LL4BP      Half Unit
Current Issues in Intellectual and Cultural Property Law

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Siva Thambisetty


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

This course has a limited number of places and we cannot guarantee all students will get a place.

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 industrialisation 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 complexity; the use and circulation of genetic resources under the Convention on Biological Diversity; the tensions with IP norms and biodiversity commons, and 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 specialised LLM courses in intellectual property.


This course will have two hours of teaching content each week in Michaelmas Term, either in the form of a two hour seminar or an online lecture and one hour class. There will be a Reading Week in Week 6 of Michaelmas 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.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 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 differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching 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 2020/21: 13

Average class size 2020/21: 13

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information