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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ms. Betty Willis: Her Famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” Sign and Her Artistic Legacy in Las Vegas Neon

Photo (c) 2015 Gary A. Trimble
On March 23, 2015, Ms. Marjorie Holland, the daughter of Ms. Betty Willis, visited the Boyd School of Law to speak to Boyd students, faculty, and guests about her mother, a beloved artist who shaped the history of Las Vegas neon sign design. Ms. Willis, now 91, is most well known for her iconic sign “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas,” which she designed in 1959; the sign still welcomes visitors on Las Vegas Boulevard at the south end of the “Strip” today. But Ms. Willis’ legacy includes many other signs, including the famous sign for the Moulin Rouge Casino, which opened in May 1955 as the first desegregated hotel and casino in Las Vegas, and the sign for the Blue Angel Motel.

Photo (c) 2015 Gary A. Trimble
Ms. Holland's talk was co-organized by the Wiener-Rogers Law Library and Professor Marketa Trimble, and gave students from Professor Trimble’s Advanced Intellectual Property Seminar an opportunity to learn about Ms. Willis’ artistic legacy, career, vision, and concerns, and also a practical background for considerations of legal protection and the limitations of legal protection that apply to artists and their art, particularly in the context of art created for public places.

Photo (c) 2015 Gary A. Trimble
The Advanced Intellectual Property Seminar, offered at Boyd each year by either Professor Mary LaFrance or Professor Marketa Trimble, is designed for students who complete at least one of Boyd’s foundational intellectual property law courses and want further specialization in an area of intellectual property law. The Seminar expands students’ knowledge of intellectual property law and policies that affect the law by building on the students’ knowledge from the foundational courses. Students write an extensive research paper for the Seminar that explores an advanced intellectual property law topic of their choice. For example, the students in the Seminar this year are writing research papers covering topics such as the patenting of computer programs, the patenting of financial business methods, the patenting of artificial intelligence, parodies made of fashion brands, copyright and creativity in hip-hop music, and recent amendments to the Korean patent law.