The contents of the BILETA web site are made available to users to further teaching, research and scholarship in the fields of IT law and Computers and Law.

View Publications



BILETA hosts an annual conference in March/April each year. It is hosted by a law school and has taken place in a variety of locations: England & Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, The Netherlands and Malta.

Find Out More

funding research

Funding Research

BILETA is actively seeking requests for funding from individuals from member institutions to allow projects to be undertaken or completed which reflect the goals of BILETA.

Find Out More

2016 Research Awards

Title of project: Medical 3D printing, regulation and patent policy in China

Principle Investigator: Dr Phoebe Li

University of Sussex

Start Date: April 2015; End Date: March 2017

Amount: £1,247

Summary of the Project:

3D printing is a fascinating disruptive technology which has unveiled the ‘third industrial revolution’ by transforming traditional subtractive production methods into digital ‘additive layer manufacturing’ (AM), by which a wide variety of ‘ink’ made up with plastic, metal, glass, or even human biomaterials, can be used for computer-aided-design (CAD) manufacturing. The customisation of health products delivered by 3D printing increases the quality and efficiency in access to health technologies. It sketches a blueprint of digitisation for future healthcare delivery, particularly in personalised and/or regenerative medicine; yet, risks remain and approaches to regulation are dubious. Issues concerning intellectual property (IP) and equitable access are under-explored.

By distinguishing different levels of realisation in 3D printing, the project explored the implications on research and commercial terms. Bileta funding was used to support five stakeholder interviews in China in 2016, the outcome of which was drawn to reflect upon the contemporary patent and innovation policy. Research on Chinese IP policy has primarily focused on copyright and counterfeiting issues. There exists the distinct defence of an Asian Confucian approach to IP, yet such debates rarely extend to the realm of state innovation policy, development issues, and patent monopoly. This project is one of the few works that interprets the Chinese characteristics emerging in the new Patent Law, which is currently under the fourth amendment.

Key findings:

3D printing is a means for realising mass entrepreneurship and innovation is through fostering digital intelligent manufacturing. The Chinese Government is now keen to facilitate mass entrepreneurship and innovation by means of promoting the development of makerspaces in specific pilot sectors such as information, biotech, modern agriculture, high-end device manufacture, new energy, new materials, energy efficiency, and modern service industry. From the finding from my empirical work in China, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) still find it difficult to compete against big corporations in securing funding, and are also less resourceful in managing a healthy IP portfolio due to insufficient awareness or capacity to do so. IP is generally not recognised as an effective company asset. Some feel uneasy about applying patent monopolies on the “knowledge taught by teachers”; others may use patent applications solely as a means of securing Government funding. In order to build the IP infrastructure for crowd and mass innovation, strategic considerations for fostering mass innovation is suggested to be given priority over corporate innovation. For example, customising the patent regime for SMEs in relation to patent application, licensing platforms, and mechanisms for maintaining rights.

Inventions developed from mass entrepreneurship and innovation are mostly incremental, and typically lower than the standard “novelty” requirement. The rise of aesthetic functional objects also blurs the traditional dichotomy between patents and copyright. The quick turn-around rate of consumer products does not fit neatly into the lengthy patent term. Therefore, in response to the above challenges posed on patents, alternative proposals for a differentiated patent regime should be considered by accommodating micro-patents, partial patents, quasi-patents and semi-patents, weakening patents that are tailored for mass innovation in the digital economy.


Final Comments:

The investigator would like to thank BILETA for the generous support which successfully led to a further funding application: ‘A feasibility study of mass customisation governance: regulation, liability, and intellectual property of re-distributed manufacturing in 3D printing’ (PI, with A Faulkner, J Griffin, and R Everson), EPSRC/Cambridge IfM, 2016, £57,782.

