INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY : FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT A THESIS
This booklet provides suggestions for the preparation of the thesis in the field of Intellectual Property law. The thesis requirement is a complex task providing students with an opportunity for reflection on a specific legal problem in the diverse field of Intellectual Property law. Our view is that the demonstration of excellent writing skills is a predicate to success in the field of Intellectual Property law. We hope that this booklet helps you to produce a thesis reflecting your best work in the Intellectual Property Concentration.
The suggestions, recommendations and requirements set forth in this guide may be modified or amended at any time by faculty and administrative action.
Q u e s t i o n s
I. What is the Significance of the Thesis Requirement?
The Intellectual Property Law Concentration is offered to all qualified candidates for the J.D. at Suffolk University Law School who otherwise meet the course and grade requirements of the program. Each graduate of the Intellectual Property Law Concentration has the option of:
The Thesis typically consists of a 25-35 page paper of original research. The Thesis is completed under the supervision of a full-time member of the law faculty and carries with it two credit hours. Students applying for Thesis credit should sign up for a two-credit course called "Intellectual Property Law Thesis or Patent Law Thesis." Students electing to write a Thesis should enroll in this course in the fall semester or the semester prior to the semester of graduation. You will need to choose a Thesis advisor from the full-time faculty before being permitted to register for the "Intellectual Property Law Thesis or Patent Law Thesis."
The Thesis may be undertaken on a broad range of legal topics, including intellectual property law, new technologies, commercial transactions in information, electronic commerce, or international intellectual property topics. The Thesis should reflect state-of-the-art thinking on a cutting-edge legal or policy dilemma or issue that is not yet resolved. The goal is to develop a Thesis which has current significance for the legal academy and the organized bar.
Examples of thesis topics we have previously approved include: 1. "The Potential Tort Liability of Virtual Reality Scenarios"; 2. "2B or Not to 2B: Is Article 2B Preempted by the Copyright Act?"; 3. "Internet Security and the Preservation of the Attorney-Client Privilege in E-Mail Communications"; 4. A Critical Examination of Utah's Model Digital Signature Act"; 5. "Protecting Investment Instead of Innovation--Is a New Copyright Regime Necessary for Databases and Other Compilations?"; 6. "Interpreting 35 U.S.C. § 271(b): Inducement of Patent Infringement and the Protection of Rights Afforded to the Holder of a Patented Technology"; 7. "Baah, Baah Cloned Sheep, Have You Any Patent?--An Analysis of Recent Developments in the Law Governing Animal Patenting in Both the United States and the European Community"’; 8. "The Necessity of a Prior User Defense in a First to File United States Patent System." and 9. "Whether the Congressional Revival of the Communications Decency Act Passes Constitutional Scrutiny".
Avoid broad topics that are properly the subject of treatises such as "Intellectual Property on the Internet," "Trademarks in Cyberspace, or "Recent Developments in Copyright Law." The successful Thesis is no different than any other legal writing. A Thesis is not a mere description of articles that you have read. A Thesis is an argument supported by research findings.
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II. Who are the Thesis Advisors?
All students are required to have an approved Thesis advisor no later than the semester preceding the semester of graduation. Students applying for the Thesis must choose a full-time faculty member who is willing to supervise the student's Thesis as Thesis advisor. In general, the student is expected to consult with his/her advisor (and, preferably, other members of the faculty) concerning his/her Thesis research. Students should meet with their proposed advisors prior to registering for Intellectual Property Law Thesis or Patent Law Thesis. The student, the student's Thesis advisor, and a faculty director of the Intellectual Property Law Concentration must certify that the completed Thesis has been prepared in conformity with program guidelines.
Normally, the Thesis advisor will be affiliated with the Intellectual Property Law Concentration. Your choice of a Thesis advisor will depend on your field of interest. For example, Professor Lisle Baker has an interest in the utilization of new technologies in law practice. Professor McJohn has a background in copyright law and computer law. Professor Rustad's fields of interest are in software licensing, electronic commerce, cyberspace law, and commercial transactions in information. Professor Robertson has expertise in antitrust law. Professor Beckerman-Rodau's areas of expertise include patent law and intellectual property law generally.
