As part of a continuing series on Spring 2017 semester courses that relate to innovation and business law, this post spotlights Introduction to Intellectual Property.

Over the past three years smartphone manufacturers Apple and Samsung have 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. Two years ago, for example, students analyzed copyright issues in “The Klingon Rickroll” and patent issues in the “Rainbow Loom;” last year they examined the trade secret concerns of an ultra-modern salon and the trademark problems arising from a sushi restaurant's name.

As with past iterations of the class, Rantanen will prohibit laptops and tablets in class. “As an IP scholar, I love how technology has changed our lives and the learning process, but laptops and tablets can also be a significant distraction in class. The purpose of a law school classroom is to actively engage your brain to understand and apply legal concepts, not to stare at a screen and write down everything the professor says. Don’t just create derivative works; create transformative ones.” To learn what that last comment means, you’ll just have to take the class. 

Introduction to Intellectual Property is a prerequisite for Patent Law, and is recommended for Trademarks and Unfair Competition and Copyrights.

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.

Schedule Information

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday | 2:20 pm - 3:20 pm

Course Documents

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

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