Technology, Science, and Innovation

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From social media apps to self-driving cars, technology often moves faster than the law, but the law usually catches up. Duke is a leader in research, teaching, and practical training on where the two intersect.

Featured Faculty

Nita A. Farahany

Robinson O. Everett Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy

Nita Farahany is a leading scholar on the ethical, legal, and social implications of emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI). Her November 2018 TED talk, in which she argues for an individual right of cognitive liberty that protects freedom of thought, access, and control over our own brains and our mental privacy, has been viewed 1.9 million times, and that concept is the focus of her forthcoming book. Farahany, who received her JD, MA, and PhD degrees from Duke, was appointed by President Obama to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues in 2010 and served until 2017.

Nita Farahany

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Selected Courses

270 Intellectual Property

This course provides an introduction to copyright, trademark, and (to a lesser extent) patent law and trade secrecy. It does not require a technical background of any kind.  The course begins with an introduction to some of the theoretical and practical problems which an intellectual property regime must attempt to resolve; during this section, basic concepts of the economics of information and of the First Amendment analysis of intellectual property rights will be examined through a number of case-studies. The class will then turn to the law of trademark, copyright, and patent with a particular emphasis on copyright, developing the basic doctrinal frameworks and discussing the advantages and disadvantages of each. We will focus in particular on a number of areas where the theoretical tools developed at the beginning of the class can be applied to actual problems involving a full panoply of intellectual property rights; these areas include intellectual property on the Internet, the constitutional limits on intellectual property, and innovation, monopoly and competition in the technology sector. The overall theme of the course is that intellectual property is the legal form of the information age and thus that it is important not only for its enormous and increasing role in commercial life and legal practice, but also for its effects on technological innovation, democratic debate, and cultural formation. Much of our doctrinal work will be centered around a series of problems which help students build skills and learn the law in a highly interactive setting. Experience last semester suggests that this translates well to virtual teaching.  You can also download the casebook for the class here – for free – to give you a sense of the topics that are covered. 

331 Introduction to Privacy Law and Policy

This course on privacy law and policy examines the ways in which the United States’ legal framework recognizes privacy rights or interests and balances them against competing interests, including, among others: freedom of speech and press, ever-expanding uses of big data, national security and law enforcement, medical research, business interests, and technological innovation. The course will address the ways that torts, constitutional law, federal and state statutes and regulations, and societal norms protect individual privacy against government, corporations and private actors in a variety of areas including: employment, media, education, data security, children’s privacy, health privacy, sports, consumer issues, finance, surveillance, national security and law enforcement. The course will also consider the significantly different approach to information privacy in the European Union and the importance of the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which became effective May 2018. The course may also address briefly privacy issues and laws in an additional country, such as China, for purposes of further comparison. Students will gain a broad understanding of the breadth, diversity and growing importance of the privacy field.

333 Science Law & Policy

What are the government policies that support science? How is science regulated and controlled? What can science contribute to law and policy? How do the states, the federal government and international agencies interact to set science policy? How do disparate regulations and law impact research and translation? How is scientific research funded? These questions and more will be explored by looking at the interaction of law, science, and policy. The class is a mix of law, ethics, and science students, and learning how to talk to one another in a common language is an important element of the course. Classes will include consideration and analysis of cases studies. There are no prerequisites for the course and there is no requirement that students have either graduate or upper-level undergraduate training in the sciences.

592 Frontier AI & Robotics: Law & Ethics

Robots, with us for several generations already, were long confined to narrow uses and trained users, assembling our vehicles and moving our products behind the scenes. In recent years, robotic tools have begun to step out of the back room and take center stage. Even more, these tools are fueled by constantly advancing artificial intelligence and machine learning tools that allow them to participate in the world of the mind as much as the world of muscle. Are we ready? Probably not. In order to capture the full opportunities and benefits of AI & robotics, surely our legal systems and ethical frameworks must evolve. We must find ways to ensure that human-robot interactions occur in ways that are safe and are consistent with our cultural values. We must take care that our policies and laws provide artificial intelligence tools with the direction we need without quashing or hindering the innovations that could improve our lives.

