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Patent and Design Law

Module titlePatent and Design Law
Module codeLAWM101
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Karen Walshe (Convenor)

Dr Naomi Hawkins (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

In most modern economies emphasis is placed on the development of innovation and design to promote economic growth. This module intends to introduce you to the legal framework in which such innovation and novel design can be protected and rewards given to inventors and creators of novel designs. Why do we grant patent and design protection – what are the economic rationales for the system – are there alternatives? Do we give too little or too many rights to inventors and designers? Is the system open to abuse? We will discuss the operation of the system in relation to the granting of pharmaceutical patents and the costs these impose on lesser developing countries particularly where they face public health epidemics such as HIV/AIDS. There will be an examination of the requirements for obtaining patent and design protection in the UK, the European Union and on a wider international level. We will discuss and comment on the concept of a novel invention, who will be regarded as an inventor and what are the boundaries of patent and design protection.  Particular areas will be focused on – computer-related inventions and biotechnological inventions (e.g. patenting of novel stem cell discoveries) and legal issues that arise with these areas. The patent and design registration systems will be looked at and how conflicts are resolved between competing applications for patents and designs. As well as examining the obtaining of patent and protected design we will also look at the rights these give against third parties who copy the invention or design without consent and what legal remedies are available to the right holders. Is the current system fit for purpose particularly in regard to small and medium sized enterprises or is it simply a mechanism that is suitable for use by large multi-national corporations? Where ever possible current issues and developments in the fields of patent and design law will be looked at to give the course a strong practical field. It should be stated that you need not necessarily have a scientific or engineering background to succeed on the module.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The purpose of the module is to give you an awareness of the operation of the legal regimes that exist in the UK, European Union and on a wider international basis for the protection of new inventions via the patent system and in relation to novel designs via the design registration system.

  • You will be stimulated by discussion and individual/team presentations to examine the historical, economic, social and legal rationales advanced for the legal protections provided to designers and inventors.
  • Over the period of the module, you will examine arguments both for reforming and strengthening the law but in some cases possibly restricting the monopolies created by the relevant regimes on public interest grounds e.g. in controversial areas such as pharmaceuticals and biotechnological inventions.
  • You will be able to consider whether the common criticism of the patent system – that it does not work effectively for small and medium sized businesses – is a fair one and what might be done to address the concerns raised by SME’s.
  • You will develop an awareness and an ability to apply to practical situations core concepts in the law of patents and designs such as novelty, obviousness and industrial application and issues of priorities between competing inventors and designers.
  • You will gain a general awareness of the mechanics of the system in the sense of what is needed to make a valid patent or design right application and the pitfalls to be avoided.
  • You will develop an awareness of the scope of the legal rights granted to patent and design right owners and their ability to take action against infringers of their rights and the remedies available to them.
  • At all times, you will be stimulated to consider current controversies and issues that surround the operation of the patent and design systems such as the current attempts to create a unified European Union patent and the arguments for and against the centralisation of the system in the EU.

Overall, you will develop a critical and questioning attitude to this branch of intellectual property.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate deep and systematic knowledge and understanding of the law relating to patent and design law and an extensive range of major concepts, values and principles relevant to its application;
  • 2. Undertake complex critical evaluation of the main legal rules, institutions and procedures relevant to patent and design law, using specialist literature and current research;
  • 3. Compare, analyse and synthesise innovatively the principle rules and theories relating to the scope of protection of patent and design rights;
  • 4. Identify, explain and evaluate key issues in the law of patents and designs, critically and comprehensively and to apply relevant rules and a range of theories systematically;
  • 5. Demonstrate deep and critical awareness of a wide range of legal and contextual implications of the areas of patent and design law studied;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Demonstrate detailed and comprehensive knowledge and understanding of a range of legal concepts, values, principles and institutions and procedures, and the capacity to evaluate systematically the relationships among them as well as their limits;
  • 7. Apply detailed and comprehensive legal knowledge and understanding to a problem/case study and to argue alternative approaches/ to propose solutions innovatively;

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. Interact effectively, confidently and proactively within a team/learning group to share information and ideas and to clarify, plan and undertake tasks confidently and independently, individually and with others, to reflect critically on the learning process and to make use of feedback efficiently; and
  • 9. Work independently and effectively and to manage time efficiently in preparing for scheduled learning activities, exercises and assessments.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover:

(1)    The general history and development of the patent system and the rationales put forward to justify the patent monopoly.   The work of the World Intellectual Property Organisation and the Paris Convention of the Protection of Industrial Property (1883 as amended).