Title of project

(please include link to project website, if available):

Decision making across the information, technology and sustainability landscape: towards breadth and coherence


Dr Abbe E. L. Brown


University of Aberdeen

Start Date:


End Date:


[period covered by initial application, although funding provided only to support one meeting, held in March 2016]


£300 awarded, £253.65 used

Summary of the project (maximum 500 words)

Delivery of sustainable and secure energy, and the contribution made to this by information, intellectual property (“IP”) and technology, are key issues for society. They can involve a wide range of laws - information control and freedom, IP, human rights, international trade and investment, competition, climate change and biodiversity. These exist largely in their own spheres with differing addressees and forms of enforcement and compliance; this can lead to decision making within legal silos, with different priorities applied, and to some regimes having more practical impact than others. The project explored this, notably the need for and basis of new arguments to require all decision makers to look widely, beyond what seems immediately relevant to them. This was done using as a base a case study, the starting point of which is a combination of anonymised actual events, and which was presented in the sustainability stream of BILETA 2015. The case study involves a UK company working in Scotland and which is part of an international group, biomass renewable energy, patents, privacy, smart systems, industry standards, constitutional law and international investment. The meeting also drew on the findings of a public engagement element held by the PI in Aberdeen in November 2015 as part of the AHRC Being Human Festival “Careful What We Wish for?”.

A one day workshop was held in London in March 2016, attended by legal scholars (also with professional practical expertise) from Britain and Ireland. Some participants attended in person and some via SKYPE. Other experts, from the UK and throughout the world, also contributed to developing the project, case study, and approach of the meeting. Details of the contributions were shared with the project team in advance of the meeting. The travel costs of the PI and catering were covered with the BILETA funds and a room and technical support was kindly provided by the law firm Arnold Porter.

Key findings (maximum 500 words) It is expected that these will be presented at a BILETA conference.

There is indeed a need for decision makers to be able to look widely, outwith the immediate apparent base of the action and to limit the consequences of choosing a particular pathway. There are varying views, however, about the extent to which laws should and must still be left in their own boxes and the risk of conferring undue power on decision makers, particularly in the case of investment arbitration.

Uniformity in decision making is rarely desirable – but a holistic and informed approach is.

In encouraging decision makers to look widely, one must be wary of imposing an undue burden on decision makers, and introducing so many fields that one decision maker cannot be expert in them all, even with the support of additional training. The wide range of relevant fields identified in decision making (in addition to those initially put forward) support this

There is a limit on what can be done by law, and also by technology and regard must be had to this in framing solutions; influencing societal attitudes, through laws which may be criticised as less immediately effective such as human rights and sustainable development

In developing solutions, one must be wary of different scenarios, jurisdictions and values and of the risk of imposing solutions on others.

Outputs - including any evidence of impact (maximum 400 words) Please remember to credit BILETA on any related outputs.

A blog reporting on the funded meeting is available on the University of Aberdeen law school blog (May 2016):

Given the commitments of project team members it was considered not appropriate to proceed with a special edited collection of the IRLCT (a proposed output). The editor of the journal has been informed. Rather, it is proposed that the PI and one of the project team prepare a piece for publication in IRLCT in late 2016/early 2017.

One other possible output had been an article for a professional journal and the development of training for decision makers and for presentations at All Energy in Glasgow in 2016. The meeting outputs suggests that these activities would be premature although engagement with the profession, activists and industry remains a key goal of the project.

A key element of requiring wider regard to fields in decision making (and arguably through conferring greater power on courts) is through statutory interpretation. The PI is presenting a paper on this in the Intellectual Property stream of the Society of Legal Scholars in Oxford, 2016, which will draw on this project.

Final Comments (eg avenues for future research/acknowledgements/lessons learned)

The project findings will be the base for future research of the PI, and the base for a large research grant, possibly AHRC Leadership Fellow or ERC Consolidator Grant. This will explore three interlinked questions: (1) decision making and conflict; (2) foundations of legal regimes and the extent to which there is in fact conflict; (3) the contribution of exploring ultimate goals of legal regimes, rather than their foundation and detail. Future work will hopefully involve members of the wider project team, including those involved in the workshop:

Details of the project and its present position will be shared at the BILETA conference in 2017.

Back to Top