McEwen, James G, David S. Bloch & Richard M. Gray. Intellectual Property in Government Contracts. Oxford University Press, 2009. ($185.00 616 pages Paperback: 9780195338560).
An unwritten rite of passage for law librarians is certainly learning what the acronym FAR stands for and researching the labyrinth of processes unique to federal and state government procurement. Helpful research tools of course include the American Bar Association’s recent book on Government Contract Law and the ABA Public Contract Law section periodical entitled The Procurement Lawyer. However, McEwen’s book is an essential addition to any public or law firm library whose patrons sell emerging technologies to the federal government or any of its state counterparts. In addition, since more than half of the book is devoted to intellectual property rights and procurement laws in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, it would add great value to the next update of Nyberg and Boast’s Subject Compilations of State Laws, which is now accessible through HeinOnline.
McEwen’s book delivers on its promotional promise to explain the confusing process of government procurement to “high-tech contractors looking to do business with the government sector.” However, having been written by a team of public and private practitioners, it provides a balanced description of the intellectual property issues driving both sides to these contracts.
The book is incredibly well-organized and easy to follow. Realizing that government procurement is a niche industry with its own specialized jargon, the authors lay a careful foundation by thoroughly defining all terms and concepts before explaining how parties variously address intellectual property rights in contracts that federal and state governments make as consumers. As a result, a separate glossary is totally unnecessary. Throughout the first four introductory chapters, I kept finding myself, admittedly a novice in this area of the law, asking mental questions that the authors would either answer in the very next paragraphs or cross-reference to entire chapters later on in the book. The authors also provided extensive and authoritative footnotes akin to an annotated atlas of information revealing the secret rules to government contracting.
Much more than a how-to-guide, the book also addresses procurement relationships full circle by devoting an entire chapter to remedies and damages in contract breach actions where governments have waived their sovereign immunity from claims for patent, trademark, copyright, or trade secret infringement. Finally, the information in the stand-alone state chapters deftly parallels that provided for federal contracting, with the added bonus of relevant comparisons between the states. Since this book is bound to get a lot of practical use, the authors might want to consider a hard bound version if they ever publish a second edition.
Reviewed by Kathleen M. Sasala, Esq., Director, Cleveland Law Library Association