Obituary - Professor Margaret Sophia Moy Llewelyn (1962-2021)

The IPKat Team was extremely saddened to receive news of the untimely passing of Professor Margaret Sophia Moy Llewelyn. Professors Estelle Derclaye, Lionel Bently and Robert Burrell have kindly shared the in memoriam below:

Obituary - Professor Margaret Sophia Moy Llewelyn (1962-2021)

Margaret Llewelyn, Honorary Professor of Intellectual Property Law at the University of Sheffield, best known as one of the foremost experts on plant breeders’ rights and patent law, passed away on 2 November 2021.

Margaret was born in Romsey, Hampshire on the 7th October 1962, to Mair and Tom Llewelyn both with strong roots in and links to Wales. She lived in Aberystwyth for part of her childhood and gained her LLB (1982-1985) and then her PhD at the local university, University College of Wales, Aberystwyth.

Margaret’s PhD (1985-1990) was supervised by Dr Allison Coleman. The thesis, entitled ‘The Legal Protection of New Plant Varieties,’ was examined in 1990 by Dr Yvonne Cripps (Emmanuel College, Cambridge). Professor Llewelyn spent time as a research fellow at the Max Planck Institute in Munich (1986-1988) and Queen Mary College (as it then was, now QMUL) (1988-1989). In 1990, Dr Llewelyn was appointed to a lectureship at the University of Central Lancashire, at Preston, which was followed in 1993 by a move to the University of Sheffield, initially as a ‘Common Law Institute for Intellectual Property (CLIP) Lecturer in Intellectual Property.’ Dr Llewelyn spent the rest of her career at Sheffield, being promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1998, a reader in 2001 and a chair in 2007. She was a much-loved and respected teacher and highly valued by her Faculty colleagues. She was an initial member and Deputy Director of SIBLE, the Sheffield Institute of Biotechnology, Law and Ethics, a leading interdisciplinary research group working on the implications of the genetic revolution. She served as Dean to the School of Law (2004-2008) and for 4 months as Acting Head of School (2008-2009). Margaret became an Honorary Professor in 2009, though she continued to be active, including teaching both in Sheffield and at the University of Nottingham.

Professor Llewelyn took over from Professor John Adams as editor of the Intellectual Property Quarterly in 2001 and remained editor until her death. The journal was, and remains, the venue of choice for scholarly work in the field. Dr Llewelyn published widely on plant breeders’ rights, culminating in the monograph, (with Dr Mike Adcock), European Plant Intellectual Property (Hart 2006). Other highlights of her career included an influential study on the European Commission’s ill-fated proposal for an EU Utility Model in 1996; a Modern Law Review symposium and edited collection (with Roger Brownsword and Bill Cornish), entitled Law and Human Genetics: Regulating a Revolution (Hart: 1998), as well as a groundbreaking study of intellectual property within the NHS, published as William Cornish, Margaret Llewelyn and Michael Adcock, Intellectual Property Rights and Genetics: A Study into the Impact and Management of Intellectual Property Rights within the Healthcare Sector (2003). As a leading expert in her field, she was, not surprisingly, and adviser to many governments and non-governmental organisations.

Margaret was married to Professor Rob Bradgate, a professor of commercial law at the University of Sheffield from 1989 until 2010, when he retired. Professor Bradgate passed away in April 2014.


