Contemporary Topics in Intellectual Property Law - LAWS8130

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Autumn Term 7 20 (10) Georgia Jenkins checkmark-circle


This module explores a range of key issues in contemporary intellectual property, which are subject to contentious and often crudely conducted debates. It identifies and questions intellectual property law's underlying justifications, conceptual assumptions and material practices through the lens of novel modes of biological, cultural and scientific production that challenge the legal regime. Questions in this regard include:

• Can nature be patented? Do patents turn human persons into 'things'?
• Who produces knowledge? Who owns access to knowledge?
• Is enforcing patents on pharmaceuticals in developing countries just?
• Does quoting or paraphrasing in literature or art amount to copying? Is creativity original?
• Is plagiarism theft? Kidnapping? Plain bad manners?
• What is the cultural and political significance of free software?
• Do trade marks commodify language?

The module will introduce students in detail to the most acute and pressing current debates in intellectual property, such as justification for patents and their effects, copyright and piracy, logos & brands. It aims to provide students with a solid understanding of legal internal ways of thinking and arguing about intellectual property, as well as an introduction to wider theoretical resources which will encourage a differentiated and critical assessment of intellectual property law’s effects and limitations. Intellectual property will furthermore be understood to comprise not only intellectual property law, but also proprietary practices and strategies that concern knowledge. Readings will be drawn from the multi-disciplinary scholarship on intellectual properties, including anthropology, history, science studies, economics and social theory.


Contact hours

Total study hours: 200
Contact hours: 18
Private study hours: 182


LLM in (Specialisation); LLM in Law; PG Diploma in (Specialisation); PG Certificate in Law.

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods
The module is assessed by 100% coursework consisting of:

Coursework – essay (4000 words) - 100%

Reassessment methods
100% coursework

Indicative reading

A course pack of readings will be produced by the module convenor in conjunction to electronic resources made available to students via course Moodle page. These will contain current intellectual property questions and debates, as well as relevant case law.

A selection of indicative reading:

• M. Biagioli, P. Jaszi & M. Woodmansee (eds), Making and Unmaking of Intellectual Property. Creative Production in Legal and Cultural Perspective (Chicago, 2011)
• C. Hayden, When Nature Goes Public. The Making and Unmaking of Bioprospecting in Mexico (Princeton, 2003)
• C. Kelty, Two Bits. The Cultural Significance of Free Software (Duke, 2008)
• N. Klein, No Logo (Picador, 2000)
• C. Lury, Brands. The Logos of Global Economy (Routledge, 2004)
• B. Sherman & L. Bently, The Making of Modern Intellectual Property Law (Cambridge, 1999)
• K. Sunder Rajan, Biocapital (Duke, 2006)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module, students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate systematic knowledge of contemporary issues in the various fields of intellectual property (copyright, patents, trademarks and neighbouring rights) in both the domestic and global arenas;
2. Engage in informed scholarly discussions over the principles and practices of intellectual property law as they arise in relation to topical issues;
3. Propose creative reforms and solutions to contemporary intellectual property issues.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module, students will be able to:

1. Conduct comprehensive research and produce scholarly essays about contemporary issues and debates;
2. Critically examine complex issues in a concentrated and detailed manner;
3. Identify and critically debate the main issues at stake in the particular topic(s) being examined;
4. Identify and critically evaluate the main literature and sources relevant to the subject.


  1. Credit level 7. Undergraduate or postgraduate masters level module.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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