Simulated Court, Real Arguments, and Garbage Bags: The Story of “Hanken Four” at the Nordic Intellectual Property Moot Court Competition 2019

In September 2019, four students from the Intellectual Property (IP) Law track, persuaded by the encouragement of their professor (as well as by the temptation to gain credits!), decided that they would give a shot at representing Hanken in a competition for law students from all across the Nordic countries. From humble beginnings of a few meetings, squeezed in between classes, the team reached all the way to the finals in Copenhagen, Denmark, where they managed to win in the category of the best oral presentation.

A moot court competition is, as the name suggests, a contest where students act as lawyers and try to argue based on the facts of a fictional case problem. Competitors have to prepare written documents, which should be as close to court documents as possible. The next step is usually to compete in the oral round, where contestants argue on the opposite sides and judges decide who the winners are, based on the quality of the written and oral submissions.

The Nordic IP Moot Court Competition concentrates on IP law, a field that involves, i.a., copyright, design, patent, and trademark laws. This year, the problem concerned the marketing of garbage bags. Vipp, the manufacturer of garbage bins and bags, claimed that it had various kinds of IP rights over these items and that the company named BaggIT was infringing upon these rights by marketing garbage bags (the case problem is available via this link).

Before going further, here is a brief introduction to the “Hanken Four” team.

  • Anu is a second year Master’s student and a practicing lawyer. With her professional background, she became the go-to person for navigating the intricacies of Nordic laws. She was also kind enough to host the team’s first oral rehearsal, and her inputs shaped what would become the winning oral arguments of the competition.
  • Axel is a second year Master’s student and a marketing specialist in a large consumer goods company. Given this interesting background, he became the trademarks guy! He dealt with all the issues of trademark law in the fictional case problem, approaching it with the keen eye of a person, having experience of brand marketing in the real world.
  • Jitesh is a first year Master’s student, who had enrolled in the course because he had some prior experience with moot courts in his home country, India. His favourite area of IP law is patents, and he stuck to this domain, trying to figure out how inventive (or not) a garbage bag could be for patent lawyers.
  • Vera is a second year’s Master’s student with a legal background in her home city of St. Petersburg, Russia. Vera donned many hats. Apart from handling both the creative challenges of copyright and design law, she also led from the front, whether it was in giving the actual oral presentation, editing the written submissions in proper format, or in communicating with the organizers about various queries. 

The journey for the contest began with the written rounds. In early September, the case problem was made available to all the participating teams. Teams were to draft two documents: a statement of claims, representing the interests of Vipp, and a statement of defense, representing the interests of BaggIT. In mid-November, it was announced that four teams out of nine total participants had made it to the finals: one each from Norway and Sweden and two from Finland (as there was no participant from Denmark). The “Hanken Four” team became the wild card entry, as the University of Helsinki had won the national round for Finland. The team hardly got time to celebrate the result (allegedly, one team member screamed out during a work meeting after reading that they had qualified, while another team member walked outside the Hanken campus for an hour to calm down after getting the news of their qualification!), and they started preparations for the final round which was to be held in December.

The finals took place at the City Court of Copenhagen. The “Hanken Four” team represented BaggIT against the “Nova” team from University of Oslo. Similarly, “Facta Sunt Servanda” from the University of Helsinki competed against “IPEA” from Stockholm University. There were four judges for the competition, and each of these persons was an actual court judge from a Nordic country. The judges finally announced the results of the event, and “Hanken Four” won the award for the best oral presentation!

What has the team learned from the competition? Participating in this event was a real privilege for everyone and definitely a lot of fun as well! It was always an exciting challenge to come up with new arguments and discuss them within the team. Besides, interactions with mentors, practicing attorneys assigned to the team, was a very useful experience. The team even managed to apply project management techniques while preparing its written and oral submissions (e.g., defining tasks, dividing them among the team members, setting deadlines, and controlling the timing). After the finals, everyone was invited to a dinner at a Copenhagen law firm, where participants chatted with each other, thus making new connections.

Axel: “This court competition was a ton of fun. Because the written claims were drafted with the guidance of a practicing attorney and the case was presented in front of real judges, I definitely gained some valuable experience in how court proceedings work and how good legal arguments are formed. Getting the chance to meet other Nordic students who are into IP law was great, and the extra credits don’t hurt either!”

Jitesh: “My real intention was to use the course as an excuse to meet the second year students! And it feels great that I can now count them as my friends! I’ve learned a lot through the entire process! It was really interesting to see how the same bunch of facts can be interpreted in so many ways. It is always challenging and fun to think of things from the perspective of an opponent. Finally, interacting with people from the Nordics and beyond was an enriching experience! This course has been an adventure, and the trip to Copenhagen – a fitting conclusion!!”

Vera: “I didn’t participate in a moot court during my Bachelor’s program, and now, with practical legal experience, I realize how useful these moot court competitions are. One indeed gets a chance to apply theoretical knowledge to a close-to-reality situation – and doing this is not trivial. Besides, by teaming up with other participants, I felt as if I got into some private club for IP enthusiasts which is quite inspiring!”

Our team in the court

The team expresses gratitude to their mentors Ms. Hilma-Karoliina Markkanen and Ms. Eerika Tirkkonen, as well as Professor Nari Lee and the Marketing Team at Hanken for their support and encouragement in this great journey!

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