Trademark & Branding Law syllabus

Professor Ira Steven Nathenson

St. Thomas University School of Law

Trademark & Branding Law, Spring 2017

Phone: 305-474-2454
Course website:
Class time: Tue. & Thur. 2:00-3:15PM, room A-111
Office hours: Tues. 3:30-5:30PM, Wed. noon-2:00PM, Thurs. 3:30-5:30PM, and by appointment


This course qualifies for skills credits.

Brand names such as COCA-COLA, NIKE, and APPLE are much more than trademarks: they are icons of modern culture.  The core of brand-name law is trademark law, the law governing fair and unfair competition regarding the words and symbols used by businesses for their goods and services. But in an information age, the law of brand names touches far more than hornbook trademark law, including social media branding practices that recruit consumers as soldiers in the corporate branding machine; disruptive technology that makes brand enforcement difficult; and cultural norms that treat brand names as symbols of social status and commentary, such as “this watch is the Mercedes of watches,” or the parodic song “Barbie Girl.” Any attorney who advises businesses in connection with product naming, marketing, or digital outreach should therefore have a solid grounding in the law of trademarks and branding. Accordingly, this course covers major topics in domestic trademark law, such as subject-matter, distinctiveness, genericness, the likelihood of confusion test, dilution, cybersquatting, false advertising, and enforcement. It also pays close attention to the interplay of technology and law. Finally, the course extends beyond book learning to employ realistic practice exercises that tie lawyering skills to the readings. Examples may include developing a brand, brand-name clearance, preparing a trademark registration, and enforcement. A PDF copy of this syllabus may be found by using the link on the bottom of this page.


Casebooks and materials are all freely available on the internet.

  1. Course Website: Site at This website is your source for assignments, project information, and other materials. Details on the course website are provided below.
  2. Casebook: Barton Beebe, Trademark Law: An Open-Source Casebook (v.3.0, July 23, 2016), available at
  3. Statute Book: Statutory Supplement: Selected Statutes & Treaties For James Boyle & Jennifer Jenkins, Intellectual Property: Law & The Information Society—Cases And Materials (2016), available at


Assignments and course-related materials will be posted to the course website at  In addition, selected course-related announcements and materials may be sent to your official St. Thomas Law email account.


As a skills course, your grade will be based on experiential projects (75% of grade) and class participation (25%).  For class participation, your score will look at a number of factors, including: regularity and quality of preparation and discussion; contributions as a discussion leader; and regular and timely class attendance.  There is no curve and there is no final examination.


Class attendance.

“Regular class attendance” means, among other things, that you are in your seat and ready to start work on time. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for you to be in your seat and ready to start on time. Because we will be doing practice-oriented projects, class will often begin with important announcements and project guidance. If you are late, you will miss out on that information. Along similar lines, do not exit the classroom without good cause. If you leave class early without permission, you may be counted absent and may be denied reentry. All of these considerations may be factored into your class participation score.

Participation as a class discussant (class member).

Every class member should be fully prepared to discuss the materials assigned for each class even if they are not a discussion leader. Class members should work during class with the professor and discussion leaders to discuss and explore the assigned materials. If you want, you can email me prior to class with supplemental materials you find that you think might be useful to share with the group. If we do not complete an assignment on one day, we will usually pick up on that assignment in the next class, so you should still be prepared to discuss those materials. Even when there is overlap, you should always prepare any new assigned materials as well. Your participation as a class member counts as part of your class participation score.

Participation as a discussion leader.

For every class, there will be a discussion leader. Your participation as a discussion leader counts as part of your class participation score. A handout with further guidance can be found here.

Each discussion leader should:

  • Present assigned materials, including statutes cited within the readings.
  • Lead group discussion.
  • Prepare and present discussion questions based on the assigned materials.
  • Call on members of the group to pose questions and to help answer questions.
  • As appropriate, bring in additional materials for the group. (Email me such materials ahead of time so that we can project them on screen.)

Further information about discussion leaders:

  • Discussion leaders will be assigned in advance. Names will be posted to the course website.
  • If a discussion leader is absent, late, or unprepared to present on an assigned day, their class participation score will be negatively impacted and they may be required to assume additional discussion leader duties later in the semester.

Disclosure, Candor, and Attribution policy: i.e., non-plagiarism.

We will discuss matters regarding your individual projects in class, and you may discuss ideas and the law with your Trademark & Branding Law classmates. However, any work product you hand in must be your own work. In limited circumstances, I will allow you to work from and adapt forms and other pre-existing materials. I will let you know in writing when you may use pre-existing materials. Except in the limited circumstance when I permit you to use pre-existing materials, any work product you hand in must be written and created solely by you. Any violation of this policy will be dealt with harshly and may in addition constitute a violation of the St. Thomas Law Honor Code. All students will be required to sign and return the Certification and Attribution form as part of submitting any project.


This is a skills course, but the real goal is to treat it as much more than a skills course. It is intended to be one that integrates your learning—this means learning and not teaching—of trademark/branding doctrine, theory, practice skills, and professional values. So instead of learning doctrine in one class, ethics in another class, and skills in yet another class, we will use them together to better learn trademark/branding law and to become a better lawyer.


Learning outcomes refers to skills, concepts, and other matters you will learn in our course. Learning methodologies are the techniques we will use to learn these matters. As a skills course with multiple projects, assessment is primarily formative, i.e., feedback that occurs while the topic is still being studied. This contrasts heavily with traditional doctrinal courses where assessment is primarily summative, i.e., feedback that occurs at the end of a course.

 Learning Outcomes (the goal)

Learning Methodologies (the means)
Trademark & branding law and theory: Examples include distinctiveness, functionality, genericness, likelihood of confusion, dilution, and defenses such as fair use; transactional issues such as ownership, registration, assignment and licensing; and digital brand-name issues such as cybersquatting, UDRP domain name dispute resolution, keyword and metatag infringement. Reading, briefing, marking up, and discussing trademark cases and statutes, and group discussion.  Doctrine will also be learned through practice-oriented skills projects such as trademark clearance, drafting registration applications, enforcement actions, and transactional activities.  There is also a final examination.
Integrating law and theory with practice skills and professional values: Developing basic practitioner proficiency in tasks common to trademark/brand-name lawyering and tying professional values into practice. The skills projects are designed to integrate the teaching of the four components of lawyering: doctrine, theory, practice skills and professional values.  For information on the MacCrate Report’s recommendation for integrated teaching of these components, see here.


Computers (including without limitation tablets and other electronic devices) may be brought to class but they cannot be used during normal discussion or for note-taking. The reason is that study after study has proven that electronics are anathema to engaged discussion, note-taking, and critical thinking. Considering that we have a small group, the success of the class will hinge on the engagement of each and every one of us. Accordingly, you may bring your devices to class but they may be used only at points that I designate are appropriate for computer use, such as when we are doing online trademark searches or working together on how to register a trademark online.

With that in mind:

  • Print out casebook: You should always print out and mark up your assigned casebook materials and handouts as you will not have access to them during class.
  • Note-taking: You should take notes by hand.

Revised Jan. 11, 2017 (v1.0)