Seminar in Advanced Patent Law - Fall 2005
Prof. Morris
Last updated 9/2/05  6pm. - rjm


Professor Roberta J. Morris 904 LR 647-4037
Secretary Karen Rushlow 963 LR 615-2035
Group Email


      A.   Mechanics
      B.   Amount and Kind of Material


We will meet every Tuesday for two hours.  Attendance at every class is mandatory.

The term will be divided roughly into two parts, mine and yours.  During MY part, I will assign readings on topics such as the history of patent law, proposed legislation, and hot new cases. We will also have a few guest speakers, each for about 1 hour. I will be present for their talks and will teach the other hour of that day.

YOUR part consists of student presentations. Every student will choose the readings and lead the discussion for one class hour.

Speakers, including the students, should
           (a) prepare a main talk that can comfortably be delivered in about 25 minutes, and
           (b) be ready to address side issues for the remaining 30 minutes if there are no interruptions or questions.  Interruptions and questions, however, will be encouraged.


Work will be submitted electronically, probably by email, possibly by posting to ctools. We'll be experimenting the first few weeks.


(Alan Kintisch '93, then a senior judge in the writing program and formerly a prep school math teacher, suggested this kind of grading to me for the the legal writing course. I have found that it is well-suited to seminars because the students are generally well-motivated and may legitimately wonder whether missing deadlines or doing a superficial job will have any effect on their grade.  They will.  The contract spells this out.)
Grading will be by contract.  This means that you and I have an agreement that your grade is determined by how well you perform your obligations during the term.  "Performing your obligations" means doing everything
      - on time,
      - in the proper format (if written) and
      - in good faith (with the requisite amount of sincere and intelligent effort).             
Your specific obligations are:
     ‑ weekly comments and comments-on-comments,
     ‑ preparation of materials for your topic (your "packet"), including:
            -- having a meaningful and useful discussion with me four to five weeks before your talk,
            -- timely handing in a draft packet which you truly think meets all requirements,
            -- timely making needed modifications, and
            -- timely posting the final packet,
            -- timely preparing draft questions for class comments on your readings,
     ‑ preparation of visual aids (powerpoint, handouts or both, or equivalent) to accompany your talk,
     ‑ speaking well on your topic and leading the class discussion about it,
     ‑ critiquing one of your colleagues' set of readings,
     ‑ critiquing a different one of your colleagues' talk,
     - and of course being an active, intelligent participant in the seminar.

If you meet all your obligations, your "contract" grade will be at least a B+, and possibly as high as an A+.  The quality of your work throughout the term will determine whether you receive the minimum grade, or whether you get a performance bonus of one or more grade levels. 

 If you breach the contract, however, your contract grade will be reduced as follows:
     Weekly comments:  If your comment is not as it should be (e‑mailed by noon, proofread, appropriately thoughtful and neither too long nor too short), your contract grade minimum and maximum will drop ONE level (e.g., to a B/A for one missing comment, to B-/A- for two, etc.).   Comments can not be handed in after the deadline, so do not even bother to try.  Also, on the rare occasion when I excuse you from attending class (which I may do in extraordinary circumstances), you must still e‑mail your comment on time ‑- Ann Arbor time, even if the reason for your absence is an interview in Honolulu.
       Critiques:  The critiques of your colleagues' work must also be handed in by noon.  The readings critique should be written before the talk and sent to me by noon of the day of the talk.  I will forward it to the speaker after class.  The talk critique should be sent to me and the speaker as soon as possible after the talk, but in any event before the following Tuesday at noon.  Again, the critiques must be sent on time whether your body makes it to class or not.  Your grade will drop one level for every day or part of a day (from 1 millisecond up to 24 hours) that a critique is late, and at least one level for critiques that do not meet the sincerity/good faith standard.  I make the penalty the same for up to 24 hours in order to encourage you to come to class on time even if the critique will be late.  Finish the work at night.  After 24 hours, you lose another level.
         Draft packet:  If you do not submit your proposed readings on your topic in a timely fashion and with due attention to instructions, your minimum/maximum grades will drop TWO levels (e.g. from a B+/A+ to a B-/A-) for each 24 hours of lateness.  "Timely" will generally mean by noon three weeks before the date of your talk (your "x-3" date), but the calendar may dictate some changes.  Make sure you know your own deadline.  Because the appearance of the packet on paper will be very important, and because one person's MSWord may alter the formatting of the creator's MSWord, I may require a paper version, as well as an electronic one, to make sure we are on the same page, literally.
        Final packet:  Same penalty as for draft packet.

In extraordinary circumstances the contract terms will be subject to renegotiation.  But do not expect any bending of the rules for a hangnail, or because you did not plan your time wisely and at the last minute fell victim to social, mechanical or electrical failures.  (For example, the statements "I had to drive my roommate to a job interview in Ohio" and "My printer broke down this morning" would not justify the failure to meet a deadline that has been known for many weeks.)

