Patent Law

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General Enrollment Course
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Course Description

For over two hundred years the U.S. patent system has stimulated innovation by conveying time-limited exclusionary rights to inventors who adequately disclose their novel and nonobvious inventions to the public. Technologic challenges confronting the patent system span a circa-1800 priority dispute concerning the invention of steamboats to the Supreme Court’s groundbreaking 1980 decision permitting the patenting of a living, genetically-engineered bacterium. Through study of relevant judicial decisions and statutory provisions, this course will examine the substantive legal doctrine and policy underlying two primary aspects of U.S. patent law: the requirements for obtaining a patent and the means by which an issued patent is enforced (and its validity challenged). Specific topics include patentable subject matter (including computer-implemented inventions and biotechnology), novelty, nonobviousness, utility, loss of right, disclosure requirements, patent claim interpretation, literal infringement, the doctrine of equivalents, prosecution history estoppel, defenses to patent infringement resulting in invalidity and/or unenforceability, and the unique role of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in shaping U.S. patent law. A technical background is not required for this course but a willingness to engage with inventions and discoveries and their legal protection is a must.