(2)    The structure for obtaining patent protection – a domestic UK patent, a European Patent via the European Patent Office and an EU Unitary Patent and the possible extension of patent protection to countries outside the EU by use of the Patent Co-operation Treaty.

(3)    The necessary requirements for obtaining a valid patent – novelty, inventive step and industrial application, as well as the exclusions and exceptions from patent protection.

(4)    The rights and remedies of the right holder or licensee of the patent.

(5)    The defences available to the alleged infringer.

(6)    The protection of Biotech patents and the EU Directive on the Protection of Biotechnological Inventions.

(7)    The boundaries of the patent system e.g. patenting of computer programs, pharmaceutical patents and patents in relation to plants and seeds.  Whether the UK should adopt the utility patent for patents which are useful but lack the necessary inventive qualities as some other EU countries.

(8)    The protection of novel designs – an examination at EU and UK level for the obtaining registered design protection and the protection of unregistered designs and the role of artistic copyright in this area.

(9)    The role and functions of the Office of Harmonisation of the Internal Market (OHIM) in relation to the protection of designs at EU level. 

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and Teaching Activities6Two 3 hour lectures which introduce you to the history and context of the topics and will provide the foundation for independent guided study
Scheduled Learning and Teaching activities27Nine 3 hour lecturer led seminars – which will involve at least one student/team lead presentation in each seminar relating to the topic under discussion.
Guided independent study157Preparation for seminars – which will involve reading the recommended text and a cross-section of case law and critical academic article literature on the relevant topic. You would be expected to make appropriate notes on these materials to assist the making of seminar presentations and discussions of questions and issues in seminars.
Guided independent study60Preparation for formative and summative assessments
Guided independent study50Further independent research and reading and wider contextual study.


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Written formative assessment to be submitted by Week 7 of the course2,000 words1-7, 9Use of feedback forms and where necessary oral discussion with the student
Individual and team presentations15 minutes1-9Oral discussion

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1007,500 words1-7, 9Formal written feedback and an opportunity, where necessary, for oral feedback and guidance from the lecturer.


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay (7,500 words)1-7, 9August/September reassessment period


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

  • Lionel Bently, Brad Sherman, Dev Gangjee and Philip Johnson, Intellectual Property Law (5th edn, OUP 2018)
  • Abbe Brown, Smita Kheria, Jane Cornwell and Marta Iljadica, Contemporary Intellectual Property: Law and Policy (5th edn, OUP 2019)
  • David Bainbridge, Intellectual Property Law (10th edn, Longman 2018)

IP Journals:

  • European Intellectual Property Law Review (EIPR)
  • Intellectual Property Quarterly (IPQ)
  • Journal of Intellectual Property Law and Practice (JIPLP)

ELE – College to provide hyperlink to appropriate pages

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Westlaw, LexisNexis, and Lawtel, as well as knowledge-based materials at relevant patent organisations such as: the European Patent Office; World Intellectual Property Organisation; the UK Intellectual Property Office; and the numerous expert blogs on the topic of patent and design law.  In relation to design law also access to the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).

Key Organisations in patent and design field and weblinks:

UK Intellectual Property Office:

European Patent Officde:

European Union Intellectual Property Office:

EU  Intellectual Property Gateway:

World Intellectual Property Organisation:

Module has an active ELE page

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

The Library holds stock of the relevant intellectual property books that cover these topics, as well are relevant journals.   Students will have access to relevant knowledge databases, the Law School subscribes such as Westlaw and LexisNexis as well as web accessible material at the UK Intellectual Property Office, the European Commission, the European Patent Office, the World Intellectual Property Organisation and the World Trade Organisation.

Key words search

Patent Law, Design Law

Credit value30
Module ECTS


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Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date