Occasionally I encounter students who have lived their lives by being exceptions to rules.  I love a good story in the movies, but am not swayed by homework-eating dogs when law school performance is at issue.  My practices are designed to reward those for whom it is second nature to do the right thing. 


      Every week?? You do not have to write a comment for the first week, nor for your own set of readings.  Also, you each have a one-time exemption for one of the weeks associated with your talk.  You choose which week.  Most people find the X-3 deadline the hardest, but some want the exemption for X-1 or X.  To exercise your exemption, email a statement to that effect when the comment is due.  (Note that if you choose X-1 or X-3 for your exemption, and someone besides you gives a presentation in week X, then you must read that person's packet and submit a comment on it in your own week X.)

Timing and Transmission  The comment must be e-mailed or posted (as the message itself, not an attachment) by the time specified in the assignment.  Usually you will also have to comment on a fellow student's comment.  These comment^2's will also have a deadline.  We will discuss at the first class what is comfortable for the group as a whole for these deadlines.  The comment^2's will generally be due by Tuesday noon so that the speaker (I, or a guest, or one of you) has a chance to look them over before class.

Failure to hand in your weekly assignment on time in proper format will result in a reduction of your grade.

Content.  Your submission should demonstrate that you have read and thought hard about at least a portion of the reading for that day.  It should reveal intelligence and application and enthusiasm for the intellectual challenge presented by patent law.  My advice is:  "Don't do it to get it done, do it to get it right."

Length.  Your comment should also be succinct without being slapdash.  I will expect between 1 and 1 1/2 pages in standard Federal Circuit appellate brief pages.  As a message, this translates to about 3500 bytes (ascii characters).  If you write very much more, the presumption will be that you haven't polished your writing sufficiently or thought things through sufficiently; if you write very much less, the presumption will be that you have not thought enough or spent enough time writing.   Either way, you are likely to have failed to make the requisite sincere/good faith effort.

Appearances. Your submission should be reader‑friendly:
            ‑ it must be proofread by eye.  Digital spell checkers do not find all the errors (and sometimes introduce some), but if you are a poor speller, by all means get whatever help you can so that I do not find myself correcting your spelling.           ‑ it should look "finished."  Look over what you wrote before you send it and correct things like very long lines and very short lines.  If I have to remind you of this, you are probably in breach already;
           ‑ it must be the text of the message, not an attachment;
           ‑ headings should be used to help the reader.  At the very least, identify the material to which your comment pertains.  If emailed, the subject line should tell me "Comment for [date]" and, if there are alternative subjects, the one you chose.  The body of your message should include key-word headings (NOT point headings, please).  If there are several questions, use the numbering scheme of the questions.  If a section of your comment has two ideas, use headings to help the reader catch that fact quickly. 


Every student will lead the class for one hour during the term. Using the language of mathematics, we will let X be the week you are the leader. (The Information about Your Presentation (linked on the pre-term questionnaire) included a table about other important dates leading up to week X.) You will collect and edit a packet of materials for your classmates to read in preparation for attending your talk.

You should choose a topic for your presentation soon so that when you meet with me, four to five weeks before your week X, we can  discuss your selections, how to edit them and order them, why you have chosen what you have included, why you have rejected other material you have examined, where else to look for complementary  documents, etc.  Everyone must notify me by email of topic selection by Wednesday, October 19 at 5 pm. One aspect of a good topic is that it will lend itself to a nice selection of readings.

Your Packet
     A.  Mechanics

As mentioned in Information about Your Presentations (the document linked on the pre-term questionnaire) you and I will meet, at a mutually convenient time four to five weeks before your talk, to discuss your topic and your proposed packet of readings. You will submit a draft three weeks before your talk (X-3).  I will review the draft, and within a week, email you suggesting modifications.  You will then have at least one week to put the packet in final form.  (Please be warned: the email messages are not brief.)

After my email, your packet will be entirely in your hands:  I do not want to have to look at it again until I, and the rest of the class, read the final product.  I am happy to answer an occasional specific question, but, like bosses everywhere, I want you to take responsibility, both for making decisions (and that includes deciding to do something different from what I have advised, if you believe your position is fully thought out and justified) and for reviewing the final product with a very critical eye before you declare yourself done.

What I demand concerning the appearance of the packet and the level of care I expect for every word you include, as well as every word you omit, in your packet, is designed to make it as useful as possible to the busy reader.  After you graduate, when you may be an even busier reader than you are now, the collection of seminar student packets will be an excellent resource.

Also bear in mind that
      (a) you do not have to write a 25+ page paper for this seminar, and
      (b) in contrast to seminars for which your grade depends on a paper, there is no way to procrastinate.  There will be no incompletes in this seminar.

