Learning IP law for lawyer wannabes
October 10, 2006 8:24 AM   Subscribe

How can I learn about intellectual property law before I go to law school?

I have a job where anything I know about trademark, patent, and/or especially copyright law can be put to good use. Law school is probably in the cards for me in a couple of years, but I'd like to learn more about these areas now. Wikipedia seems a little hit-or-miss, and of course I can search for other places to try, but I don't have a sense of what's reputable. What resources would you suggest to help me get started? Books to read, blogs to follow -- I'm up for pretty much anything relevant. I'm even willing to consider buying a textbook if people tell me it's the way to go. Any recommendations are appreciated; thanks in advance.
posted by brett to Law & Government (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
trying to learn law before law school won't actually help you in law school. that said, the corante copyfight blog is quite good. and larry lessig's blog. Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How It Threatens Creativity by Siva Vaidhyanathan is an excellent primer.

more academically, anything by julie cohen is a good read.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:29 AM on October 10, 2006

The kind of textbooks used in Intellectual Property courses in law school wouldn't really be of much use as reference. You might want to check out the IP Hornbook instead. Hornbooks are pricey, so if you have access to a law library you might want to try that first, or go down to the bookstore at your local law school and flip through it before buying.
posted by ambrosia at 8:52 AM on October 10, 2006

posted by bitdamaged at 9:14 AM on October 10, 2006

I second the Vaidhyanathan book.
posted by mattbucher at 9:20 AM on October 10, 2006

Try Patently-O. Disclaimer: I'm the marketing director for Dennis's law firm.
posted by Not in my backyard at 9:37 AM on October 10, 2006

Check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation...one-sided as it may be.
posted by randomstriker at 9:40 AM on October 10, 2006

The West Nutshell series are a step down from the typical Hornbook but are less expensive. I find them a good place to start when I begin researching an area of the law with which I am not already familiar. I was going to suggest outlines like Gilbert or Emanuel but they aren't very useful other than when used as a supplement to reading the case book when actually taking the course (Be warned. Some professors take a very dim view of such outlines and bristle when they see them in the classroom.)
posted by Carbolic at 9:42 AM on October 10, 2006

Willamette University runs a weekly mailing list which describes the holdings from recently decided IP cases, which is very helpful when you are trying to keep up with the changes in the law. Also, I agree with Carbolic about the Nutshell series - they are concise and extremely helpful. Hornbooks can be a bit too much for even law students :)
posted by miss meg at 11:20 AM on October 10, 2006

Larry Lessig's The Future of Ideas is a very well written, accessible overview of contemporary problems with copyright law in the Internet age. I would start there.

If you are interested in the entertainment industry, This Business of Music by Kravilovsky et al. focuses on the intersection of intellectual property law and the music recording business.

Stay away from hornbooks aimed at helping law students pass their final exams. And dear god stay away from Wikipedia at all costs.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 12:15 PM on October 10, 2006

How exactly will your knowledge be put to use? What specific tasks are you going to do? Without knowing that, it's hard to know what you should learn. Go ahead and learn the very basics with a Nutshell or other hornbook; but you'll have to inevitably get into the specifics of your task, which will require access to Westlaw or a law library. I don't think blogs and recently decided big cases are going to be that useful unless they happen to intersect with the exact task at hand.
posted by footnote at 1:04 PM on October 10, 2006

A friend of mine recently graduated and takes excellent notes:

Here's others who share law school notes: (click the Notes tabs at the top)

I'd imagine this kind of stuff is very Google-able.
posted by iam2bz2p at 2:00 PM on October 10, 2006

A friend of mine recently graduated and takes excellent notes: http://jerrybrito.com/writings/lawschool/

And another fine source: http://www.gonzagasba.com/

PS-- The hyperlinks did not work in my last post! Ack!
posted by iam2bz2p at 2:03 PM on October 10, 2006

In general, I like the books in this series for what you need to do. They're thin paperbacks that summarize an area of law without reading individual cases or going into the most obscure minutia. They're great for learning all-of-x in a few hours. I've never used the IP ones, though.

(FTR, I disagree with crush-onastick that learning about the law before law school isn't helpful. I read a lot of cases before law school (not trying to prepare; just out of interest) and it helped a lot when I started law school because I had a sense of how cases were put together and what some of the terminology meant. Law school has a big learning curve, and being able to preempt some of it is helpful. But then books like the one I recommend above aren't helpful in this sense; reading Supreme Court cases is.)
posted by raf at 6:20 AM on October 11, 2006

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