The broad subject of “intellectual property law” includes three predominantly federal doctrines – copyright, trademark, and patent – as well as a host of state law doctrines, including publicity rights and trade secrets. While these doctrines tend to complement each other, each one has a unique particular focus of primary concern. Copyright law typically involves artistic or literary creation, while trademark law delves into the world of advertising and marketing. Patent law focuses on scientific and other types of invention.
Not only are these doctrines among the most interesting in the law, but they also are becoming increasingly important in practice. With law firms and corporations hiring more and more intellectual property (“I.P.”) attorneys, students will find that even a general knowledge of the subject will pay dividends. Students choosing to specialize in the subject will make themselves even more useful in our “new economy.”
Whether and in what order you decide to take these courses will depend on whether you are interested in practicing: (1) copyright and/or trademark law; or (2) patent law. Of course, students are not forced to take one path or the other. While passage of the Patent Bar Exam is required for those who wish to prosecute patents before the Patent and Trademark Office, litigators practicing in federal court have the ability to try copyright, trademark, and patent cases. Thus, students who think they may wish to “straddle” the two tracks should select courses from each.
Certain principles of course selection and sequencing apply to both tracks. First, students should start with the general and proceed to the more specialized. The Introduction to Intellectual Property Law course provides the foundation for study in the program, and students are strongly encouraged to take this course in the fall of their second year. Building upon that foundation are the three doctrinal courses in American law: Copyright Law, Trademark and Unfair Competition Law, and Patent Law. The remaining courses and seminars build upon the basic doctrines, provide students with more specialized knowledge, and, frequently, give students an opportunity to learn in smaller settings and from a variety of professors, including practitioners in the field.
A suggested sequence of courses follows for each intellectual property “track.”