Nigerian Harvard law Prof. Okediji inducted into American Academy of Arts and Letters

Ruth Gana Okediji, a Nigerian-American professor at Harvard University Law School, has been inducted into the American Academy of Science and Letters, the university announced online recently

This accolade recognises her intellectual brilliance and courage in the field.



The academy described Ms Okediji as a “transformative legal scholar” and acknowledged her significant contributions to the global understanding of the profound implications of the concept that an idea can be considered someone’s property.

“Intellectual property expert Ruth L. Okediji LL.M. ’91 S.J.D. ’96, the Jeremiah Smith Jr. Professor of Law, has received a 2023 Barry Prize from the American Academy of Sciences and Letters in recognition of her intellectual excellence and courage.


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“A transformative legal scholar, Ruth Okediji’s scholarship has helped nations around the world grasp the revolutionary implications of a simple but powerful notion: that an idea can be someone’s property,” the academy said in its announcement.

The induction ceremony took place at the Library of Congress in Washington, where she was honoured alongside Professor Patterson, the longest-serving African-American professor at Harvard with 52 years of service, and several other distinguished individuals.

Widely recognised for her expertise in international intellectual property (IP) law, Ms Okediji has emerged as a leading authority on the intersection of intellectual property and social and economic development. Her impactful scholarship has not only influenced policies in various regions but has also provided guidance to inter-governmental organisations, regional economic communities, and national governments on matters related to technology, innovation policy, and development.

The academy highlighted her influence on national strategies for the implementation of the World Trade Organisation’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement).

The professor’s role as a member of the United States National Academies Board on Science, Technology and Policy Committee on the Impact of Copyright Policy on Innovation in the Digital Era was emphasised.

Additionally, her leadership as the Chief Technical Expert and Lead Negotiator for the Delegation of Nigeria to the 2013 WIPO Diplomatic Conference and her appointment by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the 2015–2016 High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines were highlighted.

Noteworthy is Ms Okediji’s extensive list of accolades for excellence in teaching, research, and mentoring.

As an editor of the Journal of World Intellectual Property Law and an elected member of the American Law Institute, her influence extends beyond her classroom and into the broader legal community.

Her most recent book, “Copyright Law in an Age of Limitations and Exceptions,” published by Cambridge University Press in 2017, further demonstrates her commitment to advancing knowledge in her field.

Born to Nigerian parents, Okediji is the daughter of Professor Aaron Gana, a distinguished academic who held positions at Ahmadu Bello University, the University of Jos, and served as the Vice Chancellor of Bingham University in Abuja. Mr Gana was a prominent figure in the pro-democracy NGO AFRIGOV, advocating against military misrule.





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