Draft Open IP Syllabus

A Draft “Open” IP Syllabus

Swaraj Paul Barooah

Despite the plethora of materials online, any student, researcher or professor would know that access to scholarly information is a lot more difficult than what it should be. Most of the time, if you’re serious about research, the ‘research’ journey is more about how many paywalls you can climb (legally or not so legally), as much as it is about how good the material you can find is. To get around this, many folks rely on plug-ins like UnPayWall and Google Scholar Button, and others rely on Sci-Hub and LibGen. Others still are well versed in asking around for ‘that friend of a friend’ who is sitting in a top global university who has access to at least some subscription services, unlike the less fortunate masses. However, while its true that this poses a huge Access to Information / Access to Knowledge issue, this of course does not mean that publicly available scholarly information is of lower quality or less utility than that material which is hidden on the other side of paywalls. Indeed, there is a tonne of great research, literature and commentary that has been made publicly available free of cost. Most professors are pretty much required to publish for promotions, tenure, and reputational reasons, and for varied reasons, usually end up doing so with publishers who charge. So they instead put out pre-print versions of their scholarship, out on various public databases. Though here – the problem is that of either not knowing how and what to filter, or the paradox of choice. There is so much information out there, how does one know what information to spend their limited time on? At a less abstract level – I’ve spoken to students as well as professors who say they would love to spend more time on IP but have too many classroom constraints, so they don’t end up doing this, nor do they know how to go about it outside the classroom.

So, in a very ambitious attempt, a group of us have spent the last couple of months trying to work on an “Open” IP Syllabus, for whoever might find it useful. And are very excited to share a first draft version for feedback, coincidentally in the ongoing fair use/fair dealing week. While the end-goal is to make an over-arching syllabus, for now, only a draft version of the first two chapters are being shared.

Who this is for: Anyone interested in IP! We’ve tried to include short readings as well as long readings in each section (and have marked them as such) so interested readers can decide how much time they want to spend looking into a topic. Short readings’ include anything from a blogpost to approx 15-17 pages of text, and ‘long readings’ being anything more than that. We’ve tried to ensure a variety of perspectives, so that anyone, anywhere in the world will hopefully find something of interest/use – while also trying to ensure that major India focused pieces are included.

What it includes (and will include): Chapter 1 “Introduction to IP” deals with three main areas: (1) History and Evolution of IP; (2) Theoretical Justifications and Underpinnings; and (3) Counter-Enclosure movements. Chapter 2 focuses on various different lenses through which IP can be viewed. Titled “Approaches to IP/IP Lenses”, it currently includes (1) IP & Innovation, (2) IP & Development, (3) IP & Climate Change, (4) IP & Health, (5) IP & Competition, and (6) Beyond IP / IP Futures, IP & Human Rights.

Chapters currently in progress (not currently shared) include chapters focused on Institutions, Fundamental Principles, and then specific chapters for different types of IP.  As is already evident, these classifications are neither hermetically sealed off from one another, nor are they holistic. They are merely a first attempt at classifying a lot of information, and we would love to hear from you on how any part of this could be improved. Currently, the attempt has been to include a variety of perspectives, as well as to mix up seminal pieces with more contemporary reflections. The intra-sectional classification is a simple ‘short readings’ and ‘long readings’ break up, with ‘

There are of course several disclaimers: first off – that while it would be ideal to include as many great pieces as possible, it is not only practically impossible to include all the great pieces, it is also essentially an exercise in subjectivity – so I have to apologise in advance for all the great pieces that don’t end up being included in here. As of the current draft – we have kept certain sub/sections like “Access to Medicines” and “IP & Health” limited – not because of insufficient scholarship but because of too much to choose from. We also have a list of papers that we want to include but haven’t verified yet. We will fill that in slowly over time.

Additionally, the collation is naturally limited by our own understanding of IP and its various nuances. Our process currently involves the research team (6 of us) independently researching and sending across pieces that they think are worth adding, and a verification process that involves me accepting or rejecting it, with feedback from other subject matter experts as and when required. As such – please do email to let us know if you think a piece should not be in the syllabus, along with your reasons. Aside from all of the above – there is also the possibility that we’ve made a mistake altogether. For now, we’ve staying away from case-law. We may or may not add Indian case law in at a later point – depending on how much time this takes, and how much time we can manage for this. Needless to say, even in its current form, I expect the rest of this syllabus to take at least a year or so to complete.

Finally – the team who worked on this: Praharsh Gour, Lokesh Vyas, Shivam Kaushik, Shriya Gopalakrishnan and Tanushka Joshi all have provided wonderful research on this and it’s been lovely working with them on this. Additionally, a huge shout out to Pankhuri Agarwal, Arul Scaria and Akshat Agrawal for sharing multiple resources and varied course syllabi! I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention Joe Karaganis, director of the Open Syllabus Project, as it was a conversation with him a few years ago that sparked the idea of trying this. It took a few years to start putting it into action – but hopefully this version will prove useful to IP researchers!

And here is the link to the document:

Draft Version: The Non-Definitive Open IP Syllabus_Version 1.1 (25-02-2021) Containing draft Chapters 1 and 2.


P.S. Depending on the feedback, we may or may not put out blogposts on updated drafts and future versions – but we will certainly keep this and future updates available in the Resources Section of the blog. That section also has a growing list of Open Access IP Textbooks. We encourage usage and sharing of the syllabus for personal, research, educational, etc purposes. If you’re using the syllabus for commercial purposes, (or are feeling generous!) – well – let’s just say it would be nice if you got in touch for how to contribute to SpicyIP!

Scroll to Top