Your final set of readings must be distributed to the class one week before your talk (X-1).  Probably this means that they will be posted on the web, rather than pendaflexed in hard copy. But democracy may rule otherwise.

     B.  Amount and Kind of Material

A few packets from previous years will be posted soon, along with links to more detailed instructions about editing.

Your final set of readings should be around 12-15 pages, and the draft packet can be slightly longer (but no more than 25 pages).  You should have between 2 and 5 different items written by other people, plus a coversheet and about 3 pages of text (in total, but not necessarily consecutive) authored by you.

An item written by someone else might be a case, a law review article, a newspaper article, an excerpt from a book, a statute or regulation, etc.  Variety counts:  a packet with only cases or only law review article excerpts is not likely to be acceptable. I do not want a talk that is no more than a "case note," so please select your readings accordingly.

The pages you author will generally be divided over several things such as:  an explanation of the background of the subject, a hypothetical based on your work as a law clerk or scientific researcher, or a flow chart or table explaining complicated regulatory schemes.  In addition, you will very likely write some material that you insert into the other items:  internal summaries to replace part of an item that is verbose or repetitive, historical context behind particular statements, subsequent events you have ferreted out on your own, a hypothetical situation that illuminates the practical problems of the matter, etc. Under no circumstances should you summarize anything that is itself in the packet, and law review style introductions (of the kind that go "In Part I, I argue ... In Part II, I present ...") are anathema. 

Instead, the coversheet (see document to be posted soon) will provide all the outline, summary and introductory information we need, and in a much better form than prose paragraphs.  It will be skimmable, concise, and informative:  just what the busy reader needs to find materials inside the packet, understand what weight to give the various items in the packet, appreciate the relationships between the materials, refresh a recollection after having read the packet,  etc.

The items you choose must be carefully edited by you, with extraneous or confusing material deleted or explained.  This means, among other things, that you will give very careful consideration to the order in which your items appear. Sometimes the obvious order makes sense -- statute, regulation, case, article; or old case, old article, new case -- but sometimes it does not.  Be prepared to defend the order you choose.  Better yet, have your readings flow so smoothly that the reader is unconscious of the enormous time you spent to achieve that result.

You will also have to read and re‑read the selections.  Include the material you plan to talk about, and any necessary background information.  Only rarely will that mean you include every word of the original.  If, for example, a law review article or another judicial opinion discusses a major case, choose one - the major case itself or the synopsis - not both. If an article has a long dissertation on a tangentially relevant matter, leave it out, or, if you really need it to illuminate other parts of the article, summarize it.  And so on.   You will also provide cross‑references using page numbers to aid the busy reader.  Think. Read. Think Again.  Read Again.

I expect you to take the time to put your readings into useful shape.  Clients, supervising attorneys, judges, venture capitalists and legislative committees expect you to present your work in a way that shows respect for them and their busy schedules, and takes due account of their possible lack of interest or intelligence.  So do I.  (But as to the audience's lacks, please promise right now NEVER to acknowledge them by saying "I know this is boring" or "I know this is very complicated."  Instead make it your business to MAKE it interesting and MAKE it understandable.)  

Proposed Questions

By the deadline for your final packet, you must also separately e-mail me 2 or 3 proposed questions you would like the class to answer for their weekly comment on your packet.  (Often your questions will include page cross-references, so even if you write the content in advance, you may not be ready to send them to me until your final pagination is known.)  I will, needless to say, edit your questions before assigning them to the class, sometimes substituting my own, but more often revising yours.


       You will be asked to critique the readings of one student and the talk of another.  Your comments will be relayed to the person you criticize.  I will assign the dates of the critiques, but you can swap among yourselves, as long as you tell me beforehand.
       Your critique should identify three "roses" and three "thorns" in the other students' work.  Try to vary the level of focus, concentrating on the forest as well as the trees.  We will discuss this (and perhaps dispense with botanical analogies) in greater detail in class.
       Your comments should be substantive:  this is your chance to demonstrate the kind of feedback you wish(ed) to receive at school and work. 

           1.  Weekly Comment ‑ initial comment e‑mailed/posted by Monday [time to be decided democratically];  comment^2 emailed by noon before class. 
        Frequency: every week, except for the first week, and the week you opt to state that you are taking your one-time exemption.
        Recipients: advpatseminar05.
           2.  Topic and Date Selection ‑
10/19 by 5 pm.

           3.  Your Packet
                  A.  Draft for my review ‑ week X-3, Tuesday at noon.
                  B.  Final for posting - week X-1, noon Thursday.

            4.  Proposed Questions on your Readings:  same time as your final packet.

            5.  Critique of someone else's readings or someone else's talk:  by noon the week of or after the talk, respectively.
            Readings:  me only.  I forward it to the speaker after the talk.
            Talks: both me and the speaker.