Over the last 20 years, the legal regimes that protect patents, copyrights and trademarks have become increasingly important, as the knowledge, creative and information economies have developed into big business. As a result, law schools have moved the field of intellectual property from the periphery toward the core of the curriculum. Tulane Law School is unique in recognizing that IP operates within a global realm, requiring a background in civil law as well as common law. Training at Tulane incorporates the study of local, national, and global issues arising from social media, the Internet, global distribution of films, development and patent and many other areas. We strive to prepare our students for the 21st century world, with all its complexities.
At Tulane Law School, the study of intellectual property starts with a required IP survey course, offered every summer and fall to second- and third-year students, that provides an overview of trademark, copyright, patent, right of publicity, trade secrets and unfair competition. At least half of every incoming class participates in the IP survey course, with about 50 students continuing to more advanced classes. The survey course provides a valuable base of knowledge even for students who don’t plan to specialize in IP — for instance, a business attorney whose client runs into trademark questions will recognize the issue and know to call in a trademark specialist.
Tulane’s advanced courses cover the traditional areas of copyright, trademark and patents but also include specialized opportunities to explore social media, art law, privacy and protection of cultural objects, along with emerging issues such as new technologies, international protection of intellectual property rights, communications law and sports law. Students are encouraged to take the IP seminar in their third year for the opportunity to specialize in a topic of their choosing, with teachers who are full-time faculty members and adjunct faculty practicing IP law.
In addition, the IP program has partnered with Tulane’s highly regarded Sports Law program to offer courses that focus on the broadening range of intellectual property issues that arise in the sports industry. We have sports law-focused classes in trademark, antitrust and international intellectual property.
The program offers students tremendous opportunities: The Entertainment Law Legal Assistance program allows students to spend their (required) pro bono hours working with New Orleans musicians, artists and filmmakers on real-world cases. Our Art and Culture program in Siena, Italy, each summer looks at the intersection of art law with preservation of culture and international intellectual property. And we are working with the Tulane technology officer, the New Orleans BioInnovation Center and Tulane University science and medical departments to give law students real-world experiences related to patent prosecution, including a Patent Prosecution course, pro bono opportunities, externships with companies engaged in emerging technologies and one-on-one experience with scientists and others working to create new inventions and products.
IP and entrepreneurship students can undertake a specialized track that includes working directly with New Orleans-area start-up venture incubators, including Propeller, and Idea Village. Students already have been placed in externship and pro bono opportunities, such as working with Baker Donelson’s Pro Bono Clinic. Examples of projects Tulane students have worked on include legal assistance (with lawyers supervision) for Parasite, an organic skate park, and Where Y’Art, a virtual curated company that helps local artists distribute and promote their work.
Tulane’s expanding emphasis on preparing students with hands-on training includes the experience of developing the Durationator Copyright Experiment, a project directed by Professor Elizabeth Townsend Gard. Over seven years, more than 70 students have worked on the project (in paid positions) to help create a system to determine the copyright status of every kind of cultural work (poem, movie, song, etc.) for every jurisdiction in the world. The patent-pending technology has been spun out to a start-up company, and students continue to help build the company and refine the technology. This living laboratory has introduced students to the issues and struggles of a start-up, and select students have traveled to the United Kingdom and Germany to represent the Durationator at major conferences on copyright.
The copyright class also regularly responds to calls for comment from the U.S. Copyright Office as federal legislation is being developed in areas including Pre-1972 Sound Recordings and Orphan Works. Tulane also has supported student travels to speak at Copyright Office roundtables in Washington, D.C., as part of the legislative drafting process.
Three student organizations (Entertainment & Art Law Society, Sports Law Society and Technology & Intellectual Property Society) and two journals (the online Tulane Journal of Technology & Intellectual Property and the Sports Lawyers Journal) provide students the opportunity to explore their interests further.
Tulane IP Faculty
Associate Professor Elizabeth Townsend Gard, Jill H. and Avram A. Glazer Professor of Social Entrepreneurship
Associate Professor Gabe Feldman, Sports Law program director, associate provost for NCAA compliance
Visiting Professor David Nimmer
Adjunct Professor of Law Seth M. Nehrbass
Adjunct Professor of Law Brett North
Adjunct Lecturer in Law Ashlye M. Keaton
Tulane Center for IP Law and Culture (IPC)
The Tulane Law Center for IP Law and Culture, founded in 2008, promotes the study, research, teaching and applications of intellectual property law as it intersects with culture and the political economy, within a comparative, international and local context. The center has hosted events such as an "Impossible Copyright Questions Roundtable;" “Writing IP” sessions; a “Future of Copyright” speaker series; and special lectures by notables including David Nimmer and Anthony Reese. The center has served as a venue for the Copyright Principles Project and the Works-in-Progress IP Colloquium; hosted AALS Annual Meeting IP receptions; and sponsored Culturefest, a New Orleans display of the art and culture of Tulane Law School faculty, staff and students.
Some of our activities:
— Copyright Research Lab
The Copyright Research Lab is the working space for large-scale
projects of the Tulane Center for IP Law and Culture, including the Durationator Copyright Experiment, a software system for
determining the copyright status of any kind of work anywhere in the world. Developed
by Professor Elizabeth Townsend Gard, the technology is licensed to Limited Times, a spin-off company that has partnered with Thomson Reuters for worldwide
distribution and marketing.
Other Copyright Research Lab projects include participation
in U.S. Copyright Office comment periods regarding pre-1972 sound records and orphan
works. The lab, whose goal is to support research into difficult copyright
questions, also has sent students to key conferences in Oxford, Berlin, Texas,
Berkeley and Washington, D.C.
— SISE Law/Culture/Innovation Institute at Tulane University (LCI)
The Tulane Center for IP Law and Culture is an inaugural partner with the Law/Culture/Innovation Institute, which is housed in Tulane University’s Social Innovation Social Entrepreneur program and co-directed by W. Ron Gard and Professor Elizabeth Townsend Gard. LCI collaborates with the law school to continue to create opportunities for IP-focused and entrepreneurial students — classes, pro bono service, externships and job opportunities.
Entertainment Law Legal Assistance Program
ELLA is an initiative of Tulane Law School’s pro bono program, the Tipitina’s Foundation and the Arts Council of New Orleans. The program was formed in January 2005 in response to the overwhelming need for legal services by artists and entertainers who could not otherwise afford to hire attorneys to protect and enforce their rights. Entertainment law attorney Ashlye Keaton, an expert on IP issues, supervises Tulane law students as they help provide pro bono legal advice.
ELLA has served more than 400 individuals with a variety of legal assistance. For example, students helped a band legally protect its music by establishing a sound framework for conducting business and recouping revenue from intellectual property: incorporating a publishing company, filing the copyrights with the Library of Congress, registering the songwriters and newly formed publishing company with BMI, and developing an operating agreement for the company.
ELLA has assisted artists with life rights issues, sync licenses, mechanical licenses and master use licenses for film and soundtracks, as well as non-entertainment concerns, such as landlord-tenant disputes and successions to help clients establish the documentation needed to secure post-Katrina housing settlements.