It may be appropriate that a full-time faculty member not affiliated with the Intellectual Property concentration be chosen as a Thesis advisor. For example, a student interested in the taxability of commercial transactions on the Internet may be supervised by a member of the tax faculty. A student completing a project on hate speech on the Internet may be supervised by a torts professor or constitutional law professor. A topic such as jurisdiction in cyberspace may be supervised by a professor whose area of expertise is the conflicts of law or civil procedure.
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III. How Do I Choose a Topic and Develop a Thesis Statement?
The most difficult part of the Thesis requirement is to choose your topic and develop a Thesis statement. The Thesis contemplates a wide range of topics to enable students to tailor a Thesis which is relevant to the student's course of study and career development. Your task is to choose a topic that will shed light on an emergent legal or policy issue. The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, ABA Journal, National Law Journal or other magazines and journals will often have stories about current issues in intellectual property or emergent technologies. Trade publications such as Wired, Network World, and the Electronic Banking Law and Commerce Report will frequently be the source of promising topics. One of our favorite sources is Massachusetts High Tech which is New England's premier Intellectual Property newspaper.
The choice of a Thesis topic is your responsibility. Frequently, the Thesis advisor will be able to help you narrow a topic down or provide additional research sources. One of the common mistakes is to choose a topic that is too broad. You will be required to obtain approval of your topic prior to beginning writing. It is strongly recommended that you submit a statement of your topic, detailed outline, and annotated bibliography prior to beginning to write your Thesis.
It is strongly advised that you begin your research in the summer prior to your final year in the Intellectual Property Law Concentration. Once you have chosen a topic, determine whether there are any decided cases or statutory materials that relate to your issue. Read and research primary sources first, before researching secondary sources such as law review articles or treatises. If your Thesis is a close examination of a recent decided case, try to obtain the briefs or interview the lawyers. LEXIS and WESTLAW have a data base devoted to briefs decided at the U.S. Supreme Court level. The amicus briefs are frequently a rich source of arguments and sources for your topic. It may also be appropriate to obtain briefs from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which is court of last resort for many patent law disputes. Empirical research may be appropriate for emergent topics.
A Thesis may be supported by interviews or questionnaires with industry participants. The most recent, Nineteenth Edition of the Bluebook provides the appropriate method of citation for telephone interviews or questionnaires in Rule 17.2.5.
Boston is a convenient hub of the best law libraries in the country. The Social Law Library is one of the best law practice libraries in the country. Suffolk University Law School has built its collection in recent years to support the Intellectual Property Law Concentration. Suffolk University Law School is known for its excellent research librarians and helpful staff. It may be appropriate for you to request materials through inter-library loan through Suffolk's reference library located on 5th floor level of the library. Suffolk's staff has prepared a number of useful guides on researching substantive legal topics. It may be useful to consult with a reference librarian on how to use statutory materials. If your topic is an international topic, you may want to request permission to use Harvard University Law School's Reginald Lewis international law library or Tufts University's library attached to the Fletcher School of Diplomacy. There is not another city in the world that can match the law and universities libraries in the Boston metropolitan area.
The first stage in developing your Thesis is to do the preliminary research that leads to a topic. This entails a thorough search of legal resources such as loose-leaf services, periodicals, and the emergent case law. Choose a topic engaged your interest and is not yet settled. It is not sufficient to merely summarize the extant case law and identify a problem.
You may wish to talk to your professors, employers, or lawyers in the field of intellectual property to learn about recent developments. Focused computer-based searches of LEXIS and WESTLAW may be undertaken after completing your preliminary research. You may also wish to meet with Suffolk University Law School's superb reference librarians to answer your research questions. Conduct the preliminary research prior to choosing your topic in the summer and you will be in a position to complete your thesis by the end of the Fall Semester. There are no short-cuts to completing a Thesis. Plan to spend a minimum of three weeks investigating possible Thesis topics.
It is usually necessary to narrow your initial choice of topic. Many students are inclined to choose topics suitable in scope for treatises or books. A Thesis has a more modest objective. You need to think about organizing your ideas around your "spin" or "take" on a topic. Fajans and Falk recommend that you think of a Thesis statement as "an original and supportable proposition about the subject."1 The authors further recommend:
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IV. How Do I Use the Internet to Choose a Topic?