The course will bring together three core areas: (1) law, (2) ethics, and (3) applied technology. Because frontier technologies challenge existing legal regimes and ethical frameworks, this course and its assigned project encourage law, ethics, and policy students to interact with networks of experts who are actively thinking about ethical technology development and with technology policy networks that explore the social implications of a world increasingly inclusive of AI.

Start-Up Ventures Clinic

The Start-Up Ventures Clinic offers students an experience that combines the Law School’s commitment to entrepreneurial education with a chance to gain valuable practical training. The clinic provides legal advice and assistance to entrepreneurs and to seed- and early-stage ventures that have not yet raised significant amounts of outside capital in a wide variety of legal matters including company formation, intellectual property protection, commercialization strategies, and operational issues. 

student presenting to entreprenurs

JD/LLM in Law and Entrepreneurship

The dual JD/LLM in Law & Entrepreneurship program is a unique experience — the only one in the country — where law students can learn the tools and thinking to work effectively with entrepreneurial ventures. Building on Duke Law's existing strengths in the fields of business law, intellectual property law, and innovation policy, as well as our strategic ties to entrepreneurial companies located in nearby Research Triangle Park, the Law & Entrepreneurship Program offers a distinctive and rigorous educational experience.

students writing on whiteboard

JD/MA in Bioethics and Science Policy

In collaboration with the Duke Initiative for Science & Society, Duke Law offers the opportunity to complete a JD/MA in Bioethics and Science Policy in three years and one summer. The dual degree teaches students how to identify, analyze, and propose solutions to myriad complex issues at the intersection of science, technology, ethics, and policy. Students typically apply during the first semester of their 1L year and begin taking courses during the second semester.

Students in classroom

Meet Bennett Wright '20

Bennett Wright

As a Margolis Law Scholar at Duke’s Margolis Center for Health Policy, Bennett worked with Professor Arti Rai on research into trade secrecy and accountability in artificial intelligence-enabled health care. A biomedical engineering major in college, Bennett earned a JD/LLM in Law and Entrepreneurship, was a member of the editorial board of the Duke Law Journal, and spent his 2L summer in the patent litigation group at Alston & Bird. Following his graduation, Bennett began clerking on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which hears appeals of patent cases. He is now a practicing attorney at Robinson Bradshaw in Charlotte, where he counsels companies and individuals in all phases of civil litigation. 


Duke has been the perfect place for someone with my interests. I really wanted to work in some way with science or tech-based companies and the JD/LLMLE practicum is one of the few opportunities that I saw at any of the top law schools where you are able to do that.

Bennett Wright '20

Alumni in the Field

Duke Law & Technology Review

The student-edited Duke Law & Technology Review is an online legal publication that focuses on the evolving intersection of law and technology. This area of study draws on a number of legal specialties: intellectual property, business law, free speech and privacy, telecommunications, and criminal law — each of which is undergoing doctrinal and practical changes as a result of new and emerging technologies.

LLM Certificate in Intellectual Property, Science, and Technology Law
Call to Action Content

Duke Law's Certificate in Intellectual Property, Science, and Technology Law provides LLM students the opportunity to further refine their research and career focus by maximizing their exposure to outstanding courses and instructors at the Law School and across Duke University, which offers many interdisciplinary programs in science and technology.

Center for Innovation Policy

The Center for Innovation Policy at Duke Law addresses fundamental issues of law and policy affecting innovation. The center brings a scholarly focus to cross-cutting policies relevant to innovation generally and to sector-specific areas such as the life sciences, information and communications technology, and energy-related technology.

Duke Center on Law & Technology

The Duke Center on Law & Technology prepares students for the growing landscape of technology in the legal profession through collaboration with Duke’s innovative and entrepreneurial initiatives, engagement with local entrepreneurs, and by providing educational opportunities at the intersection of technology and the law.