Constructing an IP Curriculum

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10 Responses

  1. I wouldn’t worry too much about the IP survey student’s gaining an unfair advantage in a substantive course. Back when Becky Eisenberg and I offered an IP survey as well as the three basic courses (many years ago) we discovered that students who had taken the survey didn’t do as well in the three-credit single-subject courses and students who had not. I suspect that the temptation not to read a case carefully the second time around, even when you know that it’s been edited to emphasize different points, proves overwhelming.

  2. Penn 05 says:

    Penn uses the second option. I think the concerns with it are overstated. The overlap between IP survey and more focused IP classes is insubstantial, and no more problematic than, for example, the overlap between corporations and securities regulation or between advanced civil procedure and federal courts.

    The overlap might be more of a concern where the more focused classes aren’t very in-depth. For example, at Penn the patents class is three credits (should be 4), but the trademarks class is two. The survey class provides much more of an advantage in the TM class than in the patents class.

  3. Cathy says:

    BU law offered the four courses, a survey course and specific courses in patent/copyright/trademark. While it was generally advised to start with the IP Survey course, it wasn’t a formal requirement and students who already had a clue about IP (see, e.g., me) weren’t prevented or discouraged from jumping right into the distinct courses.

    Also, while I was there we got the student IP Law Society group going, and one of the things we did with it was put on annual openhouses where we invited the IP faculty to talk about possible curriculum (and eventual career) paths, so students could better figure out which courses to put into their schedules.

  4. Paul Ohm says:

    Colorado offers all four courses, but owing to the generally non-restrictive approach to tracks and prereqs around here, we place almost no constraints on the order in which the courses must be taken.

    In the past, my advice has been that those destined to practice IP and who plan to take all three “component” courses should skip Intro IP. I think their time is better spent picking up one more non-IP elective instead.

    Last semester, I tried to formalize this “advice” in our course catalog, but I had the registrar delete the recommendation last week because of too much student confusion.

    Although I agree with other commenters that the concern about survey-before-component is probably exaggerated, I worry a lot more about the component-before-survey problem. The first time I taught Intro IP, a number of students complained that some of their classmates had taken or were concurrently taking two or three of the components. Although I haven’t analyzed the numbers rigorously, I anecdotally recall that several of the “repeat” students did well in the class.

    At the time, I asked an IP profs listserv about this, and the consensus approach was a rule: students could take the survey course with one component under their belt, but not with two or three. This is now our rule.

    Finally, although we are a small faculty, we’ve managed to supplement the courses listed above with an IP Licensing course and a Patent Litigation course, by relying on our talented local IP bar.

  5. Eric Goldman says:

    Fred, as you may know, Ken Port did a systematic survey of law school IP offerings in 2005. See http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=825790 Eric.

  6. Mark McKenna says:

    Fred -

    At SLU we offer a 3 credit survey course and all three of the “core” courses (though the patent class has thus far been taught by an adjunct). We do not make the survey a prerequisite. As a partial protection against the “component-before-survey” problem Paul mentions above, we have a rule that a student who has already taken 2 components cannot take the survey class. But because of the timing of the courses, I don’t think that’s ever actually been an issue. I almost always get students in my trademark class who had taken the survey, but I have had very few instances of the opposite.

    For what it’s worth, I was originally skeptical about the value of a survey course. Especially when one does it as a 3 hour course, it can be frustrating how superficial the coverage sometimes has to be. Having said that, I’ve actually grown to appreciate the course more over time. There are points in each area of IP that make a lot more sense if one has some understanding of other areas (the useful article doctrine makes more sense, for example, if you know some patent law). In the component courses, you can’t always be sure that students have been exposed to other areas. So I’ve tended over time to try to focus more on those areas in the survey where having a big picture helps.

  7. Mark McKenna says:

    Fred -

    At SLU we offer a 3 credit survey course and all three of the “core” courses (though the patent class has thus far been taught by an adjunct). We do not make the survey a prerequisite. As a partial protection against the “component-before-survey” problem Paul mentions above, we have a rule that a student who has already taken 2 components cannot take the survey class. But because of the timing of the courses, I don’t think that’s ever actually been an issue. I almost always get students in my trademark class who had taken the survey, but I have had very few instances of the opposite.

    For what it’s worth, I was originally skeptical about the value of a survey course. Especially when one does it as a 3 hour course, it can be frustrating how superficial the coverage sometimes has to be. Having said that, I’ve actually grown to appreciate the course more over time. There are points in each area of IP that make a lot more sense if one has some understanding of other areas (the useful article doctrine makes more sense, for example, if you know some patent law). In the component courses, you can’t always be sure that students have been exposed to other areas. So I’ve tended over time to try to focus more on those areas in the survey where having a big picture helps.

  8. Minnesota offers the IP survey course and the more advanced courses independent of each other, though I think the people who teach those classes are mulling whether to revise that system or at least bar people from taking the survey if they have done a lot of other IP. One complication is that, if the survey is a prerequisite to everything else, then that leaves very IP-focused students only three semesters to go more in-depth. It’s also counterproductive to limit time for IP courses given how much our IP faculty has grown. Finally, if the survey is a prerequisite then it really must be offered in the fall (or else students will have to postpone IP classes until their third year!) Making the survey a co-requisite instead of a prerequisite can help, but then that undermines the logic of requiring it in the first place.

  9. At Cincinnati, the IP survey course is a “recommended, but not required” prerequisite to the “big three” substantive courses. It looks like the pattern we are going to be settling into is: IP survey and Patent in the fall, Copyright and Trademark in the spring. Our survey course is only 3 hours, though (and includes materials on trade secrets, rights of publicity, etc., in addition to the “big three”), and I’d be skeptical whether such a whirlwind introduction to the subject actually gives students an unfair advantage when they take the in-depth courses. The reverse, however, may well be true; I think we’re also having thoughts along the lines that Bill sketches out above, to the effect that students who have taken too many of the primary substantive courses (however one defines “too many”) perhaps ought not to be able to take the survey course.

  10. We stopped offering an IP survey course in the 1980s. At the time, I thought that if I ever had the luxury of a large IP faculty and lots of IP students, I would like to reintroduce the survey course as one that *required* one of the three basic substantive courses as a pre-requisite, thus giving students who had one IP subject under their belts the opportunity to compare and contrast. I still think this is a good idea, and may try something of the sort in a few years. Meanwhile, we do have advanced IP seminars that as an informal matter tend to enroll students who have taken one or more different basic IP courses. On some days the diversity in IP knowledge works well; other days it works less well.