This is a survey course in intellectual property (IP) law. It covers the what, when, who, how, and why of IP: what kinds of information can be protected, when these rights arise, who owns them, how they are enforced, and why the legal system goes to all this trouble. Topics covered include trade secret, patent, copyright, trademark, copyright, false advertising, right of publicity, design, biotechnology, and software.
Students who complete this course will be able to:
For more information about previous versions of the course, including syllabi and final exams, consult my courses webpage.
Anyone at Cornell Tech can take this course. There are no prerequisites. All are welcome.
If you have not studied IP before, the course is a self-contained introduction.
If you have studied IP before, the course’s breadth and strategic focus distinguish it from other IP courses.
This course is also appropriate for non-law students. Rather than getting into the weeds of IP doctrine, it lays a solid foundation for thinking about what kinds of information are and are not subject to legal protection, and for devising legally sound strategies for protecting and using information.
Please see the course policies document for information about meeting with me; COVID-19 safety; inclusion; names, titles and pronouns; the history of the site where the course takes place; academic integrity; unauthorized collaboration policy; accessibility and accommodations for disabilities; class recordings; and professionalism.
The required reading for this course is my draft IP textbook, Patterns of Information Law. I will post chapters here in advance of when we cover them.
I highly recommend that you have and consult an up-to-date statutory supplement that includes the Patent Act, the Copyright Act, and the Lanham (trademark) Act. There are several excellent and inexpensive options. James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins have made one available as a free download, but it has not been updated since 2019. The authors of Intellectual Property in the New Technological Age sell an annually updated supplement as a $32 paperback. You can also go section-by-section at Cornell’s Legal Information Institute.
The following are not required but you may find them useful:
Your work for this class will consist of the following:
First, do the assigned readings and participate in class discussions. I will sometimes ask you to post on Canvas your answers to short problems from the textbook in advance of class (e.g., drafting a short patent claim). All of these will factor into the class-participation portion of your grade.
Second, there will be short midterm. It will place you in a professional role (e.g., advising the CEO of a startup about the IP risks from a proposed product) and require you to provide appropriate analysis. It will be available on Wednesday, October 11 and due by 11:59 PM on Wednesday, October 18.
Third, there will be a take-home final examination. It will consist of two questions that follow the same basic parameters as the midterm. The exam will be available on Wednesday, December 7, and due by 11:59 AM on Thursday, December 14.
All written work will be blind-graded; I will provide instructions to ensure appropriate anonymity.
Our class sessions will be primarily devoted to discussing the problems from the textbook. To prepare for class, read the assigned section of the textbook and then work through the assigned problems. My lectures will move quickly and will assume familiarity with the readings. I will generally not
lecture on the readings, nor will I expect you to answer questions based on them. Instead, focus on preparing good answers to the problems, drawing on the readings as needed.
Sometimes, the readings will include an extended excerpt from a case. You should be familiar with assigned cases, but you will not need to answer questions on their facts or holdings. Instead, we will work through the cases together. Sometimes, I will ask you questions about why the parties did what they did, or what they could have done differently. On other occasions we will try to make a diagram of the relevant technology. The point is to become familiar with what a diligent analysis in a particular body of IP law looks like.
Attendance in class is required. Especially in view of the other significant demands on your time, I will be understanding about conflicts and flexible in working with you to make alternative arrangements as needed. That said, consistent unexcused absences are not okay, and may lead to a reduced grade or exclusion from the course (after reasonable written warning). Please arrive promptly. I promise that we will end on time, but that means we must start on time. Bring the readings with you, either on your computer or in hard copy.
Questions are always welcome, even when we are discussing something else. Occasionally I will ask you to hold a question because we are about to answer it in a few minutes when discussing another case, but otherwise I will do my best to answer all questions immediately. If something is unclear to you, it is probably unclear to your classmates as well – and sometimes it is unclear to me, too.
Your grades will be determined as follows:
I may adjust grades up or down by one third of a grade (e.g. B+ to A-) for consistently good or poor class participation, or, in truly exceptional circumstances, by two thirds. I consider good class participation to be anything that helps your fellow students learn, and poor participation to be anything that obstructs their learning.
The final course grades will conform to Cornell Law School’s grading curve, which require that all courses be curved to a mean grade of 3.35., i.e. very close to B+.
We will usually meet Mondays and Wednesdays 11:40 to 12:55 in room 81 in the basement of the Bloomberg Center. Our first session will be on Monday, August 21, and our final session will be Monday, December 4. We will not meet on:
There will be two make-up classes, both in room 81:
I will post reading assignments here as the course progresses. Assignments with dates in the past are what we actually did; assignments with specific section numbers in the future are my best guess as to when we will cover the material. Assignments without section numbers should be regarded as speculative fiction; I reserve the right to pivot before we reach them.
Ideas and Trade Secret
Optional background for the copyright unit as a whole: my draft article Talkin’ ‘Bout AI Generation on Canvas discusses generative AI and copyright.
Right of Publicity