It is critical that you learn how to navigate information-retrieval systems such as LEXIS, WESTLAW and the Internet in conducting your research. The Internet can be used to do legal research, make connections, and engage in on-line discussions and conferences. The World Wide Web has become an important repository of useful information for emergent legal topics. For example, you may get ideas for a topic by contacting the Science and Technology Committee from the American Bar Association home-page.3 A growing number of electronic law journals are distributed on the World Wide Web.4 Counsel Connect, another resource for learning about emergent legal topics, maintains the world's largest and most complete set of legal forms and brief banks.5 Discussion groups as well as conferences are hosted on-line at Counsel Connect. Many Thesis students find it useful to conduct Internet searches of law discussion groups. Increasingly, many Internet USENET groups archive messages and discussions.
The Internet is a place to post questions and to connect with law students and lawyers interested in similar concerns.6 Begin by subscribing to lawyer discussion groups.7 An exhaustive list of law-related news groups is available through the University of Chicago site.8 The fields of intellectual property, electronic commerce, cyberspace law and Intellectual Property law are served by notable law research links. The ACLU's Cyberliberties Page is a comprehensive site for cyberlaw litigation. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's "Legal Issues and Policy: Cyberspace and the Law" is another good site.
You may also learn about emergent legal issues by visiting law firm home pages. Virtually every law firm has an extensive site, including updates and articles on cutting edge areas and pending and recently decided cases. Many also allow you to subscribe to receive their on-line alerts and newsletters.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) Web site is a key resource for intellectual property lawyers.10 The PTO provides abstracts of patents and notices, as well as links to international intellectual property organizations such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
See the attached article by P.C. Jones, "Using the Internet for Intelligence Gathering: Internet as a Source of Legal Information and Prior Art" (July 1996 AFTTE Meeting), for additional links to Internet resources. See also, Burgess Allison's The Lawyer's Guide to the Internet (1995). Visit Law Journal Extra's "Law and the Internet" website for recent online articles on intellectual property and cyberspace issues. Another fruitful source is the Internet's Cyberlaw Discussion Forum. Another great source for topics is the American Bar Association home-page which has links to the Business Law and Science and Technology Section. The ABA's electronic commerce subcommittee contains useful information on digital signature guidelines, electronic data interchange and other electronic commerce issues. Links of interest may also be found on Prof. Beckerman-Rodau's web site at www.lawprofessor.org.
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The Intellectual Property Law Concentration Thesis should normally be completed in the semester preceding graduation. Students should consult with theirTthesis advisor to ascertain that faculty member’s particular timing requirements. Be advised that some faculty will only supervise theses of graduating seniors during the fall semester.
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VI. What is the Format of a Intellectual Property Thesis?
The format for the thesis is as follows: Each typed Thesis begins with a title page listing your title, topic, faculty advisor, and date. There must be a separate page with a 50-150-500 word abstract describing your thesis topic, methodology, and conclusion. A table of contents should follow the abstract page. An abstract must describe your Thesis statement and the methodology used to research your issue.
Your Thesis should be 25-35 pages including footnotes and excluding technical appendices. (It may be advisable to include statutory, scientific, or technical appendices for some topics.) The thesis must follow correct Bluebook style for citations and footnotes. See The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (19th ed. 2010). Footnotes are required rather than endnotes. A bibliography of sources relied upon is also required. Cites to Internet source materials must follow Bluebook Rule 18. The Thesis must be submitted in hard copy as well as in electronic (preferably Word) format.
The Thesis is a topic requiring advanced legal writing skills. A Thesis needs a Thesis statement stating your argument or approach to a topic. What is your Thesis? Generally, a Thesis is an argument rather than a summary of published authorities. If your Thesis relies heavily on cases, you need a careful analysis of the cases. Do not rely upon secondary authorities for restatements of the holdings of cases. The Thesis statement should be presented no later than page two of your Thesis. Your style should avoid colloquial expressions and be scholarly in tone. Many successful legal writers begin their paper with a "hook" which captures the reader's interest. A good hook may be an interesting hypothetical, case-study, or anecdote. The Thesis statement should flow directly from the introduction. Your Thesis should not read like a military artillery manual but should engage your reader.
A table of contents with page citations will provide the reader with a useful outline of the Thesis; most word processing programs include an automatically-generated table of contents feature that can be utilized for this purpose.
A bibliography should reveal all of the sources you have relied upon in developing your argument. One of the common mistakes is over-reliance on a few secondary sources.
The standard is 25-35 pages, incluiding footnotes. Approval of the Thesis advisor is required for deviations from the suggested length. You may submit statutory or other supplemental material in an appendix.
