Bart Lazar is an intellectual property lawyer. He lives in Chicago and loves music.
Generally speaking, do you feel like American intellectual property law helps or hinders creativity? That’s a tough question. I think it accomplishes both. It still serves the purpose of encouraging and incentivizing people to create because it allows the authors to maintain ownershop of their rights. But because there is so much material out there in the world and the fact that copyright lasts so long and sometimes it’s very difficult for someone to determine whether a particular material is in the public domain or not — that can make things difficult. It can also be hard to contact the copyright owner as well as obtain permission for what might be a minor use. It’s also very difficult for a creative person without legal counsel to determine what uses are appropriate. Those are the disincentives.
What aspects of your work do you feel allow you to be most creative? I feel pretty lucky in that I get to exercise creativity in a variety of ways. In the sense that creativity is taking individual elements and helping put them together and finding something new, I get to be creative in terms of the trademark world. When I work with clients to develop trademarks I am often helping them choose new trademarks or changing their proposed trademarks to find something that accomplishes their goal but has less legal risk associated with it. A client might come to me with a one word trademark, but I might say someone else has pretty good rights to that word but if you add a word to it or change it in such and such a way, it may be less risky. Creativity occurs in other ways to. Sometimes it’s creative business solutions. In a legal dispute, that can mean trying to step out of the box and come up with a creative solution that is either a win-win or resolves a dispute so that both parties can go on with their lives. These are all subsets of the same general universe of developing a creative strategy. And that could mean devising a method of trying to negotiate an agreement or a business strategy or structuring a business meeting. All those things involve creativity.
I know you love music. Are there any musicians that have influenced your thinking about the law? I’m not sure about that one. I’ve adopted some little bits of ideas here and there. I’ve incorporated some music phrases into presentations with clients. “You can’t always get what you want / But if you try sometimes / You can get what you need.” That’s a good legal strategy. It’s better than the Sex Pistols’ “Don’t know what I want / But I know how to get it.” Joni Mitchell’s “You don’t know what you got what till it’s gone” is another good one. Sometimes I think the photographer Edward Ruscha has influenced me in the way he looks at things. Sometimes I try to look at a situation in my mind and map it out but at the same time try to see if it can exist as something more. I look for synergies.
What was the last creative thing that you did? I do different creative things in my spare time. I’m trying to think of the last one. Actually, the last creative thing I did was business oriented. It wasn’t personal. Yesterday afternoon I was involved in an extensive discussion with a client regarding a strategy for a negotiation. I can’t give too many details because it’s a significant matter but it was taking into consideration a nine month period of discussions between parties. It involved different relationships between four organizations, each of with disparate and common goals, and trying to counsel my client, who is a creative person also. We were dealing with the development of an artistic work and trying to devise a negotiating strategy involving implied threats and common goals to keep this project on track.