OU Law Professor Sarah Burstein named Chair of the ABA Design Committee

August 8, 2014 | By Jessica Jones

The American Bar Association Section of Intellectual Property Law (ABA/IPL) has named OU Law Professor Sarah Burstein chair of its Design Committee.  While she does not officially assume the role until September 1st, she is already getting down to business.  She has spearheaded the effort to change the committee’s name from the Industrial Design Committee to the Design Committee.   

“The basic goal was to change the name to "better reflect the products and processes that are the key subjects of design protection in the 21st century,” said Professor Burstein.   

The term “industrial design” suggests a focus on the products and processes of 20th-century mass production. And while this remains an important area of great interest to the committee, individuals and companies now seek intellectual property protection for subject matter that does not neatly fit into the “industrial design” box—things like computer interface design and user experience design. At the same time, formerly discrete areas of design are converging. For example, Google just hired a fashion designer to head up its Google Glass division and Apple has hired fashion-industry executives to head its retail division and to work on special projects. 

All of these changes present significant challenges and opportunities with respect to intellectual property law. Indeed, despite its formal name and description, the committee has been interested in a broader swath of “design” for years; for example, the committee’s CLE presentation at the 24th Annual Intellectual Property Law Conference included a discussion of fashion law.

Professor Burstein would also like to get the committee and students more involved with the ABA/IPL.  She said many students are not award of the fact they can join the ABA for a nominal fee.  If you are interested in finding out more about the student membership of ABA, click here (opens in new window). If you are interested in learning more about design law, a course description is included below.

6100 - Design Law
(3 hours). This course focuses on intellectual property protection for designs. Specific areas of coverage will include design patents, copyright in useful articles, trade dress, and sui generis design laws, including recent attempts to expand sui generis protection to fashion designs. Although this course will mainly focus on U.S. law, it will also cover the European design protection system and the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs. No technical background is required.

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