Photo of Professor Robert Burrell

Professor Robert Burrell

Position: Professor of Law
Email Address:
Telephone: +44 (0)114 222 6719

Academic Profile

I joined Sheffield in October 2013 having spent the previous 12 years living and working in Australia. During my time in Australia I held a number of academic appointments including at the Australian National University and the University of Western Australia (where I retain a visiting position). I also spent part of my time working as a registered trade marks attorney, eventually helping to establish a new boutique firm that specialises in intellectual property. In my role as an attorney I appeared in seven cases before the Australian Trade Mark Office and was heavily involved in other cases before the Federal Court of Australia.

Before moving to Australia I lectured at King’s College London. I have held visiting positions at the University of Cambridge and at the Benjamin N. Cardoxo School of Law in New York.

My two most significant current research projects are historical in focus. One project is concerned with the evolution of the registered trade mark system in the first 30 years of its operation (1875-1905). The other project looks at Parliamentary Rewards for inventors in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The aim of these projects is to make us rethink how elements of our current intellectual property system evolved.


  • PhD, Griffith University
  • Graduate Diploma in Trade Mark Practice, University of Technology, Sydney
  • LLM, University of London
  • LLB, King’s College London

Teaching and Learning

My approach to teaching is guided by two key principles. First, I believe that, whenever possible, academics should seek to expose students to the fruits of their own research and to other new thinking within a field. I regard this as essential because it provides an opportunity to engage students by taking them into areas where no consensus has yet been reached. Secondly, I believe that problem-based learning and the teaching of problem-solving skills need to be placed at the heart of legal education. Students cannot be expected to retain the detail of all of the legal rules they encounter during the course of their education and, in any event, rules change and students will be exposed in their professional lives (whether as practising lawyers or in some other capacity) to areas of the law beyond those that they studied at university. Universities thus need to expose students to ways of thinking and solving problems that will serve them well throughout their careers.

The modules I teach are:

Undergraduate Postgraduate
Torts Law Trade Mark Law in a Branded World
Copyright & Related Rights

Research Interests

  • Copyright Law
  • Trade Mark Law
  • Nineteenth Century Legal History
  • Theory and practice of regulation

Member of the Sheffield Institute of Corporate and Commercial Law Research Cluster.

Areas of Research Supervision

  • Trade Mark Law
  • Copyright Law
  • History and Theory of Intellectual Property
  • Intellectual Property Enforcement
  • Law Reform and Professional Organisation in the Nineteenth Century

Recent Invited Papers and Keynote Lectures

  • ‘Requiem for Trade Mark Registration’, paper delivered at the Australian National University, November 2013
  • ‘Property, Intellectual Property and Abandonment’, paper delivered at the 32nd Annual ATRIP Congress at the University of Oxford, June 2013
  • ‘Australia’s Plain Packaging Legislation’, paper delivered at the University of Cambridge, February 2013
  • ‘Fair Use or Fair Dealing?...Again’, paper delivered at the Norton Rose-UTS-Australian Law Reform Commission Seminar, Mirror, mirror on the wall…Fair use or fair dealing in Australia?, Sydney, November 2012
  • ‘Non-Traditional Signs and the Requirement of Use as a Trade Mark’, paper delivered at the INTA Conference, Washington DC, May 2012

Key Projects/Grants

Title/Description: Testing Trade Mark Law's Image of the Consumer
Awarding Body: Australian Research Council (ARC)
People Involved: IP Australia, the Federal Court of Australia, Treasury Wine Estates and Carlton & United Breweries (interdisciplinary team of six researchers)
Years Funded for: 2012-2015
Amount: AU$400,000
Title/Description: Copyright Reform in Australia 1900 - 1913
Awarding Body: National Archives of Australia: Frederick Watson Fellowship
Years Funded for: 2009
Amount: AU$9,000
Title/Description: The US-Australia Free Trade Agreement Five Years On
Awarding Body: Australian Fulbright Commission
People Involved: Kim Weatherall (University of Sydney)
Years Funded for: 2008
Amount: AU$30,000

Key Publications


  • Burrell RG & Handler, M (2011) Australian Trade Mark Law. RIS download Bibtex download

Journal articles

  • Hudson E & Burrell R (2011) Abandonment, Copyright and Orphaned Works: What Does It Mean to Take the Proprietary Nature of Intellectual Property Rights Seriously?. Melbourne University Law Review, 35(3), 971-1004. RIS download Bibtex download


  • Burrell R (2008) Trade Mark Bureaucracies In Dinwoodie G & Janis D (Ed.), Trademark Law and Theory: A Handbook of Contemporary Research (pp. 95-131). Edward Elgar RIS download Bibtex download