Mike Adcock, Assistant professor, University of Durham
Margaret gave me the opportunity to move into law working on the Plant Intellectual Property Project in 1999. The timing of the project was incredible astute, just before the outcome of the Novartis case at the EPO, demonstrating her forward thinking, knowledge and understanding of the area. Her enthusiasm and insight inspired the project team to exceed expectations, resulting in the outcomes from the project feeding into the acquis communautaire of the Community Plant Variety Rights regime. I am hugely indebted to Margaret for giving me the opportunity to work with her and passing on some of her knowledge and expertise, which stood me in good stead in the following years.
Professor Tanya Aplin, The Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College, London
I met Margaret a couple of times (including on one occasion where we chatted about plant IP). Mainly, I knew Margaret through her role as editor of the IPQ and her tome (with Mike Adcock) on European Plant Intellectual Property. The book is a wonderful addition to the literature on what is a complex but usually overlooked and under-analysed area of IP Law. Margaret tackled this area with rigour and clarity, and I found her work to be immensely useful. In her editorial capacity, Margaret was warm, highly professional and a pleasure to deal with as an author. She made an enormous contribution to the discipline wearing her IPQ editorial hat.
Professor Lionel Bently, University of Cambridge
Margaret and I made our entry into academic life in the intellectual property field in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a point at which interest in the subject was really taking off, and the intellectual leaders – Bill Cornish, Gerald Dworkin and Jim Lahore – seemed as formidable as the subject “intellectual property” itself. Encountering Margaret at conferences and events was always a delight. She made people around her feel comfortable, was kind, funny and very entertaining. Most importantly, in those early days of our careers she was hugely supportive, wonderfully reassuring and full of common-sense. She freely shared her ideas about how to teach – I recall clearly one conversation on the difficulties of teaching non-obviousness to undergraduate law students which revealed to me that the devil was the detail (the various formulae, tests and sub-tests), and the educational goal should be to convey the key ideas underpinning the non-obviousness inquiry. Margaret’s research projects broke new ground: exploring aspects of the field that had been neglected and bringing to those projects both a well-founded scepticism and an openness towards alternative research methods. However, most of all, I will remember Margaret as one of the most generous and fun colleagues with whom I have ever had the good fortune to spend time. I’m sorry there won’t be more such opportunities.
Professor Michael Blakeney, University of Western Australia:
I met Margaret in 1987, when we were both appointed to junior positions at QMC. We shared a very small office in the East End premises of the college, which I had to vacate as she was courting Rob at the time and the only available trysting place was the Jewish cemetery outside the window. Margaret introduced me to the arcana of plant breeder's rights as expounded by her supervisor Noel Byrne. She will be sadly missed.
Professor Roger Brownsword, King’s College, London
It is nearly thirty years since I first met Margaret. This was soon after she had been appointed to her CLIP lectureship at the University of Sheffield. Over lunch, it transpired that we shared a Welsh connection: Margaret told me that her mother, who, had recently moved to Snowdonia, was living just outside Bangor and, much to Margaret’s surprise, I told her that Bangor was my own home city. More importantly, although the law relating to plant breeders’ rights was not my thing, we shared an interest in the way in which developments in genetics were impacting on questions of patentability in Europe. At all events, over a series of conversations with Margaret, the idea formed that it might be interesting to explore how different areas of law—not only IP law but also insurance, employment, criminal, and family law—were engaging with, and being impacted by, the new genetics. Following discussions with Bill Cornish, our topic of ‘law and genetics’ was narrowed to ‘law and human genetics’; and, with Bill’s encouragement, a number of exploratory papers were presented at a workshop in Cambridge, leading to a special issue of the Modern Law Review which was then re-published by Hart. This was just one of several initiatives that generated further conferences and publications all of which contributed to a distinctive law and biotech research profile at Sheffield. It was an exciting time and throughout this period, when we were colleagues at Sheffield, Margaret was a key player, more than living up to her billing as a rising star, and always a joy to work with.
Professor Robert Burrell, University of Oxford (formerly Head of School, Faculty of Law, University of Sheffield)
I met Margaret many times over the years, but it was only about four years ago that I feel I got to know her properly when she kindly agreed to return to Sheffield to teach patents for us. Working alongside her allowed me to fully appreciate her depth of learning. She also turned out to be great fun as a colleague and was highly respected by the students. She deserves to be remembered as a gifted and modest scholar who didn't take the world or herself too seriously.
Hazel Carty, formerly of the University of Manchester
Margaret was an academic of formidable intellectual, a leader in her fields who approached her subject with rigour and finesse (and made them accessible to lesser mortals such as myself!). Yet she combined all this with the warmest of personalities and a sparking sense of humour. My introduction to Margaret was via her editorship of the Intellectual Property Quarterly. She was always helpful in this role and able to give creative advice/criticism without undermining fragile academic egos. Indeed what really endeared her to me in her role as editor was the care she took with new arrivals on the IP scene: she would ask me for reviews of submitted papers but make it clear that she expected a useful signpost for the future even if the recommendation was to reject this time. A lovely person who had a lot more to give.
Dr Yvonne Cripps, formerly of Emmanuel College, Cambridge
I am extremely sad that Margaret has died. I examined her excellent Ph.D dissertation in Aberystwyth in 1990. Margaret presented her characteristically insightful research findings extremely well that afternoon. How shocking and sad that such a lovely and talented person has passed away much too soon.
Professor Estelle Derclaye, University of Nottingham
I first met Margaret when she came to do a presentation at the University of Leicester while I was teaching there, during my first year as a lecturer in intellectual property. Subsequently, I met her at conferences and she was always fun to hang out with. I was thus delighted when she started teaching intellectual property in Nottingham in 2010. We both taught copyright tutorials. We had lots of lunches together in between the courses and we talked about intellectual property but also her house and dog, and her love of music. So much so that we went to a classical concert or two in Nottingham. After she stopped teaching in Nottingham and started again to do so in Sheffield, we stayed in touch. She came to some of the University of Nottingham’s commercial law centre’s intellectual property seminars. I will always remember her fondly, and how bubbly, direct and fun she was and always sharp and on the ball not only on intellectual property but anything. But what I will always remember about her is her kindness – she was always thinking of others, putting herself last.

