Intellectual Property Law





Course Offerings


The University of Iowa College of Law offers a comprehensive curriculum comprised of courses related to all areas of intellectual property law. First-year students have the option of taking a three-credit survey course that provides an overview of intellectual property law and covers topics such as trade secrets, patents, copyrights, and trademarks.


In addition, the College of Law offers advanced, three-credit courses in patent law, copyright law, and trademark law. Also available for students interested in patent prosecution is a three-credit seminar course on claim drafting and the procedures at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for filing a patent application. Faculty at the College of Law are currently developing a course entitled Intellectual Property and Antitrust Policy, which will examine the misuse of intellectual property rights against an unfair competition framework.


See also the description of the interdisciplinary Iowa Medical Innovation Group on the Health Law and Medical Innovation page of this Center.


Iowa Faculty in Intellectual Property Law


The Iowa Law faculty who teach and research in intellectual property law include Professors Christina Bohannan, Herbert Hovenkamp, Randy Bezanson, Nick Johnson, and Jason Rantanen. Professor Bohannan currently teaches Copyright Law, Conflict of Laws, and Torts and focuses on IP as it relates to First Amendment rights and misuse. Professor Hovenkamp, who is the author of over 80 law-review articles and several books, teaches Antitrust Law, Introduction to Intellectual Property Law (survey course), Intellectual Property and Antitrust, and Torts. Professor Bezanson, whose scholarship includes a focus on First Amendment rights and communications law, currently teaches the Law and Technology seminar course. Professor Johnson currently teaches the course The Law of Electronic Media and the Cyberspace Law seminar and focuses his scholarship on mass communications law. Professor Rantanen is the newest member to the College of Law IP Faculty, joining the University in 2011.  Professor Rantanen's scholarship focuses on innovation theory and he teaches patent law.


Iowa Student Activities in Intellectual Property Law


Iowa Law students interested in intellectual property law are members of the Intellectual Property Law Society (IPLS), a student-run organization advised by Professor Bohannan.  The IPLS helps mentor entering students interested in pursuing a career in IP and provides a forum for faculty and student discussion of contemporary issues relating to intellectual property law, including recent court decisions.  The Innovation, Business and Law Center helps to cosponsor events of the IPLS, including hosting guest speakers and competing in IP-related moot court competitions.


The College of Law also supports students who wish to participate in any of several moot court competitions related specifically to intellectual property law. Students submit appellate briefs about a fictional fact pattern on a related area of intellectual property law and then participate in oral arguments before panels of judges and practitioners.


The moot court competitions include:
Trademark LawSaul Leftkowitz Moot Court Competition (sponsored by the International Trademark Assosication)
Patent LawGiles Sutherland Rich Memorial Moot Court Competition (sponsored by the American Intellectual Property Law Association)
Copyright LawCardozo/BMI Entertainment and Communications Law Moot Court Competition (sponsored by Broadcast Music, Inc.)
Information Technology LawJohn Marshall Law School International Moot Court Competition for Information Technology and Privacy Law


Basic Resources


Patent Law


The right to a patent originates in Article I § 1(8) of the U.S. Constitution, which states that Congress shall have the power to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.


A patent grants the inventor the exclusive right to make, use, offer for sale, or sell the patented invention in the United States. See 35 U.S.C. § 271 (2010).  To qualify for a patent, the invention must be patentable subject matter, novel, nonobvious, have utility, and the inventor must disclose the specifications in order to enable a person with ordinary skill in the art to create the patented item.  See 35 U.S.C § 102, 103, 112. Patent law is strictly federal law, codified at Title 35 of the U.S. Code. Although rooted in statute, much of patent law is based on judicial opinions. Additionally, other statutes have been enacted to protect the creativity of inventiors, most importantly being the American Inventor's Protection Act of 1999. Patents are obtained through an extensive application procedure administered by the USPTO that is set forth in the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) (8th ed. Revision 8, 2010). All patent-infringement cases appealed from a federal district court’s decision are reviewed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The Federal Circuit has national jurisdiction for a limited subject matter, of which on average thirty-one percent of the court’s docket is related to intellectual property cases, including refusal-to-issue patent appeals from the Board of Patent Appeals and Inferences (BPAI) and patent-infringement actions. For the 2010 fiscal year, about forty-one percent of the Federal Circuit's adjudicated appeals related to intellectual property, the vast majority of which dealt with patents. See here.


