LL4BP      Half Unit
Current Issues in Intellectual and Cultural Property Law

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Sivaramjani Thambisetty Ramakrishna NAB.7.29


This course is available on the LLM (extended part-time), LLM (full-time), MSc in Law, Anthropology and Society and University of Pennsylvania Law School LLM Visiting Students. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course is capped at 30 students. Students must apply through Graduate Course Choice on LSEforYou.

This course will be relevant to the following LLM specialisms: Intellectual Property Law; Legal Theory and Competition, Innovation and Trade Law.

Course content

This course takes a broadly historical, theoretical and contextual approach to the study of intellectual and cultural property law. It focuses on a set of topical questions that illuminate paradigms, institutional models and social and economic formations that cut across the diversity of intellectual and cultural property regimes; questions about the nature of property in intangible things, about the implications of the transnational expansion of intellectual property forms and institutions, about the role of comparative analysis in the study of intellectual property, or about how regimes forged in the era of industrialization have adapted to new modes of production and distribution.

These expansive questions are not asked in abstraction. Seminars will focus on specific case studies of institutions, transactional forms and social effects. Many of these studies are chosen for their topicality, so the contents of the course will evolve from year to year, but seminar topics might include: the nature of the link between legal incentives and technological innovation; the usefulness of economic models in understanding the proprietary value of patents, the emergence of new regimes of open source biotechnology and the governance of synthetic biology, the re-emergence of old tensions between author’s rights in copyright in the context of digitised information and distribution of works, what follows from the consideration of intellectual property as a human right, the use and misuse of the public domain in intellectual property discourses, the nature of 'negative spaces' (the fashion industry, magicians, manga and stand up comedy) within the otherwise pervasive order of intellectual property, the evolution of non-conventional trade marks such as scents, textures and shapes; the effects of regime-shifting between different international frameworks for the regulation of questions of intellectual property; the use and circulation of genetic resources under the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Law of the Sea Convention and the tensions with IP norms and sustainable use of these resources, the bases of markets in cultural property and heritage. The object of the course is to introduce key themes in critical debates about intellectual property, and to offer a set of conceptual resources that might be drawn upon in more specialized LLM courses in intellectual property.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 20 hours in Lent Term. Students will usually have two additional hours in the Summer Term. This year teaching will be delivered through recorded online lectures and a mix of both in-person and online classes to accommodate students who are unable to physically be on campus. This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of Lent Term.

Formative coursework

All students are expected to produce one 2,000 word formative essay during the course.

Indicative reading

  • Biagioli, Jaszi & Woodmansee, Making and Unmaking Intellectual Property (2011).
  • Benkler, The Wealth of Networks (2006).
  • Boyle, The Public Domain. Enclosing the Commons of the Mind (2009).
  • Miles, Art as Plunder. The Ancient Origins of Debate About Cultural Property (2008).


Essay (100%, 8000 words) in the ST.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2019/20: 14

Average class size 2019/20: 14

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information