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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Choosing a Casebook: Intellectual Property

Please use the comments section to share thoughts on choosing a casebook in Intellectual Property (the survey course, as well as individual courses in Copyright, Trademark, and Patent).  (See here and here for a discussion of the Course Preparation Project.)

Posted by Matt Bodie on May 10, 2007 at 04:37 PM in Teaching Law | Permalink


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I've taught IP Survey eleven times over the past nine years, always for three credits, and I stick to Patents, Copyrights and Trademarks in that order, separating the semester into thirds. It would be nice to have a week or so for Trade Secrets, but I just don't. I like to think my students get a good enough working knowledge of those three areas of the law to support them in whatever area of practice they choose. If I cut parts of, say, copyright, I might not get to topics like termination interests, which is something folks who want do family law or estate planning could use a heads up about, in my view. They might not remember the exact law a few years later but hopefully they will remember that is it complicated and counterintuitive, and you have to consult the statute!

Posted by: Ann Bartow | May 17, 2007 9:42:18 AM

If we can't fit more than the big three into an IP survey, does that mean we should consider dropping parts of them from the survey to make some room? That an "IP survey" is the wrong way to throw legal subjects into the bucket of a course?

Posted by: James Grimmelmann | May 13, 2007 9:28:55 PM

Menell, Merges, Lemley has an amazing set of slides. The
powerpoints on patent law are probably the best I've seen for
clearly explaining to students exactly how protection is
is attained, and what it covers. They are also chock-full of
visually engaging images.

Kwall & Dreyfuss begin their chapters with very illuminating and
instructive problems. If your students like problem-centered
books, theirs is excellent. The teacher's manual is also
comprehensive and excellent, exhaustively detailing how each
problem is to be solved.

I have taught from each and I'm torn between the two as I decide
on a book for next year.

Posted by: Frank Pasquale | May 13, 2007 11:12:21 AM

Matt -

I used Dreyfuss and Kwall this past year and had mixed feelings about it. You're right that it has fewer cases, and it also has some good problems at the beginning of each "assignment" (for those who aren't familiar with the book, each chapter is an "assignment" organized around a summary problem. On the other hand, there is an extraordinary amount of note material, often longer than the case excerpts in any given "assignment." This made it difficult for me to figure out how to pace the reading. Single "assignments" were way too long to assign for one class. But there often was no great way to slice up assignments without assigning purely note material in some classes. My students really did not like that.

James - I've found it very difficult to do much more than cover "the big three" in a 3 hour survey class. The truth is that you're covering a ton of ground just covering those areas, and you're not doing a lot of depth. So I've started to cover more state law stuff in Trademarks and Unfair Competition, but even that is hard. Over time, I've tended to focus the survey class more and more on the areas of overlapping rights regimes, because the survey is really the only class you can do that very effectively (unless you're lucky enough to be at a school where you can assume your copyright students have had patent and trademark, etc).

Posted by: Mark McKenna | May 12, 2007 7:59:41 PM

I'm going to need to pick an IP survey book for this coming year. I'd especially appreciate comments on various casebooks' balance between state and federal law. I would like to give students a realistic appreciation that IP doesn't begin and end with the Big Three, and I'm wondering how far I (and the casebook) should go in discussing state law without risking incoherence from racing to cover too much ground.

Posted by: James Grimmelmann | May 12, 2007 1:31:50 PM

I recently switched from Merges, Menel & Lemley to Dryfuss and Kwall. The MML book is good if you want to be very up to the minute but D&K has better case selection from a teaching point of view. By this I mean that D&K uses fewer cases in more depth.

My syllabus using D&K is available on my website, www.matthewsag.net



Posted by: Matthew Sag | May 12, 2007 9:34:24 AM

I'm teaching copyright for the first time this fall. I didn't have a lot of time to choose a text, so I began by asking around a lot to see what others preferred. That narrowed my choices a bit to Joyce/Leaffer/Jaszi/Ochoa (which seems to be the most popular option); Cohen/Loren/Okedji/O'Rourke (the second-most-chosen text according to my admittedly imperfect survey); and Gorman/Ginsburg (seems to be the least-assigned of the three but the most popular here at Chicago).

I ended up going with Joyce et al. essentially because it matched best the rough sketch I had of what I wanted to cover in the copyright course. Ginsburg is by far the most voluminous of the three, and has probably the best treatment of copyright's formalities, but I don't see that issue playing a huge role in my course, so that advantage didn't mean a lot to me. Joyce v. Cohen was a close call, but the former seemed to align better with the contours of the course I'm planning and has a good distribution of different kinds of primary sources (cases as well as some regulatory materials). And although I haven't seen it and don't know how much difference it's going to make, people I've talked to say the teacher's manual for the Joyce text is great.

Posted by: Dave | May 11, 2007 12:53:58 PM

I actually haven't found an IP Survey book that I really like yet. In fact, I've taught the course 4 times with 3 different books, and I may use another different one next time. In part those books are difficult to create because there is a very wide variety in terms of what people actually cover in survey courses. And then there's the question of how to pitch the class in terms of how much technical material you want to include. I try not to assume much technical background, and that impacts book choice. Merges, Menell and Lemley is good if you want a higher tech option, but I found myself having to do a lot of explaining.

In the trademark area, I'm a big fan of Dinwoodie and Janis. The book is organized well and has the right balance between cases and notes.

Posted by: Mark McKenna | May 10, 2007 11:41:03 PM

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