Helen Gubby

Subject: IP as a Strategic Business Tool (Full-time MBA and Executive MBA)

Bio: Dr Helen Gubby, barrister-at-law is a senior lecturer at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University. She was called to the Bar in England, where she worked as a barrister, but she has also worked as an advocate for Nauta Dutilh, a top Dutch law firm. Helen Gubby teaches business law to third year international business administration students and patent law and strategy for managers to master level students, as well as teaching at the Erasmus School of Law. She has given in-house courses in leading Dutch law firms and for other organisations such as the Rabobank International and the Dutch Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Could you describe your teaching experience at RSM?

I teach an elective called “IP as a strategic business tool”, which is the first time it has been taught at the RSM MBA. I teach this course together with two people from the industry. I really like that because they possess hands-on experience of how IP relates to business. The two people I work with have a very practical approach and focus on the kinds of problems you will encounter in business, and how to foresee such issues. I think we work together very well as a team. My specialisation is patent law and strategy for managers. Innovation is a team activity, requiring the expertise of technical staff, business managers and legal advisors. They all have to be able to communicate with each other and understand each other’s concerns. I’m responsible for the patent law part of the course and I look at it from the perspective of how to communicate with lawyers and what the lawyers’ concerns are when you have patenting issues or when you’re thinking of patenting something. This is the first time I’ve taught this course for the MBA; I’ve taught a Business Law MBA before and enjoyed the challenge of teaching a very different set of students. In the MBA your students have been out working in the real world in significant managerial positions, meaning their experience is very different from students on the RSM MSc programmes. Teaching the IP course, we had a very nice group of students, who were enthusiastic and what was interesting was that once they had done the course they all said “Of course, all managers need to know about IP these days. This is a knowledge economy, you cannot go out in the world not knowing the basics of IP.” I believe this should really be a core subject for any manager nowadays.  

I’ve been campaigning for a little while to get IP into the business school curriculum. Most Journals nowadays state the importance of the subject as well. This is the 21st century, we really need to teach IP as a mainstream subject, because very often the intangible assets, such as patents, copyrights, trademarks, are the main assets that a firm has. These have become vital to a company. If you look at the Coca Cola trademark, that in itself is worth millions.    

In the “IP as a strategic business tool” elective we really try to have a good balance between the theory you would expect to have in any academic course, but also the practical “this is good stuff” that you can take back with you and bring to your job, either the one you’re in now or the one you’re going to have in future. The MBA students I taught this year were very international! There was a good dynamic and the students seemed to have had a great time as a group so that was enjoyable. I think we still have to get rid of the “nerdy” image of Intellectual Property, because it’s not nerdy, it’s essential for managers nowadays and it can also be lots of fun. IP should become a core subject in business studies, just like marketing or entrepreneurship. I’m happy to see the topic is becoming more and more important.  

What is your favourite book?  

My favourite books do not have anything to do with work. For me, reading is for pleasure. I don’t think I have one favourite book; I have had favourite books at different stages of my life. For instance, when I was 10-11 years old, I was very much in love with Sherlock Holmes and I read every Sherlock Holmes story there was. But then as a university student, my favourite book was “The Lord of the Rings”, which was quite new to many of us at the time. The two books I’ve read most recently, which I very much enjoyed, were by Hilary Mantel: “Wolf Hall” and the sequel “Bring Up the Bodies”. These chart the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell, the powerful minister in the court of King Henry VIII. My first degree was actually in history, and one thing you learn when you study history is that victors write history. I think Thomas Cromwell was probably in some ways a very scheming person, absolutely, but Hilary Mantel manages to let you see the world through his eyes, which is just a brilliant achievement. So yes, when I’m reading, I’m escaping my world.  

Do you like travelling? What is your favourite destination?  

I am still very fond of England. I was born in Sheffield, which is an industrial city, but it’s next to some of the most wonderful countryside you could ever imagine - Peak District National Park. I loved walking in the hills there (a bit ironic for someone who is now a Dutch resident!). England is home to me, but for fun and excitement, I’d say I love America. I really like the different parts of America. When my husband was doing his MBA, we spent a month or two in Rochester, New York and that was great. I’ve always been treated very well by American people, they’ve always been very friendly and helpful. I’ve been to various parts of the USA, Florida, California, New York and Colorado. The space in states like Colorado is just incredible! You can drive for hours, and there might be a farm here and a farm there, but that’s it. I really find the vastness of the country awe inspiring. It’s just really beautiful there.