Research Spotlight on Sean O’Connor

Faculty Spotlight: Sean O’Connor 

Sean O’Connor is the Faculty Director of the Center for Intellectual Property x Innovation Policy (C-IP2) and a Professor of Law at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University.  

The Institute for Digital InnovAtion talked with O’Connor about the C-IP2. Responses have been edited.  

Tell us about your Center. 

C-IP2 produces research, education, and service at the intersection of Intellectual Property (IP) and innovation policy to better understand and shape the means of innovation as a positive force for good. We do so by promoting a diverse set of perspectives and voices to present a fuller picture than that of the dominant legal academic literature on the role of IP and other legal mechanisms to transform great ideas into useful or aesthetic artifacts and activities. 

What kinds of projects are funded?  

Currently we are 100% gift-funded. Donors in the digital/IT space include Qualcomm, Nokia, and Ericsson. Related to IT, we also get support from the copyright and creative industries sector. 

Most relevant for the IDIA audience, we are currently producing an edited volume of leading scholars and policymakers to get ahead of framing the policy environment for 5G and IoT. Past telecom generations such as 3G and 4G found policymakers playing catch-up after the technology was already in place. We will have a conference based around chapters from the book on December 2nd & 3rd. 

At the same time, we often fund research by others. For example, through a Da Vinci Grant we are supporting the research of Dr. Ryan Abbott and an edited volume he is producing on AI & IP. That volume’s chapters will be featured in our upcoming annual conference on October 13th & 14th. 

How do your projects impact other disciplines?     

Our projects impact tech, digital, and creative industries by generating actionable law and policy research that policymakers and judges can use in legislating, regulating, and adjudicating matters that set the policy environment in which the digital world operates. In turn, we seek to bring in experts from the tech and creative fields to inform our research as well as to assist those experts’ own understanding of the legal and policy environment in which they work. 

What projects would you like to be reached out to for potential collaborations? 

Beyond the areas mentioned above, we are actively considering research projects in cryptocurrencies, distributed ledger technology (e.g., Blockchain and NFTs), and the implications of a continued shift to livestreaming of events and other content even beyond the current pandemic. 

What keywords describe your research?    

Intellectual property, IP, patents, copyrights, trade secrets, trademarks, right of publicity, data rights, innovation, entrepreneurship, tech transfer, fourth industrial revolution, technology, digital economy, artificial intelligence, AI, creators, creative content 

How does your Center help bring the Mason community together?  

While many of our events have long had the potential for broader appeal than just law and policymakers, we had not engaged enough across the Mason community to realize that potential. One of my priorities when I became Executive Director (now Faculty Director) in 2019 was to reach out to the many fascinating programs on all 3 Mason campuses. We are making great strides, including our connection with IDIA.  

Also, through our affiliated Innovation Law Clinic, we have been assisting Mason faculty, staff, students, and, of course, the Office of Tech Transfer, on legal issues relating to commercializing the wonderful technologies and creative expressions emanating from our community. We are excited to continue connecting across the campuses and welcome this opportunity to highlight our areas for collaboration in The Weekly. 

How can you be reached?  

We can be contacted via email at and more information can be found on ourwebsiteor by following us on Twitter or LinkedIn.