Book Review - Intellectual Property Law: Copyright, Patents, Trade-Marks, 2nd Ed.

Book Review - Intellectual Property Law: Copyright, Patents, Trade-Marks, 2nd Ed.

Teresa Scassa is the Canada Research Chair in Information Law at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law.

The publication of the second edition of David Vaver’s Intellectual Property Law: Copyright, Patents, Trade-Marks is a welcome event. The first edition of this book, published in 1997,was a lucid and concise account of the three main areas of intellectual property law: copyright, trademarks and patents. The book’s conciseness did not detract from its value. Professor Vaver’s experience and depth of knowledge of the subject matter, combined with his talent for expressing himself with clarity and simplicity all contributed to a slim book that spoke figurative volumes.

The second edition of Intellectual Property Law can hardly be described as concise – it has 833 pages compared to the 348 pages of the first edition. Yet there is nothing flabby about this account of the law. The reality is that intellectual property in this post-industrial age has undergone significant changes and expansion. Entire new fields of technology which seemed like science fiction in 1997 are standard fare today. Biotechnology, nanotechnology, digitization, the internet, and mobile communications – to name just a few – have all presented new and often difficult challenges for intellectual property law systems.  In addition the growing international dimensions of intellectual property law have also led to significant changes in law, policy and practice.  The universe of intellectual property has expanded, and with it has Professor Vaver’s book.

The new edition adopts a structure similar to the original. A general introduction to intellectual property law is followed by main sections covering copyright, patent and trademark law. There is also a substantial chapter on the management and enforcement of rights. Each topic is addressed in a systematic way; headings and subheadings are used to guide the reader through different key points. The structure is logical, and although it distills the main areas of intellectual property law to their essence, the book is not a bare and descriptive text.  Professor Vaver’s introduction speaks to the fundamental shifts and transformations in the field of intellectual property law. These include the pressure to expand intellectual property protection, the ongoing importance of intellectual property in the international trade arena, and the growing public engagement with IP issues. Professor Vaver makes his perspective clear here, and throughout the book. IP rights must be reconciled with other crucial social values:  “the right of people to imitate others, to work, compete, talk, and write freely, and to nurture common cultures” (page 14). For those who are new to the field of intellectual property law, it is important to understand how central Professor Vaver’s work has been to the maturing of intellectual property law as a serious academic field of study in Canada. Professor Vaver began his academic career in the early 1970’s in New Zealand before moving to the University of British Columbia in the latter part of that decade.  In 1985 he arrived at Osgoode Hall Law School, where he taught IP and IT law for many years, and began to develop a body of serious scholarship in this area. At the time, he was one of only a handful of IP scholars in Canada. For the most part, Canadian law schools offered a course in IP law, if at all, as a practitioner-taught “trade” course. Professor Vaver’s first edition of Intellectual Property Law, and the book Copyright Law which followed shortly thereafter, were important books for IP in Canada. These books made IP law accessible and engaging to a new generation of law students, and they were cornerstones for the maturing intellectual property law scholarship in Canada. Professor Vaver’s academic leadership in this field eventually resulted in his move to the University of Oxford in 1998, as Director of its Intellectual Property Research Centre.  In 2007 he transitioned to a new role as Emeritus Professor of Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law at the University of Oxford. He also returned to Osgoode Hall Law School to add his considerable academic weight to that school’s new centre for intellectual property studies, IP Osgoode. As Justice Rothstein observes in his preface to the second edition of Intellectual Property Law, “David Vaver is in the very top rank of the most highly respected experts in the field of intellectual property law” (page xxv of Preface).

There could hardly be a better text for a Canadian student of IP law. The second edition of Intellectual Property Law is comprehensive without being overwhelming. The book addresses the full range of issues: from the elements of each main area of intellectual property law, to constitutional concerns, issues of territoriality, international treaties, first nations issues and areas for law reform. While some of these issues are touched upon only briefly, the book is intended as a starting point and not an end point. Each chapter concludes with suggestions for further readings and the footnotes throughout reference both case law and academic writing.

Yet this book is not just for law students. Judges and practitioners will find it a useful reference tool and will value it for its clarity, comprehensiveness and insight. In addition, the book will be of use to the growing number of individuals not trained in law whose lives are touched by intellectual property law, as creators, users, policy makers, or entrepreneurs.  As Vaver writes in his preface, “The aim is to make IP law and policy accessible to whoever wishes to know more about them, be they students, lawyers or members of the general public, particularly those who rely, whether they know it or not, on IP in their daily lives” (page xxvii of Preface). This goal seems to be fully realized. Although heavier to lift, the second edition has not lost its accessibility to a very wide range of readers with a very diverse set of interests in intellectual property law.