This course deals with the law of patents in Canada. Patent law is one of the main headings of intellectual property law (along with copyrights and trademarks); trade secrets arise from a combination of contracts, equity and property law. The regime of patents protects inventions by granting inventors a limited monopoly of twenty years in exchange for disclosing the invention to society. The essential justification of the patent system is that it enables and rewards innovation. Arguments may also be made that patents afford a secure means by which inventions may be put to commercial use by investors. The course will examine the statutory basis of patent law in Canada, the judicial construction and interpretation of both primary and subsidiary regulations of Canadian patent law. The course will also locate developments in Canadian patent law in the context of international and regional transformations in the field. In this context, the course will explore contemporary controversies over the expansion of patent rights in biotechnology (from patenting mousetraps to patenting mice), and the shift from copyright protection to patent protection for computer programs. It is expected that at the end course, students would have a solid understanding of Canadian patent law as well as how international developments shape and influence Canadian patent law.

Law & Social Change: Documentary Film and Law

Images form an increasingly important vehicle of communication in the digital era, and the legal field is not exempt from these developments. This course will provide students with tools for critically engaging with the expanding landscape of visual media in public culture, courtrooms and other legal advocacy settings. Through the close consideration of a diverse selection of documentary films, the course will invite students to assess, analyze and seek to understand the visual and cultural contexts through which the meanings and institutions of law are understood, interpreted and constantly re-negotiated in Canada and in the world. Among other questions, the course will consider how documentary films function as forms of visual legal advocacy, and students will receive instruction in how to produce their own short videos. Students will be educated in a variety of styles and techniques of visual legal advocacy. Overall, the course will consider the role that nonfiction film might play in the quest for a more responsive and inclusive legal order, within Canada as well as internationally.

Students will be guided towards the development of critical and generative attitudes to the role and value of the visual in legal advocacy through the assigned films and readings, reflective writing exercises, focused seminar discussion and the planning, shooting and editing of a short documentary. This course will satisfy both Osgoode’s Praxicum and, optionally, the Upper Year writing requirements.

Law & Social Change: Torts and Technology

Tort law is one of the law’s oldest areas of law, where one still encounters such Latin tags as “sic utere tuo ut alienum non laedas” and “volenti non fit injuria,” where some cases printed in the casebooks are a century older than printed books. Can this area of law be of any relevance to the brave new world of large language models in the metaverse? Perhaps. In 2023, Epic Games, the studio that developed the enormously popular video game “Fortnite,” was sued in both Quebec and British Columbia on the charge that their game was too addictive. Snapchat was sued in the United States after a traffic collision for allegedly encouraging its users to earn a “badge” by driving at excessive speeds. The leading Canadian case on invasion of privacy did not involve snooping into someone else’s bedroom but accessing their bank account details. Social media is full of statements that could be seen as defamatory, and more recently chatbots have added their voice, with one of them calling their interlocutor “worse than Hitler.”

The course aims to see what tort law can do to deal with these questions. It will start by considering the impact of technology on our lives; it will then turn to the question of the interrelationship between technological change and legal (especially tort) doctrine: how technological change influenced doctrine and whether doctrine can affect technological change. The main bulk of the course will be devoted to examining the law of defamation, harassment, and invasions of privacy. These areas of law are not new, but new technology has both given them greater urgency while maybe also exposing the limits of tort law for dealing with them.

Legal Engineering: Technology & Innovation in Legal Service Delivery

The course will require a laptop but does not require any technical, coding or engineering knowledge at all. This course will: (a) introduce students to how client needs have pushed the boundaries of legal service delivery to include elements of information/data, computer technology and artificial intelligence as both inputs to work product and components of the work product itself; (b) give students the practical skills in breaking down contracts and legislation into decision trees, develop markups and workflows for contract development and negotiations, attain basic experience with common legal technology applications, apply design thinking methodology to legal problems; and (c) give students an opportunity for reflection on the theoretical and practical implications of these changes to the practice of law. Various topics will be discussed, including:
1. Business and technological developments leading to new avenues in the practice of law
2. Design thinking: theory and practice
3. Decision tree development through legislative interpretation
4. Contract model development and markup
5. Contract automation and smart contracts
6. Artificial intelligence and its influence on:
a. Data extraction
b. Due diligence
c. E-Discovery
d. Judicial predictions
e. Legal self-serve chatbots
7. LegalTech startups and alternative career paths
8. Advancing access to justice through automated tools
9. No-Code application building for legal
10.Theoretical topics including:
a. Rules-based legislative drafting
b. The interaction between rules and legal reasoning
c. Ethical implications of A.I. and automation tools
d. Free speech and algorithmic review on social platforms