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International Legal Secretariat USA

Law is the most effective means to coordinate different interests and conflicts among different values-pursuit because it consists of certain norms. It is enforced by state compelling force and offers definite principles and norms to resolve contradictions, instruct an individual’s behavior. The capability of law can meet the need of regulating huge society whose members are strangers to each other.

Law can coordinate different interests through institutionalizing democracy and procedures for coordinating contradictions.

law emphasizes heavily on coordinating interest relations. Therefore, law is irreplaceable for regulating society and promoting harmonious relations.

Law is the product of the social conditions at the time it is made.  Law is not static. Just as relationships between people or between people and the Government are not fixed permanently, so the law changes by responding to the current social and political values of the dominant culture. As societies become more complex so too does the law. It governs our private relationships through contract, tort, property, succession, trust and family law as well as our public relationships with the State through criminal, constitutional and administrative law.

Definition of law – Legal Positivism

John Austin (English jurist born 1790)

“Province of Jurisprudence Determined”

“A rule laid down for the guidance of an intelligent being by an intelligent being having power over him.”

“A body of rules fixed and enforced by a sovereign political authority.”

Professor Hart

(Oxford Professor of jurisprudence, born 1907)

“The Concept of Law” (1961)

Hart defined law as a system of rules, a union of primary and secondary rules,

Definition of law – Marxist theory

Marxist theories of law generally define law as a tool of oppression used by capitalists to control the proletariat.

Definition of law – Natural Law.

Plato (Greek philosopher born 427 BC)

Aristotle (Greek philosopher born 304 BC)

“An embodiment of Reason”, whether in the individual or the community’.

St Thomas Aquinas (Italian philosopher born 1224)

“Summa Theologiae (Summary of Theology)”, Question 90, Art. 4

“Nothing else than an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community, and promulgated”

Definition of law – Legal Realism

Oliver Wendell Holmes (American judge and jurist born 1841)

“The Path of the Law” in Collected Papers, 1920

“The prophecies of what the courts will do … are what I mean by the law,”

The Jurist and Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., was born in 1841.  Oliver W. Holmes Jr. died in 1935. For information, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (a Physician and Author) was born in 1809 and died in 1894.

Karl Llewellyn

(American legal scholar born 1893)

“The Bramble Bush” 1951

“What officials do about disputes,”

Lord Browne-Wilkinson (Senior Law Lord born 1930)

“‘The sum of the influences that determine decisions in courts of justice.”

Other definitions

Definition of Law –  Max Weber

(German Sociologist born 1954)

“Law…exist if it is externally guaranteed by the probability of coercion (physical or psychological) to bring about conformity or avenge violation, and is applied by a staff of people holding themselves specially ready for that purpose.”

Definition of law – Thomas Hobbes

(English philosopher born 1588)

Hobbes said of the role and function of law in his polemic work ‘Leviathan’ (1651)

“Law is the formal glue that holds fundamentally disorganised societies together.”

Definition of law  – Glanville Williams “Learning the law”

“Law is the cement of society and also an essential medium of change. Knowledge of law increases one’s understanding of public affairs. Its study promotes accuracy of expression, facility in argument and skill in interpreting the written word, as well as some understanding of social values”.


Judge-declared law. Law which exists and applies to a group on the basis of customs and legal precedents

“The common law is judicially created law that is developed on a case by case basis,” wrote Chief Justice Hannah of the Supreme Court of Arkansas in Mason v State.A body of English law of law which originated with an oral tradition of tribal justice in Britain thousands of years ago and which developed into a unique, cohesive national body of law (the realm) developed and set to writing by English judges over time, and which was eventually imported as the law of British colonies throughout the world such as the United States of America (except Louisiana), Canada (except Quebec) and India.

“… to be found in the records of our several courts of justice in books of reports and judicial decisions, and in treatises of learned sages of the profession, prescribed and handed down to us from the times of ancient antiquity. They are the laws which gave rise and origin to that collection of maxims and customs which is now known by the name of common law.” Blackstone

Sri Lankan Legal system is influenced by English common law and Roman-Dutch owing to it’s colonial history. In addition, same is influenced by the ancient local system of laws of Sri Lanka – customary and personal laws such Kandyan, Thesawalamai law and Muslim law due to the varied character of the nation.

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Innovative Businesses and Breakthrough Technologies – The Legal Issues

James Earle Fraser’s Authority of Law, located by the front steps of the Supreme Court of the United States. (Image courtesy of the Supreme Court of the United States.)




Prof. John Akula
Senior Lecturer in Law

Course Description

15.616 is an introduction to business law which covers the fundamentals, including contracts, liability, regulation, employment, and corporations, with an in-depth treatment of the legal issues relating to breakthrough technologies, including the legal framework of R&D, the commercialization of new high-technology products in start-ups and mature companies, and the liability and regulatory implications of new products and innovative business models. There is extensive attention to national and international intellectual property protection and strategies. Examples are drawn from many industries, including information technology, communications, and life sciences.



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