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Business English Conversation Lessons: Intellectual Property

In this conversation lesson, students learn vocabulary about intellectual property rights and then discuss the topic in small groups. Teach the vocabulary and then have students do the conversation questions.



Recommended terms to teach:

intellectual property
trade secret
the black market
public domain


Conversation Questions

1. In the United States, books published after 2002 will become part of the public domain 70 years after the death of the author. If a book is created by a corporation, it will expire 95 years after publication or 120 years after creation, whichever expires first. Additionally, all sound recordings are copyrighted until 70 years after the death of the author, at which point they will become public domain [source]. What do you think of these copyright limits?  When do you think books, movies, and music should become part of the public domain? Discuss with your group.

2. Is piracy common in your country? What types of products are pirated? What does the government do to try to combat the sale of pirated goods? Is there a large black market in your country? Tell your group about it.

3. Is piracy the same as theft? Why or why not? Do you think most people think piracy is the same as theft, or do you think people view theft and piracy as two separate things?

4. What do you think the punishment should be for people who sell pirated goods? What do you think the punishment should be for people who buy pirated goods?

5. Is internet piracy something that can be eliminated? Why or why not? What do you think governments should do about internet piracy?

6. In general, patents last for 20 years in the United States, Europe, Canada, and many other countries worldwide. What are the advantages and disadvantages to having a 20-year patent term? What do you think patent terms should be? Should the patent term for pharmaceutical products be the same as it is for everything else? Why or why not? Discuss with your group.

7. Some people feel that certain developing regions of the world should not be subject to copyright law. What do you think? Should certain impoverished countries or regions be allowed to pirate software, books, etc.?

Also see these business English conversation lessons.