Penn State Law student takes first in intellectual property writing competition

May 31, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. —  Laura Lipschutz, a rising third-year student at Penn State Law, was recently awarded the top place finish in the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s annual Intellectual Property Law Section writing competition.

The Intellectual Property Law Section writing contest was established in 2004 to provide an opportunity for second- and third-year law students to express in writing their insight and knowledge in the areas of patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets or trade dress. The competition is open to all second- and third-year law students currently enrolled in Pennsylvania law schools.

Lipschutz’s paper, “Copyrightability of a Tweet and the Fair Use Defense When the Tweet is Copied for Commercial Gain,” took an in-depth look at the ability to copyright social media posts and the fair use defense when the post is copied, an issue she argues not many courts have addressed to date.

Lipschutz looked at the issue through the lens of a situation involving a T-shirt sold by an online boutique that bore a quote copied from a man’s tweet. The online boutique subsequently received thousands of new orders after the shirt bearing the quote was worn by musical artist Frank Ocean at one of his concerts. Examining whether the man’s tweet was copyrightable and whether the online boutique’s use of the quote on the shirt for commercial sale constitutes an infringement, Lipschutz concluded that the quote in the tweet had little copyright protection and the boutique’s copying of the quote to sell T-shirts would likely be excusable based on the “fair use” defense to copyright infringement.

During her time at Penn State Law, Lipschutz has been involved with the Intellectual Property Clinic, run by Professor Rachel Herder. The clinic provides Penn State Law students an opportunity to gain practice-ready skills in intellectual property law. Under Herder’s supervision, students provide legal services to the clinic’s clients in much the same manner as practicing IP lawyers. It was Herder who informed her students of the competition and urged them to enter. Lipschutz had worked on a paper on a similar topic for another class, and after doing some editing to fit the competition’s requirements, she submitted it.

“I am incredibly honored by this achievement,” said Lipschutz. “I would like to practice copyright and trademark law as an attorney after law school, and this certainly validates my ability to reach my goals and gives me more confidence in my capabilities as a law student overall. I am especially proud to represent Penn State Law as the first student from our school to win this competition.”

Lipschutz is spending her summer working as an associate at a general practice law firm in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. She is excited to continue to gain experience and build on her knowledge as she prepares to enter her final year of law school.

“One of the most significant hurdles some law students face, myself included, is overcoming self-doubt and feeling confident in your work,” said Lipschutz. “Always put yourself out there and have confidence in yourself and your work; you’ll never know what opportunities will present themselves if you don’t try.”

  • Laura Lipschutz | Penn State Law

    Laura Lipschutz, left, accepts a check for her intellectual property writing competition win, from Glenn Massina, intellectual property attorney at Massina Patent and Trademark Law PLLC, and chair of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Intellectual Property Section. 

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated June 20, 2018