Note: This is the webpage for a class from the past that has ended. Information about current classes is available here.

Updates

Take-home exercise #1: I have posted the first take-home writing exercise here. It is due on Thursday, April 1 at 5:00 p.m. (3/25/21)

Class canceled: We will not hold class on Thursday, March 4, due to a conflict. We will meet again during our normal class time on Thursday, March 11. (3/1/21)

Zoom room: We will use this Zoom meeting room for class all semester. Please note that the room is protected by a password that was provided by email. (2/4/21)

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 Thursday evenings from 5:10 to 8:00 p.m. via Zoom.

Outside of class, 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. 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.)

If there is anything that is making it harder than it should be to perform well in this class or in school generally — whether that’s an issue with your mental or physical health, challenges securing food or housing, relationships with other students or family members, anything — please get in touch with the Dean of Students or with me if you’re comfortable doing so. We can point you toward useful tools and resources and can do whatever we can to help.

Materials

There is one required casebook for the course, 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 $60.

Beside the casebook, 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.

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, grading, and collaboration policy

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.

Your course grades will be based on three components: a series of short take-home quizzes / writing exercises at the end of the different units of the course (40% total); a comprehensive final exam (40%); and class participation and discussion (20%).

We are all here to learn, and in general I am all for anything that helps further that goal. This means that you are free to consult whatever sources you wish in your work for this class and, except on the exams and written assignments, you’re also free to collaborate with each other.

Attendance policy and Covid-19 pandemic accommodations

We are going to move quickly and cover a lot of material, so it’s critical that you keep up with the material if you don’t want to fall behind. Having said that, the ongoing pandemic means that things will come up that are more important and urgent than class. So we will all have to be patient and flexible with each other — none of us signed up for this.

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 by sign-in form, and signing in for someone else is, as always, academic misconduct. An occasional absence is fine, but please let me know in advance so I can avoid calling on you. Likewise, it is acceptable to be occasionally unprepared for class, but as with absences, please email me before 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.

As for video etiquette, please be dressed and mute yourself except when speaking. I do not require you to have video enabled, but ask that you do so unless you have a good reason not to, since it is much harder to teach when facing a grid of black rectangles. Use your actual name as your Zoom screen name and please upload a photo or drawing of yourself as your Zoom profile icon. And to protect your classmates’ privacy, it is forbidden to take video or screenshots of another student, pin video of another student, or share screenshots or videos with anyone not in the course.

Accommodations

Pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, each student with a disability has the right to request services from UNH to accommodate his or 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.

Schedule and reading assignments

Last updated May 3, 2021.

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: Obviousness, 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.