the traditional medicines and pharmaceutical economies of Guizhou, southwestern China. The results could have important implications for the crafting and reform of IP laws in developing regions, as well as for international IP laws.


  • Chinese Law
  • Copyright Law
  • Intellectual Property Law
  • Law and Development
  • Law and Society
  • Law Reform in Developing Countries
  • Legal Theory
  • Moral and Political Philosophy
  • Patent Law
  • Post-Colonial Theory
  • Technology and Intellectual Property
  • Trade Marks and Design