»  Updates

Take-home final exam: I have posted the final exam here. It is due on Wednesday, May 15 at 6:00 pm. Thank you for a wonderful semester and good luck on the final exam! (5/7/19)

Take-home quiz #2: I have posted the second take-home quiz here. It is due on Tuesday, April 16 at 6:00 pm. (4/10/19)

Claim-drafting exercise: I have posted the claim-drafting exercise handed out in class 4 here. It’s due on Friday, March 1 at 6:00 pm. (2/20/19)

Take-home quiz #1: I have posted the first take-home quiz here. It is due on Tuesday, February 26 at 6:00 pm. (2/20/19)

Handouts: I have updated the assignment schedule below with electronic copies of handouts and slides from each class. (2/20/19)

Schedule note: We will not be holding class on Monday, February 25. (2/20/19)

»  Overview

Intellectual property is the primary means by which the law promotes and protects investment in intangible assets like new inventions, writings and other creative expressions, and branding and other commercial indicators. IP has become one of the most important components of the economy, playing critical roles in industries as diverse as entertainment, pharmaceuticals, information technology, and even fine wines and cheeses.

This course introduces the basic concepts and doctrines of IP. We’ll survey the four major types of IP rights: patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. We’ll also explore what things qualify for IP rights, how to get them, how long they last, what they protect, and their limits. And we’ll ask why the law protects IP and how technology is changing the IP system.

»  Class meetings and office hours

We will meet on Monday evenings from 5:10 to 8:00 p.m. in Kingsbury Hall, room N204. If we need to cancel any classes due to weather or other reasons, we will make up those classes at times announced in class and on this site.

My office is at the Law School in Concord, so I don’t have a natural site for regular office hours in Durham. I would be very happy to meet on Monday afternoons before class or to set up a time for a phone call. If you’d like to set up a time to talk, please email me at roger.ford@nulllaw.unh.edu. (Do remember, though, that this is a professional environment, which means your email should be professional in formatting and tone.) I’m happy to meet and help if there’s something from class that’s confusing or unclear, or to go over the material we covered in class, or talk about connections between our material and other classes or legal issues you’ve come across, or discuss career plans or other courses to take — whatever’s helpful for you.

»  Materials

There are two required books for the course, a casebook and a supplement.

The casebook is Intellectual Property Law: Cases and Materials by Lydia Pallas Loren and Joseph Scott Miller (version 6.0, 2018). The book is available as a name-your-own-price downloadable PDF from Semaphore Press. Semaphore Press uses a publishing model that differs from that used by traditional casebook publishers, which you can read about on their website. The authors suggest a price of $30, which they (and I) think is fair, especially compared to the $200+ prices of traditional casebooks. A printed version is also available from Amazon for about $68.

The supplement is The Oxford Introductions to U.S. Law: Intellectual Property by Dan Hunter (2012). As of this writing, it’s available from Amazon for about $19 (new) or $12 (used).

Beside the casebook and supplement, you will need to reference up-to-date versions of the various federal statutes. You can just look them up on the web, but if you’d like them all in one place, one good (and free!) source is this volume put together by the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke University. If you’d like a paper copy, Amazon sells one for about $14.

Finally, in addition to these things, I will post occasional readings and assignments on this site. I will not be using Canvas or a similar system.

»  Learning outcomes and grading

At the end of the course, you should have a working understanding of the structure and content of trade-secret, patent, copyright, and trademark law, and how they apply in a variety of situations and scenarios. You should also have an understanding of how lawyers, judges, and policy makers think about problems and use legal tools to respond to those problems.

Course grades in TECH 780 will be based on three components: short in-class take-home quizzes (updated 2/20/19) at the end of the trade-secret, patent, copyright, and trademark units of the course (40% total); a comprehensive final exam (40%); and class participation and discussion (20%). Course grades in TECH 880 will be based on the quizzes (35%), final exam (35%), and participation (15%) components described above, along with a series of short writing exercises (15%).

Regular attendance is required, and I cannot grant credit for the course if you miss more than 20% of class sessions. I will take attendance will be taken by sign-in sheet, and signing in for someone else is, as always, academic misconduct. An occasional absence is fine, but please let me know in advance (by noon the day of class) so I can avoid calling on you. Likewise, it is acceptable to be occasionally unprepared for class, but as with absences, you must email me (by noon the day of class) to let me know. For the participation component of course grades, everyone will start with full credit; I will subtract points if you are unprepared or absent, and add them for especially helpful or insightful participation.