I was deeply shocked and sad that such a warm-hearted, unassuming yet so talented woman died so young. I will miss her a lot.
Professor Andrew Griffiths, Newcastle University
I first met Margaret when I presented a paper to the IP group at the Annual Conference of the SPTL (as it then was) in 1998. She was generous, supportive and incisive, qualities I came to know and appreciate well over the years since then. As well as knowing Margaret through her editorship of the Intellectual Property Quarterly, she was a meticulous and constructive external examiner for various IP programmes and modules at the University of Manchester for several years. Margaret’s warmth, optimism and goodwill always came through in her dealings with me, right up until some email exchanges earlier this summer. I will miss Margaret very much and send my deepest sympathy and condolences to all her family and friends.
Professor Sir Robin Jacob, University College London
I first met Margaret Lewellyn at the founding event of the University of Edinburgh’s Shepherd and Wedderburn Centre for Research in Intellectual Property and Technology, which in 2002 morphed into SCRIPT (Scottish Research Centre for Studies in Intellectual Property and Technology Law). She was on a panel of four which included Hector McQueen. She was the most outstanding of them all. I clearly remember thinking “who is this star?”, though try as I might I cannot remember the topic at all. We met from time to time thereafter at various events. Always a pleasure and stimulating.

Margaret was an academic, but had her thinking firmly based on the real world rather than the abstract. That is what made her so good. Her work had real effects, For instance the European Commission’s theoretically minded civil servants came up with the idea of an EU Utility Model. Margaret’s 1996 paper was a big nail in it coffin. To my mind then and still now it is model for considering any form of IP reform. Start with where you are, consider the idea and most importantly how it would work in practice on the basis that everyone will try to use it or misuse it as best they can, whether it will, when operated by real people, guys good and bad, advance innovation or creation.

We met from time to time at various conferences thereafter, though sadly not in the last 20 years or so. She was a joy of a human being. She did not deserve to lose her husband after long nursing him though Parkinsons. Nor to die so young.
Professor Mark D. Janis, University of Indiana
I had the pleasure of "meeting" Margaret electronically in the early days of email in the early 1990s. I was researching utility models and found her work in that area absolutely vital in forming my own conclusions. (As I recall, we had a lively and fun disagreement on the subject!) At the time, it seemed as though she and I were just about the only academics in the world who were seriously studying utility models, so when I later turned my attention to plant breeder's rights, it was such a delight to discover that Margaret was also immersed in that area. It has certainly been a pleasure to share these tiny, though growing, areas of IP study with such a generous and distinguished scholar as Margaret.
Professor Kathleen Liddell, University of Cambridge
I first met Margaret, at the beginning of my academic career, when she was collaborating with Bill Cornish. I felt honoured and fortunate to start my career with these two to guide me; both such wonderful, kind and supportive people as well as leaders in intellectual property law. We organised a conference in Japan for the Sasakawa Foundation, and had such fun. I remember Margaret had a girlish twinkle in her eye, and a wonderful wardrobe of dresses. She spoke fondly of am-dram (amateur drama), and her father’s experience as a plant breeder which underpinned her interest in plant breeders’ rights. When she became a senior academic, it was clear that although she found her career very stimulating, she also felt its frustrations and valued the simplest things in life. Pottering at home with Rob and her little dog, Tam, was in her words, “absolute bliss”. When we both faced hard times, her words of advice were something I think she would like us all to remember:

