Tort, Intellectual Property and Media Law Dissertation Topics & Ideas

This law area has 12 dissertation topics and ideas on tort, intellectual property and media law. Please use this material to help you in your law studies and to help craft your very own dissertation topic.

Example Dissertation Topics & Ideas

1. Should the Law of Negligence apply to Personal injury Claims or should a No-Fault System be implemented into English Law?

This dissertation topic will explore the no-fault system of New Zealand, the hybrid system of Australia and the fault based model of English law to consider which the correct approach to take is. The benefit of the no-fault model is that it removes a lot of the barriers and access to restitution for victims. On the other hand, it may create a compensation culture, which the conservatism of the English judiciary under negligence law has traditionally aimed to prevent. Therefore, the synthesis of English case law will be considered to see if the traditional fault based approach should remain, or whether the no-fault system should be implemented into English law.

2. Should there be a Reform of English Tort Law with regards to Psychological Shock?

The law associated with psychological shock has been a significant barrier to claims in negligence law, because it has always been identified as a secondary harm in English law (Alcock v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police [1992] 1 AC 310). The Australian system has codified its approach to psychological shock, in order to allow greater flexibility and ability to take a claim when there is no “physical harm”. Therefore, the following topic will compare the Australian and English approaches, in order to determine if the English tort of negligence associated with psychological shock should be reformed.

3. Is the treatment of Economic Loss fit for purpose in 21st Century Tort Law?

The prima facie rule in the English tort of negligence is that there is no claim for pure economic loss (Spartan Steel & Alloys Ltd v Martin & Co (Contractors) Ltd [1973] 1 QB 27). The Spartan Steel Case based its rationale on the “floodgates” argument; whereby it is not in the interest of public policy to allow such claims, as it may create a compensation culture and “clog” the courts. The exception to this is pure economic loss that is related to professional statements (Hedley Byrne v Heller (1964) AC 465), which has also allowed for a legitimate claim by disappointed customers and associates (White v Jones; Gorham v BT and others [2000] 4 All ER 867). Therefore, this dissertation will consider if the law on pure economic loss should be reconsidered.

4. Should there be special Samaritan Protections implemented in English Tort Law, which will allow a more comprehensive application of the neighbour principle?

This dissertation topic will explore the rationale for English negligence law not implementing a “Good Samaritan” law, which has resulted in “rescuers” being liable for negligent actions (even if there is good intent). In contrast the USA and Canada have implemented the French “Good Samaritan” laws, which under public policy exempt a rescuer from liability. Thus, the following examination will start from the French foundations of the “Good Samaritan” law, which will then explore why some states have implemented this model and others have not. This discussion will then culminate in a consideration of whether a “Good Samaritan” law should be implemented into English negligence law.

5. Is the current law of copyright impeding the free movement of knowledge and information across Cyberspace?

This dissertation topic will explore the concept of “open-source” information, which is “free access” knowledge to all users. The problem with open-source knowledge is that it can be modified with a small element of “creative skill” to become copyrighted. Thus, this raises the question whether it is “moral” for “open-source” materials to be copyrightable in the future. In order to understand the nature of this new area of law the discussion will undertake a comparative review of copyright laws, which will include International Conventions, English, US and Australian laws.

6. Are the moral exceptions in English and EU Patent Law Limiting the Advancement of Scientific Knowledge?

Moral exceptions can be seen as an impediment to innovation in medical inventions, especially in controversial subject areas (e.g. the human genome). The basis of this debate is over the sanctity of life; whereby the belief is scientists reconstructing DNA and cloning stem cells is “playing God”. The nature of s. 1(3) of the Patents Act 1977 allows a broad discretion to refuse patentability based on moral grounds. This means that there are no limits to the public policy or morality grounds, which results in the use of legal provisions to impose a ban on certain types of inventions. There may be strong arguments that some inventions and experiments are not in the public interest; however the question that This dissertation topic will explore is whether Intellectual Property law is the correct place for this debate?

