Projects

Institute research projects provide students with the opportunity to work with professors studying and analyzing relevant controversies, channeling their work to the real world.

Visual Persuasion

The goal of the Visual Persuasion Project is to promote a better understanding of the practice, theory, and teaching of law in the current screen-dominated, pervasively visual, digital era. The Project was formed to study and advance the cultivation of critical visual intelligence, to inspire creative visualizations of evidence, case narratives, policy analysis, and legal argumentation, and to help lawyers, judges, law students, and the lay public integrate new visual tools into more traditional (textual and verbal) approaches to legal analysis.

Professor Richard K. Sherwin, Founder & Director

For more information on the Visual Persuasion Project, please click here.

Past Projects

IProgress Project

peritzRudolph J.R. Peritz
Professor of Law
Director, IProgress Project
New York Law School

Prof. Peritz at the 2008 Conference of the International Association for Teaching and Research in Intellectual Property (ATRIP) at the Max Planck Institute in Munich, Germany.  He delivered a paper entitled “Patents and Progress: The Incentive Conundrum.”

The IProgress Project is aimed at promoting progress and innovation in the public interest. Its goal is improving intellectual property law and policy through research initiatives focused on law and regulatory reform, software innovation, and legal education.

Intellectual property rights, especially copyright and patent, are intended “to promote progress in science and the useful arts.” This Constitutional call to progress has been understood in terms of two separate, but related public goods: material benefits to improve living conditions and knowledge benefits to inform the marketplace of ideas. Although the knowledge benefit is crucial to both basic research and commercial development, recent legislation and judicial doctrine have come to view progress principally in terms of material benefit. This view is threatening to change the character of scientific research and artistic endeavor from public-regarding to private-regarding.

The threat can be understood as a trend toward increased propertization, an increase in two respects. First, private rights have been expanding quantitatively. The most visible example is the extension of patent protection to inventions that reflect only trivial improvements from prior art. Second, rights are changing in character. Rather than evaluating devices, expressions and other inventions by determining their impact on progress in science and the useful arts, both Congress and the federal courts too often treat intellectual property protection as a natural right of inventors and authors. In this light, increasing private property rights is justified as naturally creating greater incentives to authors and inventors. Yet empirical grounds for this natural incentive theory are lacking. In fact, economists and policy makers recognize that more protection has sometimes created disincentives. Moreover, the theory itself depends on the controversial assumption that economic gain is what motivates invention in science and the useful arts. But for every Bill Gates there has been a Linus Torvalds, for every Walt Disney an Orson Welles, for every Andy Warhol a Vincent van Gogh.

If not an incentive theory, then what alternative approach can promote progress in science and the useful arts? Another approach is already well-understood though not well-taken. No one doubts the knowledge benefit’s centrality to progress. Both pioneering inventors and those who have followed stand on the shoulders of their predecessors. In that important sense, all invention is incremental. Even Einstein’s brilliant formulations were mutations and deformations of prior art. Both revolutionary and normal science depend on access to a rich public domain of knowledge. Whether solitary or communal, whether competitive or cooperative, innovation cannot proceed without the spillover of knowledge from private efforts into the public marketplace of ideas.

But the increasing propertization of copyright and patent is threatening to choke off the flow of public knowledge that fuels progress. What is to be done?

The IProgress Project proceeds from the view that progress depends on the public good of knowledge produced by inventors and authors. It is the dispersion and advancement of public knowledge, first and foremost, that patent and copyright policy should protect and promote. To this end, the Project has four components. First, faculty, students, visiting scholars and other project associates will undertake scholarly research and produce position papers intended to initiate policy dialogue, including sponsorship of private workshops and public conferences that will bring together software innovators and policy designers. Second, tools and metrics will be designed and developed in partnership with Professor David Johnson’s software tool initiatives and Professor Beth Noveck’s e-Democracy Project. Currently, exciting design work is underway for software based on a peer-to-peer approach to patent evaluation. Other items on the agenda include a patent registry for experiments and a more accessible data base of prior art. Third, new courses will be added to the Information Law curriculum with an eye toward allowing even more student experience with tool design for policy analysis of Intellectual Property Law. Finally, the Project will include a public interest module that will address issues of timely interest as they arise, in partnership with the American Antitrust Institute in Washington, D.C., the Institute for Advanced Study in Lucca, Italy, the Centre for Asia Pacific Technology Law & Policy in Singapore, and public interest affiliates of the Institute for Information Law & Policy at NYLS, both in the U.S. and abroad.

