Saturday, February 9, 2013

To What Extent Do You Teach IP?

Choosing whether to include any IP in a first-year Property course is an annual dilemma for me.  I suspect that for many of us Property profs, IP topics are outside our comfort zone.  I know a little about patents, a little more about copyright, a little less about trademark.  If something has to be cut -- and something always does -- then it is easy for me to cut IP.  I don't have to worry about what I don't know.

On the other hand, if there is one property issue young law students are likely to be interested in, it is IP, and especially copyright.  They live in a world of changing copyright boundaries, where sampling and mashing are celebrated, file-sharing is illegal but common place, and collaborating without attribution is a daily event on twitter but could get you expelled in law school.  

Profs can take what I think of as the Dukeminier approach: treat IP as just an example of obtaining first rights, akin to colonizing a continent, and move on without getting into the particulars of actual IP law.  I've done that, but it seems like a cop out to me.  These days, I either teach some IP or I don't.  Usually, I don't.  Probably, I should.

What do you do?

Mark A. Edwards

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I teach one long trademark case (Brennan v. Terrence Brennan) from my circuit to introduce students to the key elements of trademark infringement. I also teach one short copyright case (Walker v. Time Life) to introduce students to the concept of "substantial similarity" and one long fair use case (The 2 Live Crew case, Acuff v. Campbell). It takes up about a week of class time.

Why? I begin with the following theory of what first your property should be: it should be a buffet where students sample bits and pieces of the major upper class electives that lead to practice areas (IP, wills/trusts, landlord/tenant, real estate transactions, zoning) plus bits and pieces of stuff that are relevant to the bar exam. Materials that aren't relevant to the bar or practice (finders, gifts etc) are useful only to the extent that they are foundational for the other stuff, so I give only a case or two on those areas at most.

Posted by: Michael Lewyn | Feb 11, 2013 9:31:38 AM

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