»  Accommodations

Pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, each student with a disability has the right to request services from UNH to accommodate his/her disability. If you are a student with a documented disability or believe you may have a disability that requires accommodations, please contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) at 201 Smith Hall. Accommodation letters are created by SAS with the student. Please follow up with your instructor as soon as possible to ensure timely implementation of the identified accommodations in the letter. Faculty have an obligation to respond once they receive official notice of accommodations from SAS, but are under no obligation to provide retroactive accommodations. For more information, refer to unh.edu/studentaccessibility or contact SAS at 603.862.2607, 711 (Relay NH), or sas.office@unh.edu.

»  Class discussion, diversity, and inclusion

Law professors traditionally use the Socratic method, which means that the professor spends much of class calling on students and asking them questions about the material. This isn’t a law-school course, and it’s a little small for the real Socratic experience. Nevertheless, this is a course centered on discussion, which means that it is critical that you come to class prepared. This means you need to have read and considered the assigned materials and be ready to discuss them with me and with the rest of the class. I cannot stress this enough: If you do not want to be an active participant in class discussion, do not take this course. Participation is required, and you will not receive a passing grade if you do not contribute meaningfully to the discussion. In this course, we are all here to learn from each other, and if you don’t contribute to that exchange, you are shortchanging your fellow students.

This learning process only works if the classroom is a welcoming and inclusive place that supports a diversity of thoughts, perspectives, and experiences, and honors your identities, including race, gender, class, sexuality, religion, ability, and so forth. I want you to feel comfortable in class, free to express your experiences and opinions — in a professional and respectful manner — and learn from the diverse experiences and opinions of your classmates. If anything is making you uncomfortable, inside or outside of class, please come and talk with me about it, and I will do anything I can to help so long as it’s consistent with the goal of learning. And if you use a name or set of pronouns that differ from those in UNH’s records, or if I mispronounce your name, please let me know.

In an ideal world, the law would similarly reflect the full, diverse array of thoughts, perspectives, and experiences. Law, though, is a field that is historically built on a small subset of privileged voices. We will make an effort to read materials from a wide array of authors and perspectives, but we can only do so much given the way that legal doctrines and ideas have developed. I am counting on each of you to help surface these biases and limitations as we make our way through the course.

»  A note on laptop use

There has been a lot of talk in law-professor circles in recent years about whether to let students use laptops in class. I want to lay out some of the points of discussion and explain my approach to this issue so we’re all on the same page.

There are good arguments on both sides. Proponents of banning laptops generally make two arguments: (1) that laptop use by one student can distract other nearby students; and (2) that laptops hurt students’ understanding of the material. The second point is worth unpacking. Most people can type more quickly than they can write by hand, so students using laptops can be tempted to just transcribe the class in their notes. If you can only handwrite so much, though, you have to think through the material and synthesize and summarize, which promotes understanding of the material. And there are academic studies backing up these arguments (see here, here, here, and here), though the conclusions one can draw from them are limited due to methodological issues and small effect sizes.

Opponents of banning laptops have arguments of their own: (1) that using technology effectively and responsibly is a key part of legal practice; (2) that laptop bans can disproportionately hurt, or stigmatize, students with disabilities; and (3) that laptop bans differently affect students with different learning styles. For instance, some students learn better from written material than from oral delivery; some learn better by synthesizing material after the fact, rather than in the moment. Laptops can be useful tools for these students. (There are also debates about pedagogy and paternalism versus libertarianism, but we can set those to the side.)

On balance, I find the arguments against banning laptops slightly more persuasive than the arguments in favor. So I allow their use in class, with two caveats. The first is that I encourage you to think about whether laptop use actually helps you learn the material — whether you are one of those students for whom taking notes on a laptop will work better than by hand. The second is that that use must be limited to note taking and the like. Where laptop use unequivocally hurts understanding — for both yourself and surrounding students — is when it’s unrelated to class. So laptop use for social media, email, web browsing, chat, games, and the like is prohibited.

»  Schedule and reading assignments

Last updated May 7, 2019.

The following list of reading assignments will be filled in over the course of the semester.

Week 1. Introduction.

Week 2. Trade Secrets I: What counts as a trade secret.

Week 3. Trade Secrets II: Misappropriation.

Week 4. Trade Secrets III: Non-compete agreements; Patent Law I: Introduction.

Week 5. Patent Law II: Patentable subject matter and utility.

Week 6. Patent Law III: Novelty and obviousness.

Week 7. Patent Law IV: Claim construction and infringement.

Week 8. Copyright I: Copyrightable subject matter.

Week 9. Copyright II: Exclusive rights and infringement.

Week 10. Copyright III: Fair use.

Week 11. Trademarks I: Obtaining trademark rights.

Week 12. Trademarks II: Infringement and dilution.