Since the first edition of this book appeared in 1999, the importance of intellectual property rights in today's society has become even more apparent. Millions of Americans share copyrighted works via the Internet, to the consternation of the music and film industries who, increasingly, turn to legal action to defend their interests. As these disputes run their course, copyright law will play a central role in shaping future technologies, business models, cultural developments and forms of personal expression. Patents too have become difficult to ignore. The mainstream press reports on the critical influence of patents in such fields as pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, software, and electronic commerce, frequently with the suggestion that overbroad patents, or their overzealous enforcement, may impede the very forces of innovation that patents are intended to promote. Patent owners, of course, vehemently disagree. In April 2004, a small company called InterTrust Technologies settled patent litigation against software giant Microsoft, which, if successful, could have stopped Microsoft from selling most of its product line. Fortune magazine called it “the biggest patent case ever.” If the case was extraordinary in scale, it was, in other respects, typical. In an information economy, the control of ideas can make or break any business, large or small.
Several comprehensive treatises, including Professor Donald Chisum's remarkable 14-volume work, discuss patent law in exhaustive detail. They include much history, countless recitations of authority, and sophisticated analysis of every nuance. For readers needing these things, they are indispensable. The goals of this book are far more modest. As with the first edition, my intention is to present the essentials of patent law in the clearest