CSE490T/590T: Intellectual Property Law for Engineers

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Instructor: Ben Dugan
Schedule: Wednesday, 3:30-5:20
Credit: 2 units CR/NC
Location: MGH 251
Contact: dugan at cs dot washington dot edu
Office Hour: Wednesday, 2:30-3:30 Allen Center 220.

Course Description

This course will provide a survey of intellectual property law for a technical (non-legal) audience, with a primary focus on patent law. The purpose of the course is to assist engineers and scientists in navigating and utilizing various intellectual property regimes effectively in the business context. In the patent realm, topics will include patent preparation and prosecution, patent claim interpretation, and assessing patent validity and infringement. Other intellectual property areas that may be covered, time permitting, include copyright, trademark, and trade secret law. Where possible, the course will also endeavor to balance the discussion of practical legal considerations with broader policy questions (e.g., should certain subject matter be off limits for patenting?, the relationship between innovation and IP, approaches to patent reform, etc.).

Prerequisites: The course is open to graduate students and 4th-year College of Engineering students. Many of the cases and teaching examples will be situated in the computer arts, so some background in computer science or engineering is preferred. In the unlikely event that the course is over-subscribed, a simple application process may be used to select participants.

Course Topics

See the ever changing course schedule.


  1. Week 1: Introduction & Reading a Patent
  2. Week 2: IP Survey (Lecture with PTC)
  3. Week 3: Conditions for Patentability
  4. Week 4: Patent Prosecution, Provisional Applications, Priority, Foreign Rights
  5. Week 5: Claim Drafting
  6. Week 6: Patent Analysis
  7. Week 7: Copyright & Open Source Licenses
  8. Week 8: Open Source Licenses
  9. Week 9: Patent Reform
  10. Week 10: Wrap Up: DMCA, Patent Reform, etc.


  1. HW #1: Understanding Patents (Due: In class, April 20, 2011) HTML
  2. HW #2: Provisional Applications and Patent Prosecution (Due: In class, May 4, 2011) HTML
  3. HW #3: Patent Searching (Due: In class, May 18, 2011) HTML
  4. HW #4: Claim Drafting (Due: In class, May 25, 2011) HTML

Required Texts and Papers

Recommended Texts or Resources


Send me email -- I try to respond within 24 hours, usually sooner. We'll also use the course email list: cse490t_sp11@u.washington.edu. You can also view the list archives.

We may also use this goPost Board.


This is a pass/fail course. To pass, you will need to:
  1. Attend class.
  2. Do the readings.
  3. Participate. If you don't ask or answer questions, then you likely aren't participating.
  4. Do the assignments -- yes, there may be small assignments. As the class is somewhat expiremental in nature, I will be asking you to help me determine what types of assignments are appropriate for this type of course. Possible example assignments include: read and briefly summarize a patent, design around a claim, perform a patent search, research and report on a patent litigation, and the like.

Course (Self) Evaluation.

The following are some common areas of interface between engineers and the law. The course, if effective, will enable the student to be more effective in navigating one or more of these.
  1. Patent law: reading and understanding patents for legal effect and as prior art; invention mining / portfolio development; assisting in patent preparation (invention disclosure, patent drafting); patent prosecution (explaining the prior art); patent analysis (claim construction, prior art analysis)
  2. Copyright law: open source license selection and impact, copyright registration
  3. Contract issues: understanding and negotiating employment-related IP-rights assignment agreements; understanding and using non-disclosure agreements