Intellectual Property Law Dissertation Topic Examples

1. Business Law and its Conflict with Trade Secrets.

A trade secret is a company's particular method or product which enables it to acquire a special advantage over its competitors. Companies invest huge sums of money into protecting their trade secrets. Yet how are trade secrets to be defined in a legal context and how does business law conflict with trade secrets? This study will investigate the extent to which business law recognises trade secrets and how it seeks to protect them. Using case law examples, a conclusion will be proposed which seeks to ease the conflict between business law and trade secrets. How the law defines trade secrets, how it protects them and the actions that can be taken will be critically assessed and applied to patents and trademarks.

Suggested Reading

  • Bone, RG 1998. 'A New Look at Trade Secret Law', California Law Review, vol. 86, no. 2.
  • Dratler, J 2006. Intellectual Property Law: Commercial, Creative and Industrial Property, New York: ALM Media.
  • Milgrim, R 1977. Trade Secrets, California: Matthew Bender & Co.

2. The Challenging Relationship between Contemporary Art and Intellectual Property.

The concept of art poses a particularly challenging problem for intellectual property law because it potentially comprises any aspect. While most artists would decline to recognise the difference between artworks, copyright law has been presented with the need to in order to appropriately provide copyright protection. This study will examine the tensioned relationship between copyright law and different forms of artworks, focusing upon the particularly taxing problem of conceptual art. The categories provided by the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 provides protection for a limited number of works, yet where conceptual forms of art can placed has thus far been an unclear issue. This study will explore the possibility of expanding this list to include other forms of art, yet seek to ensure that suitable limitations are placed to prevent unsuitable copyright from being granted in every case.

Suggested Reading

  • Bently, L & Sherman, B 2009. Intellectual Property Law, 3rd edn, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Vaver, D 2001. 'Intellectual Property: The State of Art by Professor', VUWLR, vol. 32, no. 1.
  • Barron, A 2002. 'Copyright Law and the Claims of Art', IPQ, vol. 6, no. 368.
  • Booton, D 2003. 'Framing Pictures: Defining Art in UK Copyright Law', IPQ, vol. 12, no. 38.

3. Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights: A Viable Tool for the Enforcement of Benefit Sharing?

The purpose of this study is to discuss the need for, convenience and feasibility of harmonization among (i) the enforcement of conventions devised to protect biodiversity (such as the Convention on Biological Diversity); (ii) the protection of traditional knowledge and local interests (particularly of developing countries) and; (iii) the enforcement of intellectual property rights, through the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The study will focus upon issues related to how benefit sharing could be enforced between developed and developing countries in dispute.

Suggested Reading

  • Bently, L & Sherman, B 2009. Intellectual Property Law, 3rd edn, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Bainbridge, D 2012. Intellectual Property, 9th edn, Essex: Pearson.

4. The Harmonization of UK Copyright and Trademark Damages: A US-UK Comparison.

This study critically examines whether intellectual property rights in the UK provide adequate damages by comparing and contrasting them with that of the United States. This will include an analysis of how damages are influenced by economical and moral factors, as well as the reasons behind such influences. The basic principles of UK and US copyright law will be assessed, as well as their scope in terms of infringement, damages and defences. How copyright is defined under the UK Trademark Act 1994 will be compared to the definition provided by the US under the Trademark Act 1946. Recent reforms in UK law such as the Digital Economy Act 2010 will be assessed in order to evaluate whether the UK can be said to seek the harmonisation of its laws.

Suggested Reading

  • Newman , S 2011.'The Development of Copyright and Moral rights in the European Legal System', EIPR, vol. 53, no. 11.
  • Jooris, E 1996. 'Infringement of Foreign copyright and Jurisdiction of the English Court', EIPR, vol. 18, no. 3.
  • Sims, A 2010. 'Strangling their Creation: The Courts' Treatment of Fair Leading in Copyright Law Since 1911', IPQ, vol. 2, no. 192.

5. 'The chief advantage of an exclusion over an exception is its potential for clarity and certainty. Its chief disadvantage is its bluntness: it removes all the incentive (rather than balancing it or reducing it) and may drive operators to use alternative forms of protection. Its chief disadvantage is that the supposed clarity that exclusions provide often turn out to be illusory.' Critically assess this statement.

Intellectual property rights are most commonly justified by their encouragement of the desire create. The problem, as advocated by many critics, lies within the boundaries of this protection. It is suggested that an optimal degree of protection can be achieved by a balancing of use and rights. Yet the question of how to balance these aspects is complex and varies between industries. While patents protect intellectual property rights, exclusions protect use – exceptions acts as a compromise. This study will explore the three categories of exclusions and exceptions and conclude that they only permit narrow interpretations.

Suggested Reading

  • Bently, L & Sherman, B 2009. Intellectual Property Law, 3rd edn, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Duffy, JF 2009. 'Rules and Standards on the Forefront of Patentability', William and Mary Law Review, vol. 51, no. 609.
  • Burk, DL & Lemley, MA 2003. 'Policy Levers in Patent Law', Virginia Law Review, vol. 89, no. 1575.

6. The copyright system is unable to effectively respond to the challenges posed by digitalisation and the internet. Discuss.

