Lessons: Patent Law

This lesson reviews some of the concepts needed to understand the patent law doctrine of "nonobviousness" (Section 103 of the Patent Act). Before completing this lesson students should be familiar with the doctrine of novelty under Section 102 of the Act.

45 minutes

This lesson introduces the doctrine of equivalents, which permits a finding of patent infringement where the accused structure or process does not literally infringe, but differs only insubstantially from the claimed structure or process.

40 minutes

This lesson covers one type of patent infringement involving activity beyond the borders of the United States. In particular, what constitutes infringement under 271(f)(1) and (f)(2) is addressed, including the US Supreme Court decision, AT&T v. Microsoft.

Students may use this lesson to review material already covered in a course, or to learn this material on their own. Students should at least have prior knowledge and understanding of direct and indirect infringement under 271(a)-(c).

35 minutes

This lesson is an introduction to patent issues under TRIPS, an important international agreement that impacts the national patent laws of all member countries of the World Trade Organization. This includes over 170 countries, including not only industrialized countries, but all developing and least developed countries. Because TRIPS imposes restrictions on national law in all countries, understanding TRIPS is important to understanding what changes to patent law is possible - in the United States and beyond. Some familiarity of US patent law is required, but a full patent law course is certainly not necessary.

45 minutes

This lesson defines and applies the concept of literal infringement in patent law. It also examines the process through which the patentee establishes a prima facie case of literal infringement.

40 minutes

This lesson focuses on one of the factual inquiries underlying the legal determination of nonobviousness: the scope and content of the prior art. It assumes that you are familiar with the patentability requirement of novelty under 35 U.S.C. §102 and with the basic framework of the obviousness analysis. If you would like a review of the basic framework for determining obviousness, you may want to do the lesson on "Basic Concepts of Nonobviousness" before you complete this lesson. After completing this lesson you should have a better understanding of how to determine the scope and content of the prior art so as to assess obviousness.

30 minutes

This lesson works through the details of patent law's novelty requirement as set out in Section 102(a) of the Patent Act. It also briefly covers Section 102(e) and inventorship. It does not deal with Section 102(b) statutory bars.

A general understanding of the nature of claims and the application process is assumed background context. The lesson can be used as supplemental preparation for class, to confirm your understanding afterwards or as a final self-test before the exam.

The Contents listing is broken down into sub-topics allowing direct access if only a specific issue is of interest. The final "Putting It All Together" section contains a number of review problems. As indicated in the "Approximate Completion Time" the various sections can also be done as stand-alone exercises

Policy & Basic Structure - approxmiately 30 minutes; Details - approximately 45 minutes; Problems - approximately 30 minutes (including the essay)

This lessson can serve as an introduction or review of the way in which "secondary considerations" are used in assessing the nonobviousness requirement in patent law. The lesson assumes a basic familiarity with the nonobviousness doctrine. Before doing this lesson, students may wish to review the lesson dealing with Basic Concepts of Nonobviousness. Other aspects of the nonobviousness doctrine are covered in the lesson dealing with Scope and Content of the Prior Art. Students may do this lesson either before or after that lesson.

45 minutes

This lesson covers the kinds of inventions that can be patented. The first section discusses how the Constitution and the federal Patent Act (specifically Section 101) define and limit those categories of innovations, including the open issues in that on-going debate. The second section offers a variety of problems ranging from the straight-forward to the more complex, permitting confirmation of understanding and practice in application.

Although the two sections build on one another, they are sufficiently independent that either can be done as a stand-alone exercise.

A general familiarity with basic patent law policy and doctrine would provide helpful background context, but neither is assumed or essential.

Section 1 - 30-40 minutes; Section 2 - 20 minutes

This lesson examines the public policy objectives driving and defining United States patent law. The first section explores the nature and logic of the regime's generally accepted core purpose - providing optimum incentives to invest in useful arts innovation. The next section discusses how that goal generates the basic doctrinal requirements for patentability (novelty, nonobviousness, utility, enablement/disclosure - patentable subject matter is covered separately in lessons on Patentable Subject Matter and Non-Obviousness). The lesson's final section concludes with a brief look at how other normative views of property entitlements affect patent public policy debate as well as client expectations.

Although some general familiarity with patent law may provide helpful background context, the lesson assumes no prior knowledge. The lesson can be used before class to prepare, afterwards to clarify/supplement class discussion or as a self-test for the final exam. And, who knows, it might even prove interesting for its own sake.

45 minutes

This lesson introduces the student to the doctrine and processes involved in interpreting state and federal statutes. Statutes are a critical part of every substantive area of the law, so this is important background for every law student, lawyer and judge.

30 minutes

This lesson provides an advanced exploration of patent issues under TRIPS, an important international agreement that binds most countries, including developed and developing countries. This lesson aims to provide students with information concerning pressing issues. It is appropriate for students who have completed the Introduction to TRIPS lesson, as well as students who have some prior exposure to TRIPS, such as students who have studied the agreement in a class on International IP.

45 minutes

This lesson explores the concept of utility as a condition for patentability under 35 U.S.C. § 101, The lesson can serve either as an introduction to the topic or as a review after covering the material in class. Although the fundamental concepts in this lesson are not difficult, the optional essay explores a particularly challenging topic.

30 minutes (45 min. with optional essay)

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