Successful completion of the Thesis requirement satisfies the writing requirement of Suffolk University Law School, and the legal writing requirement of the Intellectual Property Law Concentration.
The Intellectual Property Law Thesis may graded on either a Credit/No Credit basis or letter grade basis, at the discretion of the supervising faculty member serving as the Thesis advisor. Considerations in grading include:
A student's research and written work may constitute a substantial part of a student's time, but still not meet the high standards for the Intellectual Property Concentration or Patent Law Thesis. With the consent of the supervising faculty member, the Intellectual Property Law or Patent Law Thesis course may be converted into a credit/no credit directed study course. Conversion to the directed study will prevent the student from satisfying the Thesis requirement. The work completed on a paper converted to directed study must be functionally equivalent to that normally required of a directed study in order to receive credit for completion of the Intellectual Property Concentration's legal writing requirement.
Abstracts of Theses that satisfy the Intellectual Property Concentration requirements may be selected by the faculty for publication on Suffolk University Law School's website. Students who do not wish to have an abstract of their Thesis published in this manner should inform the Administrative Director of the Intellectual Property Concentration in writing at the time the Thesis receives final approval.
The faculty also encourage Intellectual Property concentrators to submit their publishable-quality theses to any of the several high-technology-related student writing competitions, including the AIPLA’s Robert Watson competition, the Federal Circuit Bar Association’s George Hutchinson competition, ASCAP’s Nathan Burkan competition, the Journal of the Patent and Trademark Office Society’s Student Paper contest, John Marshall Law School’s Gerald Rose competition, and the Boston Patent Law Association’s contest. See Professor Rustad for further information on these competitions.
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All students must comply with Suffolk University Law School's plagiarism policy, as set forth in Rule 2, section F - Academic Integrity - of the Law School Rules and Regulations. This Rule is found in its entirety at www.law.suffolk.edu/offices/deanofstu/handbook/regs/rule2.cfm#F and we require that you review the policy prior to the writing of the Thesis. In particular, Rule 2, section F, nos. 3 and 4 provide that:
Students are also advised to read Chapter Six of Fajans and Falk, titled "Footnotes and the Ethical Use of Borrowed Materials." You should provide your advisor with copies of all of the sources you relied upon in completing your Thesis.
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VIII. Do You Recommend Any Reference Works on Writing a Law Thesis?
We highly recommend Elizabeth Fajans and Mary R. Falk, Scholarly Writing for Law Students: Seminar Papers, Law Review Notes and Law Review Competition Papers. (West Pub. 1996). This handy guide is available in the Suffolk University Law School bookstore. The book has chapters on scholarly writing, developing a thesis, research strategies, the writing process: revising and polishing, and the ethical use of borrowed materials. In our view, it is the best book available on writing a thesis. Another useful source is Eugene Volokh, Writing a Student Article (visited May 26, 1998)<http://www.law.ucla.edu/faculty/volokh/writing.htm>. Reading high quality publications such as The Wall Street Journal, New Yorker, Scientific American, and Science provide good models for writing.
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3 The ABA's home page may be accessed at http://www.abanet.org/. For example, suppose you are interested in the ABA Section on Business Law, Tort and Insurance Law or Science and Technology. Links to each section and major activity of the ABA are easily made.
4 The address is found at: http://lawweb.usc.edu/library/. This site links to many electronic journals which may be of assistance to you in choosing and narrowing your topic.
5 Counsel Connect is found at http://www.counsel.com/.
7 "To subscribe, send an e-mail with the message "subscribe net-lawyers FirstName LastName" (without the quotes and substituting your real first and last name) to: firstname.lastname@example.org.; To quit your subscription, please send the message "unsubscribe net-lawyers" (without the quotes) to email@example.com." Renee R. McDermott and James M. Garrettson, "Environmental Law Cruising Information Highway," The Indiana Lawyer, April 3, 1996 at 27.
8 The Web address is: http://www1.lib.uchicago.edu/e/law/index.php3 .
9 Miryam Strassberg, "For Research, Marketing Lawyers Spinning the Web; Firms, Bars Find There's No Place Like a Home Page," The Legal Intelligencer, July 3, 1996 at S1 (quoting National Law Journal survey of the 250 law firms in which 85 percent have a home page or are constructing them).
10 The PTO address is: http://www.uspto.gov.
Revised October, 2010.
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