Intellectual Property and Technology Law

Category Description

Intellectual property refers to protectable intangible assets that range anywhere from music and literary works to new drugs and technologies. Accordingly, this subject covers the bodies of federal, state, and international law that protect intellectual property. In this Area of Focus, students will have the opportunity to study the different methods of protecting different types of intangible assets. This includes the protection of creative works such as books and movies through copyrights as well as the protection of identifying marks such as designs or symbols through trademarks. Students can also learn about the laws governing technological innovations and inventions through the use of patent law or trade secrets. Additionally, there are a number of courses about internet rights covering how online content is protected. It is important to note that students without hard science or technological backgrounds should not be discouraged from taking courses in this Area of Focus. While students intending to work as patent prosecutors do need to be patent bar eligible (and generally need a degree in science), those interested in litigation—even patent litigation—and transactional work absolutely do not need such prior experience.

There are generally three areas of practice for intellectual property attorneys: litigation, transactions, and prosecution. Litigation focuses primarily on infringement cases enforcing the protection of rights through the (usually Federal) courts. Transactional work deals with topics ranging from drafting and negotiating deals around technologies to conducting due diligence for acquisitions. Prosecution is the method of applying for new patents and trademarks with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and requires skills in careful drafting as well as client interviewing. Note that in order to practice before the USPTO, patent (not trademark) prosecutors must be admitted to the patent bar, which generally requires a degree in an area such as math, science or engineering. Students interested in pursuing one of these pathways should refer to the sections below as well as the Civil Litigation and Business & Transactional Law Areas of Focus.

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Course Pathways

For students interested in the subject, Intro to IP Law & Policy (Law 507) is a key building block class. This course, offered as a 1L elective, gives an overview of the substantive law governing the multiple areas as well as a look into the theory behind the law. If a student does not take Intro to IP as an elective, it is still possible to take the Patent, Copyright, and Trademarks courses later. It is also advisable for students to take Administrative Law as a 1L elective. This class covers the workings of government agencies, several of which have relevance to this Area of Focus, such as the FCC, FTC, and the USPTO. Generally, after the introductory courses, students will follow one or more of three pathways: 1.) patents, 2.) copyright and trademarks, and 3.) internet. Students interested in any of the three pathways should consider the Detkin Intellectual Property and Technology Legal Clinic (described in more detail below). A discussion for each pathway follows.

  1. For students interested in patents, it is highly recommended to take Patent Law (Law 677, generally offered in the spring) during the 2L year. It is important to take Patent Law as early as possible because the higher level courses in this area will assume an understanding of the subject. After Patent Law, students should take advanced courses in patents, such as the Patent Litigation Seminar (Law 953) and Patent Law - Appellate Advocacy (Law 962), which relate to their intended area of practice.
  2. Students interested in copyrights or trademarks should take Copyright (Law 621, offered in the fall) and Trademarks (Law 670, offered in the fall) before taking other higher level courses such as Copyright Theory and IP Theory. Similar to the first track, the foundational courses in Copyright and Trademarks are important pre-requisites for the higher level courses.
  3. Students interested in the internet track will study the law surrounding the technology of the internet and how IP rights translate to the medium. Accordingly, students should take Telecommunications Law and Policy (Law 952) before pursuing higher level courses such as Privacy and Data Protection (Law 533) and Cybercrime (Law 958).

To gain the key skills necessary to succeed as a practicing attorney, students interested in these areas of practice (litigation, transactions, and prosecution mentioned in the description) should refer to the course recommendations below as well as the Transactional/Business Law and Litigation pages. As a general note, students have also found that the Analytical Methods in the Law (Law 744) and Law and Economics (Law 974) courses have helped to prepare them for practice.

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List of Introductory and Further Exploration Classes

(Links for Fall 2016 classes included below. SEM = seminar classes, usually capped at 15-20 students.)


