Faculty of Law

Postgraduate - Unit

This unit entry is for students who completed this unit in 2014 only. For students planning to study the unit, please refer to the unit indexes in the the current edition of the Handbook. If you have any queries contact the managing faculty for your course or area of study.

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6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered, or view unit timetables.

FacultyFaculty of Law
OfferedNot offered in 2014


This course examines patentable subject matter across Canada, the US, the UK and Australia. It examines the most fundamental question in patent law: namely, what is an 'invention'? In other words, is this the type of "stuff" that patent law should protect with a twenty (20) year monopoly?
Indeed, the meaning of "invention" is far from a doctrinal topic "bedevilled by verbal formulae" and "sterile argument about the meaning of words". For, "whoever controls the meaning of 'invention' controls what can be patented and hence an important aspect of industrial policy." (Peter Prescott QC, sitting as deputy judge, in CFPH LLC, (Patent Applications Nos. 0226884.3 and 0419317.3), [2005] EWHC 1589).

This course will therefore cover novel aspects of patentability: from software and business methods to higher life forms (including even half-monkey half-human chimeras).

No technical background required or expected, nor is any previous work in patent law needed.

Seminar 1: Introduction to patentable subject matter, and basic patent law principles.
Seminar 2: Patentable subject matter in Canada.
Seminar 3: Patentable subject matter in Canada (cont'd).
Seminar 4: Patentable subject matter in the US.
Seminar 5: Patentable subject matter in the US (cont'd).
Seminar 6: Group work and/or presentations.
Seminar 7: Patentable subject matter in the UK.
Seminar 8: Patentable subject matter in the UK (cont'd).
Seminar 9: Patentable subject matter in Australia.
Seminar 10: Patentable subject matter in Australia (cont'd).
Seminar 11: Group work and/or presentations.
Seminar 12: Revision


At the end of the course, it is expected that students will:

  1. be familiar with the existing body of jurisprudence and major academic writings in the area of patentable subject matter;
  2. extrapolate and critically assess the evolving principles and themes embodied in that jurisprudence and literature;
  3. be able to better articulate, understand and apply those principles in practice.


Research assignment (6,000 words) 80%
Critical case comment (1,500 words) 20%

Chief examiner(s)

Workload requirements

36 contact hours per teaching period (either intensive, semi-intensive or semester long, depending on the Faculty resources, timetabling and requirements)

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study


LAW7212 for non-law LLM students or LAW7470 for JD students or equivalent


LAW7212 for non-law LLM students or LAW7470 for JD students or equivalent