A Look Back: Pam Samuelson on Intellectual Property Law

Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, of the United States Constitution grants Congress the enumerated power “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” Pamela Samuelson, Professor at the University of California at Berkeley and EPIC Advisor, explained in a talk given to the UC SanDiego Design Lab that intellectual property law may not always be straightforward when it comes to design.

Prof. Samuelson notes that intellectual property law is divided into broad categories – each protecting different artifacts and offering the exclusive right to authors and inventors for various periods of time. There’s copyright, trademark, and patents. Within patent law, there are different types of patents, such as, utility, provisional, design, and even plant patents.

Issues arise when inventions could legitimately be protected under more than one category. Often the courts have had to resolve these nuances – especially since some categories offer longer protection. For instance, a copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. As a result, some try to bypass the patent system altogether which is generally only 20 years.

During the discussion, Prof. Samuelson explores several cases that helped shape our understanding of intellectual property law today.

Listen to the entire talk below. For more information on Prof. Pam Samuelson and other topics, visit www.epic.org.