Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Book reviews: Practical Approach to Trade Mark Law (4th ed), The Requirement for an Invention in Patent Paw, Working within the Boundaries of Intellectual Property

I was once book reviews editor for the Business Law Review. Even after I stopped doing that, I found books from Oxford University Press appearing regularly, on arcane subjects like capital markets law, takeovers, arbitration and the World Trade Organisation. Some, I am embarrassed to admit, are doing duty as doorstops.

Eventually I managed to stem the flow of not-really-wanted books (there being no such thing as an unwanted book), but recently it has started again. This time, though, the books are on intellectual property subjects. Having checked that they weren't coming to me at the behest of a publication that would expect a review, I decided (with a little help from a friend) that I should review them here. Who knows? The flow might even increase as a result. And with a book of my own nearing completion, it might not be a bad idea to say some nice things about other people's books.

A Practical Approach to Trade Mark Law, by Amanda Michaels (now with Andrew Norris, for the fourth edition) really needs no introduction - does it? Fourth editions don't often get reviews - second editions don't, for that matter - but I am happy to write that I am pleased to have this book to hand. It's clearly laid out and clearly written: the commentary on trade mark law fills 234 pages, which means it is not a deep treatment of the subject (but if it were, it would have a rather different title, wouldn't it?). I would have created more than 9 chapters out of the material, so that the numbering of the paragraphs which is usually fairly helpful would not have 9.157 and so on - a bit more subdividing would, I think, have aided clarity and accessibility.

It's good to have remedies and procedure covered, as befits a practical book, and likewise the chapter on practice and procedure in the UK Registry and OHIM (although it's only 24 pages): 20 pages on passing off might however be too little to be of much help, though of course a book on trade marks can't ignore the subject. I don't need the 1994 Act (or the Directive and Regulation) in such a book, really, and I do sometimes wonder whether publishers are just bulking up tomes that would otherwise look too slim for their comfort. But, as Lord Justice Jacob says in his Foreword, "A non-specialist lawyer faced with a trade mark problem could hardly do better than start from here" (the context makes clear that he meant the book, not the Foreword, though that in itself is an excellent read). And at £44.95 it's very reasonably priced, for a law book.

Only £15 more would get you The Requirement for an Invention in Patent Law by Justine Pila (an Oxford lecturer, among other distinctions). Of course, it would be no good if you wanted a book on trade marks - I'll give up trying to create any sort of connection between them. This is a hardback, 351 pages in total, not copies of statutes to pad it out but no Foreword by Sir Robin either (it seems that one a year might be his limit, going by what he wrote in Amanda's book). It explores an interesting area that shouldn't really even exist, because the patent system is so self-evidently, inherently, about inventions that surely the requirement for an invention in patent law is, in modern parlance, a no-brainer? But of course the Patents Act 1977 fails to define an invention - it merely tells us about inventions that aren't patentable - so there is something to discuss, and discuss it the author does. This isn't a book to dip into for practical guidance, but it doesn't pretend to be: it is a densely argued examination of one small part of patent law, and a completely different reading experience from the Michaels book. I will, I am sure, learn something new every time I dip into it. I won't dip into it in search of an answer to a client's problem, as I might the trade marks book, but it certainly won't be gathering dust on my shelf either.

Working Within the Boundaries of Intellectual Property is sub-titled Innovation Policy For The Knowledge Society, which tells you quite a lot about it. Edited by Rochelle C. Dreyfuss, Diane L. Zimmerman, and Harry First, who can fairly be described as American academic lawyers, it features a cast of dozens - the chapters being based on papers submitted to a conference presumably a year or two ago - the date doesn't seem to be mentioned. 
This is a companion volume to the "highly acclaimed" (as the publishers describe it) book, Expanding the Boundaries of Intellectual Property, published by Oxford University Press in 2001. That work argued for "strong private rights whilst at the same time calling for caution in the expansionary trend. In the period since the first volume," the blurb goes on, "intellectual property protection has grown ever stronger, and this new book focuses on finding ways to cope with the fragmentation of rights and the complex framework this expansion of rights has created." I can certainly relate to that stuff about expansionary trends.
Among the topics covered are patent clearing models, standard setting organizations, licensing arrangements and informal work-arounds. The book also examines the measures that seek to protect the public domain, including strategic licensing, collective rights organizations, and non-profit ventures such as creative commons and open-source publishing. It's multi-national and cross-disciplinary, but obviously most of what it contains is going to be of interest to intellectual property lawyers. Not practitioners in search of answers to their clients' problems, of course, but this is an area of law where the practitioners are often as interested as the academics in this sort of approach. Again, I am going to be dipping into this work, enjoyably, for a long time to come - and learning something new every time I open it. 524 pages and £75 - it is a hardback, too, so that's not a bad price.

Now, one book that I'd really like to review is Jonathan Turner's new one, Intellectual Property and EU Competition Law, the launch party for which I attended not long ago. But given that it's twice the price of the most expensive of this trio, I don't expect I'll be finding a copy on my desk when I next go into the office.

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