Textbooks For An “Intellectual Property For Engineers” Course

I have been exploring teaching a one unit course in the undergraduate Engineering School called something like “IP for Engineers.” As part of researching this course, I flagged several books for closer review. Here are some mini-reviews of the books I examined first-hand (all Amazon affiliate links).

* Rockman, Intellectual Property Law for Engineers and Scientists. This is the only “textbook” targeting the market of IP courses for engineers, and I believe it is the most widely used in the field. I saw a number of courses throughout the country that had adopted it. The book was last updated in 2004, so at this point it is uncomfortably out-of-date. The book is 469 pages and quite densely written, so it’s probably too much for a 1 unit course. The book includes little historical snippets about famous inventors, which sounds nice but I don’t know how I would use the snippets in class. (Not surprisingly given the time periods and subjects, the featured inventors are overwhelmingly white males, which sends a weird message to our modern student populations). The book is heavily slanted towards patents (19 of the 27 chapters), which is a defensible choice but isn’t consistent with my pedagogical goals.

* Britton, Ownability: How Intellectual Property Works. This book stood out for several reasons. First, it’s relatively new, so it covers the AIA. Second, it’s untraditionally presented in landscape format. Third, it is brightly colored. The cover has a rainbow springing out of a man’s head, and the book is filled with color drawings throughout. The book is short (about 100 pages) and much of the information is presented in soundbite format/tweetable statements. Normally I would view a book like this as too superficial, but for a 1 unit class with a millennial format, the format might actually work well. If I were to teach the class in 2014, this is the leading option I would consider.

* Reingand, Intellectual Property in Academia: A Practical Guide for Scientists and Engineers. This is an edited anthology of chapters related to IP issues encountered by academics. For example, Bayh-Dole and technology transfer topics get their own chapters. Only one of the 9 chapters isn’t about patents. This book wouldn’t work well for engineering students.

* Poltorak & Lerner, Essentials of Intellectual Property: Law, Economics, and Strategy. This book is from 2011, so it suffers from being pre-AIA. The book is very much focused on corporate IP practice, i.e., treating IP as a tool for licensing. The book would probably play better in a business school course than in an engineering course.

* Hunter, The Oxford Introductions to U.S. Law: Intellectual Property. I love Dan Hunter, so anything bearing his fingerprints is going to be good. This slim paperback (250 pages) reflects Dan’s musings about IP law, both the good and the bad. His lovably quirky personality shines through the book. I think this book would do well with engineering students, though it might be too dense for a one-unit course. Still, I like this book a lot, and I think it is a superior choice as a quick IP summary than the Nutshell options and similar quick-treatment IP treatises.

* Stim, Patent, Copyright & Trademark: An Intellectual Property Desk Reference. This is a Nolo Press book, and it’s optimized for the DIYers. It’s not easily adaptable into a pedagogical tool.

I’d welcome any other suggestions of texts you think would work well for the type of course I’m considering.

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