Document Type


Publication Title

California Law Review

Publication Date




Page Number



originality doctrine, copyright, patent, intellectual property


Intellectual Property Law | Law


Drawing on original archival research, this Article challenges the standard account of what originality doctrine is and what courts can do with it. It identifies Nelson's forgotten copyright legacy: a still-growing line of cases that treats music differently, sometimes even more analogously to patentable inventions than to other authorial works. These decisions seem to function as a hidden enclave within originality's larger domain, playing by rules that others couldn't get away with. They form originality's other path, much less trod than the familiar one but with a doctrinal story of its own to tell. Originality and nonobviousness's parallel beginnings reveal a period of leaky boundaries between copyright and patent, when many of the Justices considered a rule for one to be just as good for the other. Their recurring intersections, meanwhile, muddy today's conventional narrative about copyright's historic commitment to protecting even the most modestly creative works.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.