As part of its ongoing effort to teach law students the vital art of storytelling, BYU Law welcomed students to its Winter 2018 Lawreads panel. The program is aimed at engaging students and faculty in discussions about law in literature. This semester’s book selection was Graham Moore’s novel The Last Days of Night, and the faculty panel featured Dean Gordon Smith, Paul Stancil, Stephanie Bair, and Clark Asay.
Patent Law and Innovation
The Last Days of Night employs an engaging narrative about the conflict between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse to pose an important question: how should society divide rights to innovation between the “pioneers” — those who create a novel product or idea, and the “improvers” — those who come later and improve on the innovation? This conflicting claim to innovations becomes the driving force behind patent law.
In a broader sense though, The Last Days of Night addresses questions about the purpose of patent law. As our faculty panel explained, patents have traditionally been used as a way to incentivize innovation and promote economic efficiency. While the novel certainly addresses that, it raises another rationale: fairness. It asks if patents can be used as a way to ensure fairness in innovation as well.
The Importance of Storytelling
Although law plays a vital role in the novel’s conflict, the ultimate tool for resolution is storytelling. The protagonist is described by Moore as a “professional builder of narratives.” He was a storyteller. This ability to craft narratives is what enabled him to persuade others to participate in his ventures and is what brought about his eventual success.
All of the faculty panel members emphasized this point — storytelling is an inescapably useful skill for lawyers.
Join Us Next Semester
We invite you to join us in reading the book selection for our Fall 2018 Lawreads: Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street by Sheelah Kolhatkar.