The leading multivolume treatise on patent law is Donald S. Chisum, Chisum on Patents (2008). Professor Chisum’s treatise details issues such as patentability, validity, and infringement of patents. For a multivolume treatise on patent claims and claim drafting, see Ernest B. Lipscomb, Patent Claims (3d ed. 2009). For a dictionary of key terms and concepts in patent law, see Irwin M. Aisenberg, Modern Patent Precedent: Dictionary of KeyTerms and Concepts. For current news on recent patent cases, visit the blog Patently-O.


Trademark Law


A trademark is any word, name, symbol or device, or a combination thereof, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. See 15 U.S.C. § 1127 (2006). Trademark law is governed federally by the Lanham Act (1946), codified at Title 15 of the U.S. Code, chapter 22 (amended by the Trademark Law Revision Act of 1988). Trademarks may also receive protection under common-law rules related to unfair competition. A party may obtain federal registration of a trademark through a similar—though far less extensive—procedure by which one obtains a patent. An examiner at the USPTO evaluates the applied-for mark based on the rules set forth in the Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (TMEP).


Although trademark-infringement actions are appealed to the regional circuit court for the corresponding district court, the Federal Circuit maintains jurisdiction over appeals related to registration after a mark has been refused registration by an examiner and subsequently by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) as well. For single-volume publication that discusses the differences in trademark doctrines between circuit courts, see Adam L. Brookman, Trademark Law: Protection, Enforcement and Licensing (1999–). The leading treatise on trademark law is J. Thomas McCarthy, McCarthy on Trademarks and Unfair Competition (4th ed. 1996–). For current news and updates related to trademark law, see The Trademark Blog. See also Likelihood of Confusion, a blog about trademark use and free speech.


Copyright Law


The right to a copyright, in addition to the right to a patent, also originates in Article I § 1(8) of the U.S. Constitution, which states that Congress shall have the power to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.


Copyright law protects "original works of authorship" that are fixed in a tangible mediums of expression (e.g., literary works, musical works, motion pictures). Copyright law is governed federally by the Copyright Act, codified at Title 17 of the U.S. Code. Although copyright protection is granted upon fixation, a party may elect to register his work with the U.S. Copyright Office (for registration information, click here). Copyright-infringement actions must be brought in the federal district courts and may be appealed from federal district courts to the corresponding regional circuit court. Recent legislation in the field of copyright law includes the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) (1998) and the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) (1998), which extends the period of copyright protection from the life of the author plus fifty years to life of the author plus seventy years.


The leading treatise on copyright law is Melville B. Nimmer and David Nimmer, Nimmer on Copyright: A Treatise on the Law of Literary, Musical and Artistic Property and the Protection of Ideas (1978–). Another leading source of copyright scholarship is Paul Goldstein, Goldstein on Copyright (3d. ed. 2009). Additionally, because the term of copyright protection and renewal requirements have changed throughout the last century, many works published between 1923 and 1963 have fallen into the public domain for failure to renew the copyright. Stanford University provides a comprehensive search tool to determine if a work has fallen into the public domain. See the Stanford Copyright Renewal Database.

Trade Secret Law


A trade secret may consist of any formula, pattern, device or compilation of information which is used in one’s business, and which gives him an opportunity to obtain an advantage over competitors who do not know or use it. See R.2d Torts § 757 cmt.b. Trade secret law is governed by state common-law and state-enacted legislation. For example, Chapter 550 of the Iowa Code governs trade secret laws in the State of Iowa. However, forty-eight states, as well as the District of Columbia, have also adopted the Uniform Trade Secret Act (UTSA) (amended 1985). The UTSA provides uniformity among trade secret law by codifying many common-law principles and filling in gaps left by courts.  For current news on recent trade secret cases, see The Trade Secret Blog.



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For a two-volume treatise discussing intellectual property rights, licensing arrangements, and their combined effects on competition, see Herbert Hovenkamp, Mark D. Janis, Mark A. Lemley & Christopher R. Leslie, IP and Antitrust: An Analysis of Antitrust Principles Applied to Intellectual Property Law (2d ed. 2010).



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