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Intellectual Property Law for Engineers
About This Course

All engineers should be particularly concerned with patent law. This constitutionally-based discipline has to do with the process by which an invention, and its creator, are protected by the law from infringement and unfair competition. The class will deal with patent applications, research and prosecution; the law of infringement, and computer applications of software (protected by copyright) and hardware (by patents). We will also state what other concepts are patented, as well as machines, processes, mixtures, manufacturing, compositions of materials and methods of doing business and research. Not only do we deal with utility patents, but with design and plant patents as well.

Although we are mostly concerned with patent law, we also deal with copyright, trademark, trade dress, trade secrets and business methods. The engineer must be at least conversant with the other forms of intellectual property. In a relatively short time, we will give you a survey of the rights of creative and ingenious people and provide you with the information to protect yourself and your ideas in Intellectual Property matters. Coursework in Intellectual Property is equivalent to 45 clock hours of study.


Your instructor, Bill Thoms, is professor emeritus of law at the University of North Dakota, where he taught for a quarter century. Currently he is an Associate Research Fellow at the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute, North Dakota State University.

Course Objectives:

At the end of this program, the participants will be able to:


You will be expected to spend an average of 8 hours per week reading and completing writing assignments. Please note that, barring extenuating circumstances, extensions will not be granted for this online course. 70% is the minimum passing score on all tests and assignments for this course. Students may consider working ahead in the curriculum if they have the time.

Course Books

Required textbooks for this course:

For more information, call The Center for Legal Studies at 800-522-7737, or visit our Online Store to order.

Highly Recommended Legal Resources:

Reading Assignments for Lesson Topics:
Lesson One: Introduction to Intellectual Property Law
Read “Top Ten List of Intellectual Property Protection” starting on page xxvii and Chapters 1, 4, 22, 23, 24, 25, & 26 in Intellectual Property Law for Engineers and Scientists (IPL)
Lesson Two: The Business of IP
Read Chapters 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 19, & 20 in IPL
Lesson Three: Utility, Design, and Plant Patents
Read Chapters 13, 14, 15, & 16 in IPL
Lesson Four: The Patent Application
Read Chapters 3 & 9 in IPL
Lesson Five: The Patent Application
Read Chapters 10, 11, & 12 in IPL
Lesson Six: Protecting Yourself in IP Matters
Read Chapters 18 & 21 in IPL


For each lesson you will submit a 50 point short answer/essay assignment covering the topics in that lesson’s reading. These assignments are due by 9:00 a.m. each Friday.


You will complete two exams. Each is worth 100 points. The Midterm exam is to be submitted with your Lesson Three Assignments; the Final exam is to be submitted with your Lesson Six Assignments.

Bulletin Board Assignments:

You will also post your responses to six class participation assignments. These assignments are referred to as Bulletin Board Submissions and will be submitted by either selecting Bulletin Board Submission from within the lesson material, or by selecting ‘Forums’ under Activities on the Left Hand Block.

All lesson objectives and assignments can be found in the Lesson Materials.


Your grade will be based on your completion of six tests, two exams, and class participation/Bulletin Board Submissions. The exams and tests can be accessed from within the lesson material, or by selecting ‘Assignments’ under Activities on the Left Hand Block. You will have the opportunity to engage in “class participation” by using the Bulletin Board tool to respond to the bulletin board assignments throughout the course. Also, participating in the bulletin board assignments will enhance your understanding of the reading material.

Your final grade will be figured as follows:

Withdrawal Policy

Students may drop the course with a full tuition refund less a non-refundable $15 administrative fee if written notice is sent to The Center for Legal Studies by email at by the Wednesday before class begins. Students may drop the course with a 50% tuition refund if written notice is sent to The Center for Legal Studies by email at anytime from the Thursday before the course begins until the first Thursday of class. After the first Thursday of class, no refunds will be issued.