LAW5611 - Comparative issues in patent law - 2019

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.



Chief examiner(s)

Professor Ann Monotti

Quota applies

The unit can be taken by a maximum of 45 students (due to limited facilities and method of teaching).

Unit guides



  • Term 2 2019 (On-campus)


This unit will examine from an international and comparative perspective some fundamental questions that arise in patent law:

  • Why is a twenty year monopoly in the form of a patent available for inventions? We will critically analyse this question with reference to the origins of patent laws and with reference to the varied past and present rationales that support patent protection;
  • What subject matter should patent law protect? In particular, it will focus on the challenges posed to patent law by new and emerging technologies in areas such as higher life forms, methods of medical and surgical treatment, business and financial systems and genetic materials;
  • Why can an inventor choose to keep an invention secret instead of seeking patent protection? We critically evaluate the justifications for inventors to have this choice; and
  • What balance should exist between a patentee's exclusive rights and the public domain?

The unit will consider the obligations that relevant international treaties and conventions impose on member states in the design of their patent laws. Within the context of this international structure, it will immerse students in understanding and critically analysing how Australia and three other jurisdictions (selected from Canada, the United States of America, the European Union, the United Kingdom and New Zealand) approach the above questions. No technical background is required or expected, nor is any previous work in patent law needed.


On successful completion of this unit students will :

  1. Critically appraise:
    • the obligations that international treaties and conventions impose on member states;
    • the challenges that these obligations present for the design of domestic patent and trade secrecy laws; and
    • the manner in which domestic laws comply with these obligations.
  2. Identify and evaluate the theoretical and policy concerns underpinning the patent system and its relationship with trade secret protection;
  3. Critically analyse and evaluate, from a comparative perspective, national responses to each of the fundamental questions that this unit identifies for consideration;
  4. Demonstrate advanced skills of independent research and critical analysis; and
  5. Communicate effectively both as individuals and as part of a group, both orally and in writing.


Attendance requirement: Students who fail to attend at least 80% of the classes in this unit (ie who miss 3 or more classes) will receive a result of 0 N for the unit. Students who are unable to meet this requirement due to severe illness or other exceptional circumstances must make an application for in-semester special consideration with supporting documentation.

Group seminar presentation: 10%

Group seminar report (750 words): 10%

Take-home exam (2,250 words): 30%

Research assignment (3,750 words) 50%

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

Intellectual property law

International and comparative law