LAW5321 - Protecting commercial innovation: Patents and trade secrets - 2017

6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

Postgraduate - Unit

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



Quota applies

Postgraduate programs are based on a model of small group teaching and therefore class sizes need to be restricted.

Unit guides


City (Melbourne)

  • Term 3 2017 (Day)


For postgraduate Law discontinuation dates, please see

For postgraduate Law unit timetables, please see

Previously coded as LAW7119


This is an important unit for any student who practises or seeks to practise in the area of intellectual property law or who works in an innovative commercial environment where research results in new products and processes. A patent provides the patentee with a critical and powerful tool for commercial exploitation of new inventions in all fields of technology. Invention is necessarily exciting and dynamic and leads to cutting edge innovation in such areas as biotechnology, nanotechnology, medical and therapeutic devices and treatments, business methods and systems and internet related inventions. The grant of patent monopoly rights provides the owner with a powerful tool that directly impacts on competition. A patent can have significant implications for users and the public in general who seek access to new technology on reasonable terms.

An essential feature of the patent system is the public disclosure of the invention in return for the patent monopoly but the use of that information is restrained by the scope of the patentee's exclusive rights. The equitable doctrine of breach of confidence provides an alternative form of protection for inventions where secrecy is maintained.

This unit teaches the fundamental principles of patent law and the laws that protect trade secrets in an interactive manner and with recourse to both legal and practical materials that aid understanding and appreciation of the underlying concepts and policy issues.


On completion of this unit students will be able to:

  • apply knowledge and understanding of recent developments in relation to the law of patents and trade secrets with creativity and initiative to new situations involving inventors, enterprises and other persons engaged in the process of innovation;
  • investigate, analyse and synthesise complex information, problems, concepts and theories in relation to the legal protection of inventions under the law of patents and trade secrets;
  • conduct research into relevant domestic and international materials on contemporary issues that concern patent law, its relationship with competition law or the laws under which secret commercial information is protectable based on knowledge of appropriate research principle and methods;
  • use cognitive, technical and creative skills to generate and evaluate at an abstract level complex ideas and concepts relevant to the legal protection of commercial innovation; and
  • meet the requirements of the Professional Standards Board for Patent and Trade Marks Attorneys in relation to Patent Law (topic group E).


Research assignment (3,750 words): 50%

Take-home exam (3,750 words): 50%

Workload requirements

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

Chief examiner(s)