As noted, this class is unusual inasmuch as we will almost exclusively be reading primary source material – raw, unedited judicial opinions and statutes. In my opinion (which I’m more than happy to discuss at length with anyone who’s interested):
(a) it is critically important for you to develop your ability to read and to make sense of opinions as they appear in full text in the official reports;
(b) that is a difficult skill to master;
(c) like most difficult skills, you only get better at it by practice; and
(d) giving you only edited opinions to read in your “doctrinal” classes (i.e., in all classes other than those focused on “legal research and writing”) does very little to help you develop that skill.
We will, therefore, be talking throughout the semester not only about the substance of IP law – the nature of copyright “ownership,” the elements of the trademark infringement cause of action, the requirements for “novelty” in patent law, etc. – but also about how one uncovers the answers to those questions through close reading of the cases (and the relevant statutory material).
To begin with, you must read each case a minimum of two times; it is simply impossible, unless you are truly a genius, for you to make sense of what the court is doing on a single reading. Your first reading should concentrate on the following:
If you can’t summarize the case under those three headings – facts, claim(s), outcome – read it over until you can. ￼￼￼
At that point, you can undertake the second reading, which should focus on the court’s reasoning: How did it reach the outcome that it reached? If the court resolved the claim in plaintiff’s favor, why did it do so? How, in other words, did it get from A (the facts) to B (the conclusion that plaintiff wins)? What rule(s) of law did it apply to the facts to reach that conclusion? Thinking about these questions as you undertake your second reading is worthwhile; attempting to put your answers into written form is even better.
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