Copyright law seeks to strike a balance between the rights of the creator and the copyright owner, so that they may manage and protect their business and works. Currently, copyright has become increasingly important, particularly in terms of accurately ensuring the source of information. The internet has allowed consumers across the globe to access information easily and with few boundaries. Yet this tool has also allowed consumers to access and reproduce works without adhering to copyright requirements. How has copyright law dealt with this global problem and how can it seek to alleviate the boundaries set by internationality? These issues will be explored in this study which will focus upon the global struggle to enforce copyright laws.

Suggested Reading

  • Stim, RW 1999. Copyright Law, London: Delmar Cengage.
  • Bently, L & Sherman, B 2009. Intellectual Property Law, 3rd edn, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Buckingham, JS 2010. Copyright Law, London: Lightning Source.

7. Under which copyright laws can it be said that software is protected?

Software is currently regulated by a variety of mechanisms across the globe. This is, in part due to the evident lack of supranational norms that deal with the issue, as well as the wide discretion afforded by those that do exist, such as the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) 1995. The debate concerning which form of protection is most suitable for software is yet to be resolved and the regulatory regime is open to reform. This study considers the major arguments proposed for various forms of regulation available. It will conclude that software was initially protected by copyright laws, though it did not fall neatly into this category. Consequently, protection by patent was also sought, creating what was to become in practice a number of complementary systems of protection. The study will progress to consider the degree to which patents can be applied to software and whether or not alternative systems of law (such as trade secrets or copyright) can be better adapted to protect them.

Suggested Reading

  • Aldred, J 2011. The Economic Rationale of Trade Marks: An Economist's Critique, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Chabchoub N & Niosi, J 2005. 'Explaining the Propensity to Patent Computer Software', Technovation, vol. 25, no. 971.
  • Smith, BL & Mann, SO 2004. 'Innovation and Intellectual Property Protection in the Software Industry: An Emerging Role for Patents?', University of Chicago Law Review, vol. 71, no. 241.

8. The Law on the Facilitation of Online Copyright Infringement.

The problem of piracy, which has plagued mankind for centuries, is exacerbated by developments in the digital world, particularly in light of new and advanced means of communication and distribution. As the internet becomes a central battleground for copyright protection, the peer-to-peer file sharing trend has attracted particular attention. When the issue of Internet Service Supporters enters the scene, it is evident that the law pertaining to secondary liability is not entirely clear. This study will discuss the uncertainties and problems surrounding the existing law with particular reference to the recent Pirate Bay decision.

Suggested Reading

  • Koempel, F 2010. 'The Digital Economy Bill', Computer Technology Law Review, vol. 16, no. 39.
  • Lichtman, D & Landes, W 2003. 'Indirect Liability for Copyright Infringement: An Economic Perspective', HJLT, vol. 16, no. 397.
  • Fessenden, G 2002. 'Peer-to-Peer Technology: Analysis of Contributory Infringement and Fair Use', JLT, vol. 42, no. 391.

9. The 'Skilled Man' is "half way between a mechanical idiot and a mechanical genius" Lord Moulton in Gillette Safety Razor v Anglo-American Trading (1913) 30 RPC 465 at 481. Discuss.

A primary task that any court has to overcome when an action for patent infringement is brought before them is to determine whether the subject matter of the patent has some innovation to it. This practice is defined as identification of the inventive concept. This study will examine how the law and the courts have approached the problem of determining the innovativeness of subject matter, referencing and examining key decisions and legislative provisions. What are the key elements to determining whether the subject matter of a patent is innovative? Where have the boundaries been placed and are they appropriate in light of current technological trends? These issues will be explored in this study which will seek to arrive at a final stance on the problem of innovativeness.

Suggested Reading

  • Bently, L & Sherman, B 2009. Intellectual Property Law, 3rd edn, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Davenport, N 1979. The United Kingdom Patent System--A Brief History, London: Kenneth Mason.

10. The central rationale for trademark protection is and ought to be the need of businesses to protect their brand value. The public interest is a secondary consideration. Discuss.

It has been commonly misunderstood that trademark law was initially intended to protect the interests of consumers and improve the quality of information available in the marketplace. However, since its initiation, the trademark served the sole purpose of indicating the commercial origin of services or goods. The public interest always played a mere secondary role, even in traditional trademark law. Today the development and expansion of trademark law has again caused the public interest to take secondary role in the light of the need to aid businesses to protect their brand value. This study will critically examine whether the public interest should be an important consideration for trademark law. While it is generally clear that the sole function of trademark law is the promotion of economic efficiency, this study will consider the possibility that trademark law may, in an indirect manner, promote the public interest.

Suggested Reading

  • Coombe, RJ 1991. 'Objects of Property and Subjects of Politics: Intellectual Property Laws and Democratic Dialogue', Texas Law Review, vol. 69, no. 180.
  • Desai, DR & Waller, S 2010. 'Brands, Competition and the Law', Brigham Young University Law Review, vol. 12, no. 5.
  • McKenna, MP 2007. 'The Normative Foundations of Trademark Law', Notre Dame Law Review, Vol. 82, no. 5.