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November 27, 2006

Are there any law-school-related patents?

As discussed here in a law.com article and at great length here at Patently-O, tomorrow the Supreme Court will hear argument in KSR v. Teleflex, which could be a landmark case for patent law.  This SCOTUS spotlight on patent law got me to thinking about whether there existed any notable (or even not-so-notable) patents relating to law schools. 

For almost a decade now, as explained here, business methods have been patentable and the US Patent and Trademark Office has a special classification for teaching methods under a heading of "Education and Demonstration."  In addition, there are certainly plenty of technological devices used in law schools that present patentable subject-matter.  And yet, in a decade of law teaching, I cannot recall any patent issues even arising in my day-to-day law school work (even though copyright issues arise all the time).

So, dear readers, does anyone know about any noteworthy law-school-related patents?

November 27, 2006 in Technology -- in general | Permalink


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Four Berkman professors/staff hold a patent in the "Question Tool," a software tool designed to help large audiences interact with a small set of presenters. They are kicking around the idea of using it to advance a copyleft-style idea, but as applied to patent (and in particular, in reaction to Blackboard). See more here: http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/cyberone/wiki/The_Open_Patent_Project.

Posted by: Gene Koo | Nov 28, 2006 1:56:56 PM

As Gene Koo references, Blackboard has a patent on e-learning systems, which has consequences for universities, including, of course, law schools. The Chronicle of Higher Education had a cover story on the patent a couple of weeks ago. Here's Tim O'Reilly's take on the patent.

One wonders: If only Socrates (or Langdell) had sought a business method patent, they might both have been richer (at least for a short time)!

Posted by: Anupam Chander | Nov 29, 2006 12:41:55 AM

The URL for Tim Reilly's post on Blackboard's patent is http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2006/08/blackboard_elearning_patent.html. (I can't seem to get the comment to accept my html script.)

Posted by: Anupam Chander | Nov 29, 2006 12:43:16 AM

I spoke with Prof. Andrea Johnson of California Western School of Law last week, and coming out of her work with Carnegie on assessment tools for learning outcomes, she has a patent pending on, as I understand it, a software wizard that help professors develop objective (multiple-choice) tests. While some law professors are using it, apparently it is aimed at a wider market encompassing secondary as well as higher education.

Posted by: Gene Koo | Dec 19, 2006 4:38:34 PM

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