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SITeC-Oriented Law Course To Debut in Spring

“Intellectual Property Law for Engineers and Scientists” Will Be Part of Institute’s Graduate Certificate Program Available Via DEN

October 21, 2005 —
 A new law course designed for the USC Mark & Mary Stevens Institute for Technology Commercialization (SITeC) curriculum begins in spring.

Jennifer Urban of the USC Gould School designed and will teach SITeC-oriented Law 599x
Jennifer Urban of the USC Gould Law School created Law 599x, “Intellectual Property Law for Engineers and Scientists,” specifically for SITeC. She designed it, she wrote, to teach “engineers, scientists and other inventors … what you need to know about patents, copyrights, trade secrets and trademarks in order to protect your inventions and add value to your USC degree.”

The three-credit course, taught in a combination of lectures and interactive format, will be available totally online via the Viterbi School’s innovative Distance Education Network.

It targets engineers and scientists but is open to all USC graduate students.  Gould Law School students, however, cannot take it for credit. It will count toward SITeC’s newly initiated Graduate Certificate in Engineering Technology Commercialization.

Founded in November 2004 by a $22 million donation from USC alumnus and venture capitalist Mark Stevens, SITeC enrolled its first students, graduate and undergraduate, in the fall, 2005 semester.

“We have long been working closely with the USC Marshall School of Business,” Peter Beerel, an associate professor in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering who is SITeC’s faculty director of educational programs. “We are delighted that the Gould School is now broadening our scope in an area that is critical to our mission.”

Urban’s prospectus lays out the background of the course. “Intellectual property—patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets—is in the news. IBM has decided use some of its patents ‘defensively.’ Grokster and other peer-to-peer companies’ future are in question after a recent Supreme Court decision. Lexmark has been told by a court that it can’t successfully sue a small company that makes competing printer cartridges for its printers. Google is under fire for its advertisement program. IP is in the tech press, the business press and the entertainment pages. Why? Because IP has made the technology revolution possible. When you take your product to a venture capitalist or to the VP of Development, they want to know: what intellectual property coverage can we get? IP is the way that inventors and creators obtain “property” protection for their work, and avoiding the IP of competitors is crucial to an engineer’s ability to design a new product that is marketable.

“Most inventors are familiar with the concept of a patent, but the process for obtaining a patent is complicated and non-intuitive,” Urban continues. “Further, many inventors do not think about all the other kinds of intellectual property, each of which is important: copyrights can protect computer software and are the basis of open source licenses; trade secrets protect everything from inventions to customer lists; and trademarks are used to build the goodwill of the business and branding.

“As such, Law 599x will cover the basics of all of these types of intellectual property, from a practical technology business perspective. IP, of course, doesn’t only protect your inventions—it protects everyone else’s inventions, too. How do you avoid infringing the IP of others? When do you have to worry about what your customers do with your product? We will cover the basics of infringement, as well, and discuss how to avoid opening yourself or your company up to a lawsuit.”

More information on the course is available SITeC web site at http://viterbi.usc.edu/sitec. DEN availability is described at http://den.usc.edu.