  • Administrative Law (Law 601) (This course will also be offered in Spring 2017)
  • Intro to IP Law & Policy (Law 507, offered Spring 2017)

Further Exploration

Patent Track

Copyright and Trademark Track

Internet Track

  • Cybercrime (Law 958, offered Spring 2017); SEM
  • Detkin IP and Technology Legal Clinic (Law 669)
  • Internet Law (Law 577, offered Spring 2017)
  • The Internet, State Power, and Free Expression (Law 914, offered Spring 2017); SEM (this course provides a review of global internet policy, and also analyzes the concept of “Internet freedom”)
  • Privacy and Data Protection (Law 533, offered Spring 2017)
  • Technology and Policy (Law 613, offered Spring 2017)
  • Technology and Policy Seminar (Law 904); SEM


  • Advanced Copyright (Law 671, not offered in 2016-17)
  • Empirical Law and Economics(Law 940)
  • Intellectual Property & Corporate Lawyering (Law 935): SEM
  • Intellectual Property LawMeet (see “Experiential Opportunities – General” below for more info)
  • Intellectual Property Litigation in the Digital Age (Law 938); SEM
  • Intel. Property and National Economic Value Creation (Law 966, offered Spring 2017); SEM
  • The Internet, State Power, and Free Expression (Law 914, offered Spring 2017); SEM (this course provides a review of global internet policy, and also analyzes the concept of “Internet freedom”)
  • Statistics for Lawyers (Law 744)

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List of Related Courses

Litigation Focused

  • Advanced Problems in Federal Procedure (Law 975); SEM
  • Appellate Advocacy (Law 612, multiple sections, one section also offered in Spring 2017)
  • Evidence (Law 631, offered Spring 2015, one section with Finkelstein, another with Fertel)
  • Thinking Like a Litigator (Law 911); SEM
  • Trial Advocacy (Law 592 for semester version,  Law 702 for year-long version)

Transaction Focused

Corporations (Law 622) - 3 sections of Corps will be offered in the Fall [one with Professor Skeel, another with Professor Wachter, and one with Professor Bratton]. These sections are all 4-credit classes. A 3-credit Corps class will also be offered in Spring 2017.

Prosecution Focused

  • Courses in Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science
  • Transactional and litigation courses

* Please also consider related Areas of Focus based on interest, such as Civil Litigation: Practice & Procedure, and Business & Transactional Law.

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Experiential Opportunities


  • Detkin Intellectual Property and Technology Legal Clinic: Students help scientists, entrepreneurs, artists and large and small entities to protect and commercialize their IP considering patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret and privacy law.
  • Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic: Students advise for-profit and nonprofit entrepreneurs on a wide range of issues that arise out of starting, operating and growing their businesses, including foundational copyright and trademark matters.
  • Externships: While there have not been externships relating specifically to intellectual property in the past, there are a wide range of other opportunities to develop other important skills including externships in litigation.

TPIC/Pro Bono

  • TPIC offers a range of student-led pro bono projects such as: the Environmental Law Project and the Health Law and Policy Project. A full list can be found here.
  • TPIC also offers external pro bono placements, where interested students can volunteer at various agencies and offices, such as the Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. Please click here for more information.

For a list of pro bono opportunities by Area of Focus, please see here.

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Cross-Disciplinary Opportunities

Students who wish to further explore the intersection of technology and law should consider one of two joint degree programs offered in partnership with Penn’s School of Engineering: the JD/MES (Master of Science in Engineering) and the JD/MCIT (Master of Computer and Information Technology ).  The latter is perfect for law students who do not have an undergraduate degree in Engineering or Computer Science but who wish to pursue a law career in these areas.

For more information on these and other opportunities, please contact Amanda Aronoff, our Associate Director for Cross-Disciplinary Programs, at

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General Opportunities

  • CTIC Student Fellows Program: Each semester, 2-4 Penn Law students get the opportunity to work as student fellows working on research and projects for faculty. Students should refer to the link above for more materials.
  • Transactional IP Law Meet: Penn Law sponsors up to two teams for a national “Transactional IP moot court.” The competition challenges students to represent a simulated client to draft and then negotiate a deal. For 2013-14, the topic is a joint development agreement over 3-D printing technology. Students will participate with consistent feedback from a faculty supervisor. Students register by completing a short application in May of the preceding school year. (Please contact Cynthia Dahl with any questions about this opportunity.)
  • Penn Intellectual Property Group: The Penn Intellectual Property Group (PIPG) is a student run organization that runs IP-related events including career panels, academic symposiums, and social events.

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For interested students, Penn Law has a range of professors and staff available to provide guidance and support. Penn faculty all have their areas of specialization:
Professors Christopher Yoo and Gideon Parchomovsky focus on internet law and policy
Professor Polk Wagner focuses on patents and patent litigation
Professor Shyamkrishna Balganesh specializes in copyright and property law
Professor David Abrams focuses on the economics and policy of IP law
and Professor Cynthia Dahl runs the Detkin Intellectual Property & Technology Legal Clinic.

More information about the professors and their work can be found on the Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition Website (CTIC), and a list of faculty in this subject area can be found here.

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