Skip to Content
Alumni profile

F. Scott Kieff ’91

Intellectual-­property lawyer joins International Trade Commission.
December 17, 2013

That audio jack on your cell phone: who owns the intellectual-­property rights to its design? Or the pattern of treads on your four-wheel-drive tires, which supposedly makes them rugged in rough terrain: can other companies imitate it? These are just two key patent questions that the U.S. International Trade Commission faced in the past year.

F. Scott Kieff

As a newly appointed member of the commission, F. Scott Kieff will confront issues like these. A leading expert on intellectual-property law, he’ll bring more than two decades of experience to bear on the commission’s work.

President Obama recognized that expertise when he nominated Kieff to the commission in the fall of 2012. In August, Congress approved the nomination unanimously.

“This is a chance to work with a lot of people from diverse perspectives who are very serious about the economics of trade and the way technology plays a role in trade,” says Kieff, who lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

Kieff is a proponent of strong patent protections. He finds inspiration in the opinions of judges Learned Hand, Jerome Frank, and Giles Sutherland Rich (for whom he worked as a law clerk) and the policies put in place under Presidents Carter and Reagan, who espoused such protections as a way to strengthen domestic production. Still, he recognizes the concerns large companies have about those who pursue patent protection for personal gain at the possible expense of innovation and progress.

Kieff has applied his expertise as director of the Project on Commercializing Innovation at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. In addition, he has served as a visiting professor of law at Stanford, the University of Chicago, and Northwestern and as a faculty fellow at Harvard. He is currently on leave from George Washington University Law School where he is the Fred C. Stevenson Research Professor.

Kieff also loves science and conducted research in molecular genetics at the Whitehead Institute during his time at MIT. That love may itself be encoded in the genes; his father is a Harvard professor of science and medicine.

“I have fond memories of my days as a practicing patent attorney,” he says. “Occasionally, I’d place a call to a Patent Office examiner about one of my dad’s patents and have to explain that there were two different Kieffs in the file. Dad was the inventor and I was the lawyer.”

Kieff continues to keep an eye on the work done at MIT, too.

“MIT has a very long tradition of being very introspective and honest about the costs and benefits of ways that technology can be used,” he says. “MIT is such an important place, not just to me, but to the world.”

Keep Reading

Most Popular

still from Embodied Intelligence video
still from Embodied Intelligence video

These weird virtual creatures evolve their bodies to solve problems

They show how intelligence and body plans are closely linked—and could unlock AI for robots.

pig kidney transplant surgery
pig kidney transplant surgery

Surgeons have successfully tested a pig’s kidney in a human patient

The test, in a brain-dead patient, was very short but represents a milestone in the long quest to use animal organs in human transplants.

panpsychism concept
panpsychism concept

Is everything in the world a little bit conscious?

The idea that consciousness is widespread is attractive to many for intellectual and, perhaps, also emotional
reasons. But can it be tested? Surprisingly, perhaps it can.

We reviewed three at-home covid tests. The results were mixed.

Over-the-counter coronavirus tests are finally available in the US. Some are more accurate and easier to use than others.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.