LL4BM      Half Unit
The Legal Protection of Inventions

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Siva Thambisetty


This course is available on the LLM (extended part-time), LLM (full-time) 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.

Students interested in this subject are encouraged to consider enrolling onto Innovation, Technology and Patent Law (LL4BN) in the Winter Term.

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

Course content

Legally defined inventions are everywhere - in the tap or touch of a smartphone, in the food we relish, the medicines we need, the clothes we want, and in the buildings we choose to live in. Despite the vast differences in the subject matter of patents and the constant rise of unprecedented technologies, the legislative architecture of patent law remains on the face of it, technology neutral. The normative justifications for patent rights overwhelmingly focus on the incentive effect of these monopoly rights even as they raise issues such as inequities in access to medicines and essential technologies, socialisation of the risks of research and development, bioethical concerns around biotechnology or fears about food security raised by patents on genetic modification technologies.

The aim of this course is to develop a sound critical approach to the general principles of the legal protection of inventions and gain familiarity with widely different contexts of innovation. The course will cover patent prosecution, patentability criteria, patent eligibility and exceptions in sectors as diverse as software, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. A comparative approach based on UK, EU and US patent law will be adopted where relevant. Dominant narratives around the justification of patents in different sectors will be examined through carefully chosen cases.

Students do not need a scientific background and will be supported in understanding technical aspects. Unlike past years when the course was examined by a long essay, in 2023-24 the summative assessment will involve an examination for 100% of the marks.

Topics covered include: Novelty, inventive step, person skilled in the art, industrial applicability, sufficiency of disclosure, patent eligibility of computer implemented inventions and biotechnology, and exceptions (such as animal varieties, diagnostic methods, on grounds of morality).


Two hours of teaching each week, part lecture and part seminar in Winter Term. There will be a Reading Week in Week 6 of Winter Term.

Formative coursework

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

Indicative reading

Bentley, Sherman, Gangiee and Johnson Intellectual Property Law Oxford University Press 2018

Tanya Aplin Intellectual Property Law: Text, Cases and Materials (Oxford University Press 2013)

Justine Pila The Requirement for an Invention in Patent Law (OUP 2010)


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours, reading time: 15 minutes) in the spring exam period.

Key facts

Department: Law School

Total students 2022/23: Unavailable

Average class size 2022/23: Unavailable

Controlled access 2022/23: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

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