Copyright at the Bedside: Should We Stop the Spread?

34 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2013 Last revised: 5 Aug 2013

Robin Feldman

University of California Hastings College of the Law

John Newman

University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)

Date Written: March 31, 2013


We recently published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine describing a crisis in cognitive testing, as doctors and medical researchers increasingly face copyright claims in sets of questions used for testing mental state. We encouraged the creation of a cultural norm in medicine, in which medical researchers would ensure continued availability of their tests through open source licensing for any copyrights that might exist.

In this piece, we consider the legal side of the question. Although copyrights are being copiously asserted in medical testing, are those rights valid, and should they be upheld? The legal precedents in this area are anything but clear, and the courts are divided in the few analogous circumstances that have arisen.

We examine analogies in standardized testing, computer compilations and baseball pitching forms to consider the marvelous question of how to conceptualize a process - which is the purview of patent law - when that process consists of words - which are the purview of copyright law. We also look from an economics perspective at the issue of investment and value creation in the development of de facto standards.

Legal scholars are so often in the position of looking backwards, teasing out solutions to problems that have developed within a doctrinal or theoretical area. Rarely does one have the opportunity to affect the course of events before problems become so deeply entrenched that they are intractable. This is such a moment, and the legal and medical fields should take advantage of the opportunities presented.

Keywords: copyright, standards, MMSE, cognitive testing, health care, intellectual property

Suggested Citation

Feldman, Robin and Newman, John, Copyright at the Bedside: Should We Stop the Spread? (March 31, 2013). Stanford Technology Law Review, Vol. 16, No. 3, p. 623, Spring 2013; UC Hastings Research Paper No. 51. Available at SSRN:

Robin Feldman (Contact Author)

University of California Hastings College of the Law ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States

John Newman

University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) ( email )

Third Avenue and Parnassus
San Francisco, CA 94143
United States

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