Minnesota Law Mourns the Passing of Former Professor Dan L. Burk

The University of Minnesota Law School joins together with the University of California Irvine School of Law (UCI Law), colleagues, friends, family, and the legal community to mourn the passing of former Minnesota Law professor Dan L. Burk, who served on the Minnesota Law School faculty from 2000 to 2008. Professor Burk was a Distinguished and Chancellor’s Professor of Law and founding faculty member and the first Chancellor’s Professor at UCI Law. He passed away on Sunday, February 4. According to a message from UCI Law Dean Austen Parrish sent on Monday, February 5, Burk is “leaving behind a profound and worldwide legacy on issues related to high technology, including the areas of patent, copyright, electronic commerce, and biotechnology law. Our hearts go out to his family, his wife, Laurie Burk, his daughter, Rayne Burk, and all those who had the good fortune to know him, including the students he inspired. Burk’s extraordinary impact through his prolific scholarship and academic accomplishments, the founding of UCI Law, and his mentorship of UCI Law students and alumni — as well as intellectual property scholars and lawyers across the world — will live on.”

Professor Dan L. Burk is recognized as a leading scholar in intellectual property, gene patenting, digital copyright, computer trespass, and more. He is remembered at Minnesota Law for his significant contributions to those fields but also for being generous with his time and talent and as an exceptional colleague, friend, and mentor

“Dan was one of my mentors when I first joined our faculty as a junior professor focused on intellectual property,” said Interim Dean William McGeveran, Gray, Plant, Mooty, Mooty & Bennett Professor of Law. “He provided invaluable guidance and introduced me to the leaders of the field. Countless IP scholars I know have similar stories about Dan's generosity.”

Professor Sapna Kumar, Henry J. Fletcher Professor of Law, said that Burk was “not just an incredible scholar, but was someone who went out of his way to mentor junior faculty. So many important milestones in my career were because of the support and encouragement that I received from Dan."

In tribute to Burk, UCI Dean Austen Parrish mentions how he “leaves behind a rich and prolific legacy of scholarship. He authored numerous papers on the legal and societal impact of new technologies, including articles on personalized medicine, on the legal aspects of electronic sports, and on the trademark implications of search engine keywords.” In addition to this Burk wrote extensively while at Minnesota Law, co-authoring several articles with faculty.

“I worked with Dan on a series of papers analyzing the intersection of intellectual property and the theory of the firm,” said Minnesota Law Professor Brett McDonnell, Dorsey & Whitney Chair and Professor of Law. “The impetus and inspiration was his, and he of course supplied all of the intellectual property expertise. I helped out with the law and economics of business organizations, though truth be told he was already pretty savvy about those fields as well. Dan had already written about the topic on his own but wanted to push deeper. In talking about the subject, we came up with a framework that we felt generated some interesting insights. We set out that framework in our first paper, and then applied it to various specific topics in several later ones. It was great working with Dan. He knew IP so well, and he had good ideas and the drive to develop them. I will miss him as both a scholar and a friend.”

UCI Law enumerated Burk’s prestigious honors, fellowships, and awards, saying “He received two Fulbright Scholarships in 2011 and 2017, conducting groundbreaking research first to study German and European Union biotechnology patenting at the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition in Munich, and then as a Fulbright Cybersecurity Scholar at the Oxford Internet Institute's Digital Ethics Lab in the United Kingdom. In 2015 he was selected for a Leverhulme visitorship to the London School of Economics and Political Science, where he delivered a series of Leverhulme Public Lectures on “Biotechnology and Software Patenting in the Information Society.” That same year, he won the IP Vanguard Award by the California State Bar Section on Intellectual Property. In 2019 he was a Senior Visiting Scholar at the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society in Berlin.” 

“Several weeks ago, when I learned that Dan was ill, I wrote to tell him how much his work and example had inspired me,” said Associate Dean for Research & Planning Thomas Cotter, Taft Stettinius & Hollister Professor of Law. “And that I hoped he realized how many people's lives he had affected in a positive way. Dan was instrumental in my coming to Minnesota in 2006, and it was wonderful having him as a colleague here before he departed for UC Irvine, and also during the summers of 2011 and 2013 when we both were spending some time at the Max Planck Institute in Munich.  Dan was enormously gifted, and generous with his time and talent, and people will continue to learn from and engage with his work for years to come.  Wir werden dich vermissen, mein Freund.

Burk received a B.S. in Microbiology from Brigham Young University (1985), an M.S. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from Northwestern University (1987), a J.D. from Arizona State University (1990), and a J.S.M. from Stanford University (1994). Before joining UCI Law, Burk taught at the University of Minnesota Law School (2000–2008) and Seton Hall University School of Law (1997–1999). 

Minnesota Law joins the UCI community in mourning the loss of Professor Dan L. Burk, a visionary scholar, inspiring teacher, and dedicated mentor. His intellectual curiosity, passion for the law, and commitment to advancing knowledge will forever be remembered and cherished by those fortunate enough to have crossed paths with him.

A day-long event to celebrate Burk’s scholarship and contributions will be held at UCI Law on Friday, February 9. It will be a day joined by renowned scholars from around the country and abroad, traveling to Irvine to celebrate Burk’s work and its extraordinary impact. A memorial service celebrating Professor Burk’s life and contributions to the legal community will be announced later.

The University of Minnesota Law School joins UCI in extending our heartfelt condolences to Dan Burk’s family, friends, colleagues, and students during this difficult time.

Read about Professor Dan L. Burks lasting impact and scholarship