David C. Hilliard: The Wild West of IP Law

In our 2011 issue of Illinois Super Lawyers & Rising Stars, David C. Hilliard, with Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson in Chicago, talked to us about how intellectual property law has evolved during his four decades-plus in the practice area. The major change? The Internet--and the Wild-West mindset that accompanied its early days.

"The Internet really has revolutionized what's going on. Judge [Frank H.] Easterbrook wrote an article once called 'Cyberspace and the Law of the Horse.' He said that people thought this was like the Wild West: There was no law and they could just do whatever they wanted. He said that is like the law of the horse in the 17th century: There was no law of the horse ... The courts and contracts [were] developing, but there was nothing separate for the horse. And the same thing was true for cyberspace: When this all began, people would think that they could steal someone's identity, that they could steal their persona and do with it whatever they wanted. A great deal of litigation went into squaring this away, getting people to realize that we're still law-abiding citizens even though it's called cyberspace. And if you don't, you're going to find yourself sued and with lots of troubles."