“be just as strong as you need to be but no more than you have to be. And for what it’s worth Rob's and my 'family' motto - engraved on the whiskey cabinet which I guess in itself speaks volumes! - is "crack on not up". By that we mean place self and well-being first.
Professor David Llewelyn, Singapore Management University
Although we only met twice in person, Margaret and I shared amusing stories about the IP textbook that many thought she co-authored with Bill Cornish and I did with him on IP and genetics. Of course, she could easily have done the former, whereas I could not the latter. She was a lovely person who wore lightly her deep knowledge, and I felt never got the credit she deserved. RIP Margaret Llewelyn from David of that ilk (although unrelated).
Professor Fiona Macmillan, University of Birckbeck
I am shocked and sad to be writing in the wake of the far too premature death of Margaret Llewelyn. In a sub-discipline where we are constantly concerned with the value of openness Margaret was a model of a broader way of being open personally and intellectually. In her role as editor of the Intellectual Property Quarterly she enthusiastically welcomed high quality work written from a range of methodological, theoretical and political positions. She made the journal a showcase of quality and diversity in intellectual property scholarship - it stands as one of many testaments to her work as an academic. What will stay with me even more, however, was her generosity and good humour with the contributors to the journal. My sincere condolences go to her family and close friends.
Professor Hector MacQueen, Emeritus Professor of Private Law, University of Edinburgh Law School
I first heard of Margaret Llewelyn when her book on plant varieties plus some articles appeared. The formidable person suggested by her interest in a highly technical area of law which until then had received little academic attention turned out to be an absolute delight in reality when we met while I was an external examiner at Sheffield. We kept in touch after that on a regular basis, especially when she became editor of the Intellectual Property Quarterly; and even more so when her husband, Rob Bradgate (another good friend from my Sheffield days on), was stricken with the Parkinson's disease that eventually forced both of them to retire from academe and Rob's sadly early death in 2014. Latterly we have communicated through the pages of Facebook. She was a joyful human being who had to contend with much adversity in her life, but who never lost the vitality that was the chief feature of her personality.
Professor Jay Sanderson, University of Sunshine Coast, Australia
Professor Margaret Llewelyn has left an important legacy for intellectual property scholars around the world. Her work on plant variety rights informed and inspired me, and many others, to research and write in this area. Her work on European plant intellectual property law has been particularly important and influential, and perhaps most importantly, Professor Llewelyn was always willing to support and provide advice to other intellectual property law scholars including those new to the field.
Dr Jasem Tarawneh, University of Manchester
I first met Professor Llewelyn when I was a PhD student giving a presentation at a conference over a decade ago. Despite her standing as a leading academic in the field, she was kind, approachable and open to sharing her ideas. After that meeting, I gained a great mentor and friend. Margaret’s generous encouragement and support was one of the main reasons I chose a career in academia. Her brilliant mind and sharp intellect, combined with her warm personality always encouraged me to seek her advice. She was an excellent listener and always gave sound advice on matters concerning both work and life. Her sudden passing was a complete shock. She was, and will always be an inspiration to me and she will be greatly missed.

Obituary - Professor Margaret Sophia Moy Llewelyn (1962-2021) Obituary - Professor Margaret Sophia Moy Llewelyn (1962-2021) Reviewed by Eleonora Rosati on Monday, November 29, 2021 Rating: 5


  1. I first became aware of Margaret when she was at the University of Central Lancashire and I had lead responsibility for Biotech Policy in what was then the UK Patent Office. She had telephoned to discuss how the Office saw patent law developing in the face of the challenges biotechnology was creating. As I recall in that first conversation, she tried to persuade me that the solution was to adapt patent law to follow closely the Plant Variety Rights System. Also during that conversation we discovered our shared connection to Aberystwyth and its university which provided a foundation for a longstanding friendship as well as frequent exchanges and meetings over many years, often involving colleagues from the Plant Variety Rights Office in Cambridge. Margaret and I did not agree on everything but she was an inspiration in our shared vision of an IP system capable of dealing with a new and fast moving technology. As some have already observed, Margaret was also entertaining and it was this aspect of her character that led me to invite her to one of our lunchtime sessions for visiting speakers. She was a hit with the staff of the Office and although I cannot remember much from that session, I do recall the title of her talk – “The Perennial Child”.
    Roger Walker
    (Retired) Divisional Director
    UK Intellectual Property Office

  2. What sad news. We were talking not too long ago about the IPQ. She was always really great fun to talk to, and really knowledgeable. I remember the first time I had an article published in the IPQ - we had quite the battle getting the floppy disk to work properly... (back in the days we had to post one!). Always was such a good laugh, she will be much missed.
    James Griffin, University of Exeter.

  3. Professor Llewelyn was more than just a path-breaking lawyer and prolific scholar. She was involved in the evolution of plant varieties laws. I had the please of meeting her a couple of time in conferences and seminars. A very kind and knowledgeable person. She will be greatly missed.

    Bashar Malkawi, University of Arizona


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