Ralph Oman, 1985-1993

Ralph Oman

Ralph Oman was born in 1940 in Huntington, New York. He majored in history at Hamilton College and spent his junior year at the Sorbonne. From 1962 to 1964, he worked for the U.S. Department of State as a Foreign Service officer in Saudi Arabia. Oman served with the U.S. Navy as a naval flight officer from 1965 to 1970 and was decorated several times for his service in Vietnam. He is retired from the U.S. Naval Reserve.

Following his military service, Oman attended Georgetown Law School, where he was executive editor of the International Law Journal. He received a doctor of laws degree in corporate and international law in 1973. Afterward, he clerked for a federal district judge and then joined the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice as a trial lawyer. In 1975, Senator Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania hired Oman as his Senate Judiciary Committee counsel. Oman assisted the senator with major antitrust, civil rights, and copyright legislation, including the 1976 Copyright Act. When Senator Scott retired, Oman worked for Senator Charles Mathias of Maryland as his Judiciary Committee counsel. In 1980, Oman became chief counsel to the Senate Subcommittee on Patents, Copyrights, and Trademarks.

Oman was named Register of Copyrights on September 23, 1985. As Register, he testified before Congress many times and led U.S. delegations in international negotiations at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). In 1990, he was president of a WIPO diplomatic conference that adopted the Treaty on the Protection of Intellectual Property in Respect of Integrated Circuits. During his tenure, Oman also helped move the United States toward adoption of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, a longtime goal of U.S. Registers of Copyrights.

Oman retired from government service in 1993. Since then, he has worked in private practice and taught at George Washington University Law School, where he continues to teach full time as a Practitioner-in-Residence. He has filed many expert reports and amicus briefs, and he is active in the Intellectual Property Law Section of the American Bar Association. Most recently, he was chair of the Copyright Division and copyright liaison to WIPO. He is a member of the District of Columbia Bar and the Supreme Court Bar.