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Teaching and Learning IP

The Fall semester is all over but the grading; the Spring semester seems weeks away.  (In fact, it is weeks away!)  And a professor’s thoughts turn to new courses.  Here’s an idea that I’ve been mulling over for some time, inspired partly by this post from Conglomerate.  It’s not exactly teaching transactional skills “to the masses,” but it may be an advance over the typical ways that we teach transactional skills to IP lawyers — by teaching them about the world of licensing.

The hypothetical course would be called “IP Transactions.” It would be a two-semester sequence, with two prerequisites — at least one course in doctrinal IP, and at least one course in corporate law (corporations, securities, corporate finance) .  More below the jump.

The first semester would be divided into three parts.  Part one would focus on valuation of IP assets.  Part two would investigate the genesis and development of the Creative Commons system, from a lawyer’s point of view (rather than from a policy or ideological point of view).  Part three would investigate the development of securitization of IP assets, again, from a lawyer’s point of view. 

In the second semester, the students would be divided into teams (three or four students apiece), and they would spend the whole semester investigating and developing a business/legal framework, including developing basic forms, for solving some complex IP asset conservation/exploitation problem.  This would be, basically, an extended case study.  The problem that pops into my head at the moment is development and distribution of motion pictures, though others are equally interesting candidates (commercialization of university-developed IP, for example).  Perhaps each of four teams could be assigned a different portfolio, so that they could spend part of the semester comparing notes on similar but distinct problems and strategies.  Each student on each team would be required to present and consider various points of view and interests that bear on the problem.  This wouldn’t just be “how to make sure that motion picture studios can prosper in the digital age.”

Part of what I would get at would be the transactions cost approach to transactional lawyering that Vic Fleischer highlighted at The Glom, updating Ron Gilson.  But also I would want to get at the sheer amount of imagination that goes into creating new legal forms in a transactional context.  That’s what really impresses me about both the CC and the securitization-of-IP examples.  Both take existing legal forms and blend them imaginatively to produce something genuinely new. 

Something this ambitious takes a lot of resources on the part of school (perhaps schools, if it were pursued jointly with a business school) and faculty, as well as students.  In my less daydreamy moments, I’m working on how to incorporate bits and pieces of this into “ordinary” (meaning: existing) doctrinal and transaction-based courses and seminars.

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