As part of a continuing series on Spring 2020 semester courses that relate to innovation and business law, this post spotlights Introduction to Intellectual Property.

For years, smartphone manufacturers Apple and Samsung waged a series of legal battles, each accusing the other of infringing its intellectual property rights. One of Apple’s assertions famously involves its claims to the appearance of its products, with their rounded corners, sleek design, and single circular button. In Introduction to Intellectual Property Law, Professor Jason Rantanen helps orient students in this world of patents, copyrights, trademarks and other types of intellectual property (IP).

The course contains five units: copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, patents, and a section on issues falling between these better-known forms of intellectual property “It’s a survey course,” noted Rantanen. “Students can take an entire course on any one of these types of intellectual property. The goal of the introductory course is give students an understanding of the fundamentals of the main forms of intellectual property and to explore the history and policy reasoning that led to the form they take today.”

Rantanen has refined the course over the years he has taught it, moving away from using a traditional casebook. Instead he has found that a small selection of cases, background readings, a statutory supplement, and a hornbook give students a better framework to learn and understand how IP law operates. In addition, the move away from a traditional casebook lowered student book costs substantially and provided students with a resource they could refer to later in their law school and practice careers.

At the end of each of the first four units, Rantanen has students engage in an in-class team exercise. “It requires students to apply their knowledge and comprehension of the legal doctrines to common types of problems that arise in intellectual property law. Although, I admit I have some fun with the problems,” said Rantanen. Students have analyzed copyright issues in “The Klingon Rickroll” and patent issues in the “Rainbow Loom,” as well as the  trade secret concerns of an ultra-modern salon and the trademark problems arising from a sushi restaurant's name.

Previous syllabi and course policies documents for the class can be found here:



Course Description

Introduction to Intellectual Property is a course for both law and non-law graduate students. It is based on the idea that legal rights over ideas play a fundamental role in our modern society, and that the importance of understanding those rights is no longer limited to their economic role but is central to our everyday lives. Intro to IP is intended to introduce students to some of the most important intellectual property rules and the goals and theories underlying those rules.

Course Documents

Course Policies: PDF iconCourse Policies - Intro to IP 2015.pdf

Reading Assignments: PDF iconReading Assignments - Intro to IP 2015.pdf


Schedule Information

Mon, Tues, Wed 11:00-12:00

​last updated November 24, 2019