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Ken Turchi
IU Maurer School of Law

Mark Janis
IU Maurer School of Law

Last modified: Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Patent law conference will reflect on 'Claim Scope'

Sept. 22, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Many of the country's top intellectual property scholars and practitioners are expected to convene at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law on Sept. 23-24 for a major conference on patent law. The conference coincides with the 20th anniversary of the publication of "On the Complex Economics of Patent Scope," a seminal work in the field of patent law by Robert P. Merges and Richard R. Nelson.

Mark D. Janis, professor of law and Ira C. Batman Faculty Fellow at the IU Maurer School, said he wanted to bring the country's leading patent academics together to address the most important new developments in patent law, using Merges and Nelson's classic work as a springboard.

"We live in interesting times in the patent community," Janis said. "The fundamental assumptions underlying the system are being challenged, and the law seems to change on a daily basis. In the past year alone we have seen a major U.S. Supreme Court decision on the patent eligibility of information age inventions, a major appellate decision on the type of information that must be disclosed in a biotech patent application, and continued debates over large-scale legislative patent reform. Twenty years ago, when Merges and Nelson wrote 'Patent Scope,' it wasn't at all evident that these issues would come to dominate the discourse, and yet their work continues to resonate."

"On the Complex Economics of Patent Scope" was a breakthrough piece of scholarship that has helped shape the debate over the patent law's influence on technological innovation. The article concluded that patent law should strive to preserve competition for technological improvements, even at the expense of eroding incentives for pioneer firms to some extent.

"Merges and Nelson set forth a vision of patent scope that affects many patent doctrines and is still contested today," Janis said. "Merges and Nelson showed that the application of economic theory to patents isn't just a technical matter for economics Ph.D.s, but a matter of real consequence that affects the ways businesses invest in innovation."

In one of the conference's anticipated highlights, Merges will present his own reflections on the article he co-wrote in 1990, along with thoughts on how today's patent system is shaping technological advancement. His presentation will be just one of many by some of the leaders in the field of IP law.

"We have an extraordinary group of patent law scholars coming to Bloomington," Janis said. "We will have leading theoreticians, treatise writers, and casebook authors. We have the University of Virginia's Edmund Kitch, a pioneer in the application of economic theory to patent law; and we have a host of rising stars in the patent field. We are very fortunate to be hosting such a gathering."

The two-day conference is expected to draw participants from around the country.