7. Should the Doctrine of Equivalents in Patent Claim Interpretation become the International Norm?

The European Patent Convention 2000 (EPC) was reformed in 2007 with the addition of a new Protocol. Article 2 of the Protocol revised Article 69, which aims to harmonise patent claim interpretation. An important element of Article 2 is that it requires the doctrine of equivalents to be implemented, which does not marry with the English Catnic (Catnic Components Ltd v Hill & Smith Ltd [1982] R.P.D. & T.M. 183 (H.L.))/Improver (Improver Corp v Remington Consumer Products Ltd [1990] FSR 181) test. Thus, this discussion will explore the “doctrine of equivalents”, which stems from German law; as well as being implemented in the US model. It will then consider to what extent the English approach marries with this doctrine and what measures have to be undertaken to ensure that there is compliance with the revised Article 2 of the EPC.

8. Is TRIPS fir for purpose when it limits the access to life saving medicine and technologies in the Developing World? An Examination of Articles 27, 30, 31 and 40 of TRIPS:

This discussion will explore whether the current TRIPS model creates “fairness” between developed and developing countries. The focus will be on the compulsory licensing system, which allows for developing states to breach patents in cases of national emergency for public use (e.g. the HIV crisis). This question will explore the moral implications of the TRIPS system and considers if medical patents should be allowed, especially if it prices life-saving medicine out of the reach of the poor. It will then consider the development of the Bolar Exception (Roche Products v Bolar Pharmaceutical (1984) 733 F.2d 858 (Fed. Cir)), which has been affirmed at an international level to allow states to “copy” patented medications for research and development purposes (Canada: Patent protection of pharmaceutical products (Case No WT/DS114/R)). Therefore, the following examination will consider if the Bolar Exception provides a better balance between providing essential medication and economic rights than the TRIPS system.

9. Should Intangible Property, such as Personality Rights and Virtual property, remain in the realm of IP law or should they also be afforded with in rem rights?

This discussion will explore whether the US and Canadian model of personality rights should be implemented into English law. The case of Max Mosley v News Group Newspapers Ltd [2008] EWHC 1777 QB has developed the concept of privacy in English law, which is based on the integrity of an individual's personal space. This raises the question whether there can be personality rights derived under English law, with reference to their development in the USA and Canada.

10. To what extent should morality clauses be used in Entertainment and Media contracts to protect the Celebrity and the Media Company?

The use of morality clauses in US celebrity contracts date back to the Hollywood cases of the Mid-20th Century (Loew's, Inc. v. Cole 185 F.2d 641 (9th Cir. 1950); Twentieth Century-Fo x Film Corp. v. Lardner 216 F.2d 844 (9th Cir. 1954); Scott v. RKO Radio Pictures, Inc 240 F.2d 87 (9th Cir. 1957)). The development of these clauses has centred on protecting the reputation of the company, sport's team the celebrity played for. Thus, in the wake of the “bad publicity” in the Premier League, due to racist and violent acts of footballers, the following dissertation will consider if such clauses are enforceable in English law. The main obstacle is that these clauses are based on personality rights, which do not exist in English law; therefore, there will have to be a consideration of these intangible rights.

11. Has the so-called tort of the misuse of private information created a right to privacy?

The tort of misuse of private information was first introduced in the case of Campbell (Appellant) v MGN Ltd. (Respondent) [2004] UKHL 22, which identified that there has to be a balance between the use of private information and public interest. The Max Mosley v News Group Newspapers Ltd [2008] EWHC 1777 QB Case identified that there are certain concerns that are wholly in the private sphere (i.e. private sexual acts). These cases have not created a “privacy right”; rather the tort of misuse of private information was coined. The problem is the boundaries between private rights and freedom of the press have not been properly delineated. Thus, This dissertation topic will consider if a privacy law is necessary in the 21st Century.

12. Is the law of Defamation effectively protecting the media's role as the Public Watchdog?

This dissertation topic will explore whether English law is effectively protecting a free press in the case of potential defamation. This discussion will explore the Reynolds's Public Interest Defence (as affirmed in Jameel v Wall Street Journal Europe [2006] UKHL 44). The question that will be raised is whether this defence meets the requirements of Article 10 of the ECHR by exploring the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and English courts. It will then consider the US approach, which ensures that there is a substantive protection of the freedom of the press. Finally, a set of recommendations will be developed in order to support reform of English defamation law.