Educating about Intellectual Property

From Street Law Inc. and Constitutional Rights Foundation 

This website aggregates links to video webcasts with introductions to IP and fair use, PowerPoint case studies of patents and copyright law, studies and polls.  The quality of the materials included is generally high, but there is so much information, that the site may be overwhelming to evaluate. 

The website is roughly divided into curricular resources, multimedia case studies, webinars/webcasts, and links to off-site materials. For the purpose of this civic education project, the powerpoints in the multimedia case study section are the strongest resources on the site. The curricular resources are useful in providing pdf documents that provide basic information about Intellectual Property and offer projects for students and training tips for teachers. The  videos on the webinar/webcast link are relatively weak.

How do you use it?

The Multimedia Case Studies section contains excellent PowerPoints that support fun and informative presentations with little prep time needed. They cover patent, copyright, and trademark law. Most are appropriate for middle and high school students.

The following PowerPoints are all strong introductions to copyright law presented in a manner interesting to middle and high school students.

"What Is a Patent?" is interesting and easily understood. It would be a very good aid to present basic information regarding patents. It contains fun examples, has a helpful handout, and could stimulate a lively discussion. This would be good for middle school, high school, and probably older audiences.

"Shades of Grey in Fair Use" is an excellent introduction to copyright using a real-life example that students will find particularly interesting — music "mashups." 

"Fairey v AP" is another excellent intro to copyright based on an actual case involving an Obama campaign poster. Besides the PowerPoint presentation, it has a simulation and a handout. 

"Satriani v Cold Play" is another intro to copyright — based on an actual lawsuit involving Cold Play, a popular rock band, and a song, "Viva la Vida" which topped the charts. 

The "North Face v South Butt" PowerPoint teaches basics of trademark law, based on an actual lawsuit by North Face, a mountaineering apparel company, against "South Butt" a college freshman's company openly parodying the North Face trademark and trade dress. It includes directions for a 10-minute simulated "trial." 

"Should Living Things Be Patented?" (2 parts) is well-presented and makes a fairly complicated topic understandable. However, it concerns an extremely narrow topic (patenting living things such as genetic material and bacteria). It seems appropriate for use in a college or law school course, but is not likely to be of interest to the general public or high school students.


The videos under the tab: "Webinars/Webcasts" are rather poor for the purposes of this website.  The quality of the audio on the introduction is poor, and the other webcasts also have poor audio quality.  In addition, the webinar "A Guide to Intellectual Property: Fair Use in the Classroom," for example, is directed to librarians, media specialists and teachers to educate them about their own use of materials in the classroom, and thus is not useful for the purposes of civics education by judges. 

The webcasts "IN FOCUS: What is Intellectual Property?" and "IN FOCUS: Introduction to Fair Use" are 5-minute videos of a speaker standing in front of the camera explaining the basics. It would be preferable for the presenter simply to explain the basics to the class, instead of showing these videos.

A good link on the site is the link to the "USPTO's "Kids' Pages" which includes some excellent and fun pages and activities for different age groups. See the overview on this site here.

Who is the audience?

This resource is and tailored toward the strengths of children at a middle primary level.  The informational "lectures,” discussions, and picture-drawing make for an enjoyable lesson plan. The supplemental graphics are a good way to keep this age group interested without underplaying the important information.  Allowing the group to use pictures or skits is a great way to give children this age something tangible to ground their learning of difficult concepts.

What other resources will complement this?

  1. Dialogue on Law in the 21st Century  Lesson plan and resources from the American Bar Association (M, H)  
  2. Taking the Mystery Out of Copyright  Videos from the Library of Congress (P, M)
  3. United States Patent and Trademark Office's 'Kids' Pages'  Games and Activities from the USPTO (P, M, H)

Additional Recommended Resources Off-Site Links

  1. A Constitutional Timeline
    • Multi-aged audience timeline that highlights key dates in history of Constitution, with links to text, audio and video clips. From National Constitution Center's Constitution Day site. 
  2. Interactive Constitution
    • Multi-aged audience site that enables users to search Constitution by keyword or topic, with access to explanatory materials throughout. From National Constitution Center.   
  3. The Annenberg Guide to the United States Constitution
    • Multi-aged audience site that lists the text of each section of every article in the Constitution, and provides explanation of what the text means in plain language.  From the Leonore Annenberg Institute of Civics. 
  4. Understanding the Federal Courts
    • Multi-aged online textbook-type document that includes sections on Article III, the Federal Court system and the geographical boundaries of the Courts of Appeal and the District Courts, the code of conduct for judges, juror qualifications, exemptions and terms of service, as well as categories of bankruptcy cases.  From the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts.