By Jason Rantanen
I teach the Introduction to Intellectual Property course each spring here at Iowa. Because this is a survey course that covers multiple areas of law that themselves each can be covered in an intermediate-level course, I always find it a fascinating challenge to balance breadth and depth in a way that maximizes students' ability to learn and apply the law.
This coming semester I'm trying something new: rather than use a regular casebook, I'm taking a "top 40" cases approach combined with a hornbook. The idea here is to use the hornbook together with lectures to cover the breadth of intellectual property while using discussion of the cases to dig more deeply into particularly significant or interesting moments in patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, and associated areas of law. (For those of you not familiar with conventional casebooks, they're typically structured so that preparing for a single class involves reading 2-4 opinions plus associated casenotes.)
My current "top 10" list of patent cases is:
Bowman v. Monsanto, 133 S.Ct. 1761 (2012)
Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 447 U.S. 303 (1980)
Bilski v. Kappos, 561 U.S. __ (2010)
Egbert v. Lippmann, 104 U.S. 333 (1881); City of Elizabeth v. American Nicholson Pavement Co., 97 U.S. 126 (1878) (taught together; yes, this technically makes it 11 cases)
KSR v. Teleflex, 550 U.S. 398 (2007)
The Incandescent Lamp Patent case, 159 U.S. 465 (1895)
Phillips v. AWH, 415 F.3d 1303 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc)
Therasense v. Becton Dickinson, 649 F.3d 1276 (Fed. Cir. 2011) (en banc)
Global-Tech Appliances v. SEB, 563 U.S. __ (2011)
Bonito Boats v. Thunder Craft Boats, 489 U.S. 141 (1989)
These cases track the subject matter I cover in the classroom, so while there are more great cases in each area, I've limited it to just the top case or cases in each. Also, I recognize that Bowman v. Monsanto is probably not on most folks' top 10 lists; however, I think it's a great way to introduce students to patent law and is particularly relevant here in the midwest.
Are there other cases that you think are even more important or interesting? Keep in mind that adding cases also requires removing an equivalent number of cases from the list.