Kieff Tapped for Top Federal Post

Commissioner Kieff, surrounded by ITC commissioners and staff as well as family and close friends, at the October 2013 swearing-in ceremony held at the law school during the government shutdown.

Congratulations go to F. Scott Kieff, GW’s Fred C. Stevenson Research Professor of Law, who is serving on the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC).

Commissioner Kieff, who has an extensive background in trade law and policy and intellectual property, was nominated for the post last year by President Barack Obama. The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed his appointment. 

“Scott Kieff has spent his career working on issues related to international trade in both the public and private sectors and in academia. He is well qualified to serve on the International Trade Commission,” said Max Baucus, then U.S. senator and chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, after the August 2013 confirmation hearing. “This committee will continue to move forward with an ambitious trade agenda, and we will look to the ITC to fairly and objectively enforce our trade laws.”

The ITC is an independent quasi-judicial federal agency with broad investigative responsibilities on matters of trade and adjudicative responsibilities in trade cases involving imports that allegedly infringe upon intellectual property rights or that raise issues of unfair dumping or subsidization by foreign industries and governments. It also serves as a federal resource, gathering and analyzing trade data and other trade policy-related information and sharing its studies with the president, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), and Congress to facilitate the development of sound and informed U.S. trade policy. Much of this information and analysis is made available to the public to promote understanding of international trade issues.

“Our statutes provide a range of mechanisms for an informed, dynamic exchange of ideas with all relevant outsiders, including those from the different branches of the U.S. government as well as private parties and representatives of other governments,” says Commissioner Kieff. “We greatly appreciate the helpful information provided by the many witnesses who appear at our hearings. These witnesses are usually the type of technology, industry, and business experts often seen in court cases involving complex economics, business, and technology issues. They also include government officials from our country and others, including U.S. senators and members of the House of Representatives, as well as ambassadors and trade ministers from other countries.”

Commissioner Kieff’s vast and wide-ranging background in business and IP law makes him an ideal ITC commissioner, and he says he is enjoying learning more each day.

“I have enjoyed working in each area of the ITC’s docket in various phases of my career, and I am continuing to learn much more about each in this new role,” he says. “The other commissioners and staff at the ITC have already taught me a great deal in my first year at the commission, and the end is nowhere in sight when it comes to the depth of knowledge and experience I see them willing and able to generously share with me during the rest of my service there.”

As much as he misses GW Law, Commissioner Kieff says he is happy to have the opportunity to serve the nation. “I come from a family and community that cherishes government service for its own sake,” he says. 

A native of Chicago, he attended law school at the University of Pennsylvania. Before that, he studied molecular biology and microeconomics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and conducted molecular genetics research at the Whitehead Institute. After earning his JD, he worked at the law firm Pennie & Edmonds before spending two years as a clerk to Judge Giles S. Rich, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. He then returned to Chicago to work at Jenner & Block, where he specialized in litigation and intellectual property.

Entering academia in 1998 as an adjunct professor at Northwestern University School of Law, he subsequently held positions at the University of Chicago Law School, Harvard Law School, Stanford Law School, and in the School of Law and the School of Medicine’s Department of Neurosurgery at Washington University in St. Louis. In 2003, he was named a W. Glenn Campbell & Rita Ricardo-Campbell National Fellow and Robert Eckles Swain National Fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace. He remained on staff at the Hoover Institution as a research fellow, senior fellow, and Ray and Louise Knowles Senior Fellow, directing the Project on Commercializing Innovation, which studies the law, economics, and politics of innovation. He also served as a member of the steering committee and research team of the Hoover Working Group on Intellectual Property, Innovation, and Prosperity (IP2) and as a member of the John and Jean De Nault Task Force on Property Rights, Freedom, and Prosperity. Throughout his time as an academic, he maintained a strong link to the practical business and law communities in the private and government sectors, often serving as a consultant, mediator, or arbitrator on complex transactions and disputes. In 2008, he was recognized as one of the “top 50 under 45” by the magazine IP Law and Business. 

In 2009, Commissioner Kieff joined GW Law as a professor, becoming immediately active in both the business law and intellectual property programs. Prior to his ITC appointment, he served as director of planning and publications for the Center for Law, Economics, and Finance (C-LEAF), a think tank and scholarly center at GW Law he helped form with colleagues upon his arrival at the school, soon after the financial crisis of 2008. While a professor at GW, he continued his work at the Hoover Institution. Having also long served as a faculty member at the Munich Intellectual Property Law Center at Germany’s Max Planck Institute, he was elected to the European Academy of Sciences and Arts in March 2012.

As much as he is enjoying his time at the ITC, he says he looks forward to returning to GW Law and bringing back to the classroom lessons learned and experiences gained. In the meantime, he strives to remain in close touch with the law school.

“I do miss my students and colleagues at GW while I’m in this post, but I am very much enjoying my current work and colleagues while still remaining part of the GW community to the extent the government permits, including giving lectures and doing academic writing,” Commissioner Kieff says. “I am enjoying applying all of my past experiences to the practical, day-to-day decision making of this current role and am looking forward to applying these experiences to my future students and academic writing.”  

“The GW Law community is tremendously proud of Professor Kieff’s accomplishments,” says Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Christopher A. Bracey. “We are grateful that his talents and hard work were honored with his appointment and confirmation to this important role. Professor Kieff has always been an innovative and collaborative faculty member. The entire GW community will undoubtedly reap the benefit of his ITC-related knowledge and experience upon his return to the law school.”

— By Claire Duggan