Peer To Patent

Peer-to-Patent was an initiative of the Institute in cooperation with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) where NYLS students worked together to manage the project. The concept behind Peer-to-Patent is to harness a collaborative network of citizen experts to help identify and evaluate relevant prior art for consideration by patent examiners. Peer-to-Patent accomplished this by soliciting public participation in the prior art search process via the Web. For more information please visit to http://peertopatent.org/ or http://peertopatent.tumblr.com/.

The Public Interest Book Search Initiative

The groundbreaking proposed settlement in the Google Book Search case is so complex that controversy outpaced conversation and questions outnumbered answers. The Public Interest Book Search Initiative aims to help close these gaps. Professors, students, and volunteers who believe that the Google Book Search lawsuit and settlement deserve a full, careful, and thoughtful public discussion work to maintain and promote the project’s website, The Public Index, and the “D is for Digitize” conference.

DoTank (The Democracy Design Workshop)

Do Tank strives to strengthen the ability of groups to solve problems, make decisions, resolve conflict and govern themselves by designing software and legal code to promote collaboration. Tools alone cannot create a culture of strong groups. Hence Do Tank projects address the role of legal and political institutions, social and business practices and the visual and graphical technologies — what we term the “social code”– that may allow groups, not only to foster community, but to take action.Our innovation laboratory centers around three fundamental design principles

Design for the group not the individual. In groups people can accomplish what they cannot do alone.

Make the group graphical. Use the graphical, networked screen to help the group see its own values, rules and practices, thereby giving rise to social institutions.

Embed structures through technology. Improve collaboration through the design of social and legal structures and replicate those structures through the interface.

The Do Tank targets the “capability gap” in practicing collaboration and forming groups among people who realize the opportunity for more collaborative decision-making in their governments, communities, businesses, or other organizations but do not have the experience, skills, models or tools to fulfill the potential.

We bring “democratic” approaches to bear on our design work — democratic understood, not as political ideology, but as a way of life where people work together to pursue shared goals.

To this end, we develop graphical and visual prototypes; convene “conspiracy” meetings to design collaboratively with the input of engaged thinkers from a wide variety of disciplines; and run workshops to develop strategies for transforming prototype into rough consensus and running code. We also pursue scholarship, writing and theory on the impact of technology on the future of a democracy of groups.

The Handbag Project

The legal questions that this project answers are most notably in the area of consumer confusion and the concept of post-sale confusion, but it also considers the intriguing way that luxury handbags have become such a staple of modern life, and the role that both counterfeit bags and trademarks play in this. Students collect data from major fashion houses and luxury goods producers, research case precedent of intellectual property infringement, and produce research papers.

Writing Competitions Workshop

The purpose of the workshop series is to provide guidance for competing in IP writing competitions, so that students know what they need to do to enter these competitions, when to get their work completed, and how to succeed in them. Participating students discuss their paper topics with each other, meanwhile Institute professors sit in on the workshop meetings to help steer their discussions toward the competition themes.

Open Aid Register

Ruth Del Campo, Fulbright Scholar & Director of Open Aid RegisterOpen Aid Register is a New York Law School initiative funded by the Fulbright Commission and the Government of Spain. It is an initiative to speed up the process of making aid data open by helping non-profits and NGOs publish their aid data in IATI (the global standard used for publishing aid data)

Publishing aid data in IATI allows for the information from NGOs and non-profits to be cross-referenced and compared with aid data published by donors. Striving to get all global aid information published in the same format will allow funders, providers, recipients of aid, in addition to researchers and the general public, to understand what is currently being done and what should be done going forward in the global aid arena.

Doing so helps foster collaboration and coordination among organizations engaged in similar aid projects in close proximity. Making this data open as early as possible helps ensure appropriate allocation of resources within an organization and among other organizations doing similar work. Open Aid Register is a project that hopes to make this all possible regardless of aid organizations’ IT resources and experience.

For more information, check out Open Aid Register.