Engineers and the law

It's always been editorial policy at Control Engineering to keep a close eye on topics that have the potential to impact our readership and adjust content appropriately to keep up with relevant trends. Based on a number of key issues ranging from regulations to intellectual property, we are launching a new, quarterly column in this issue—Legalities.

10/01/2005


It's always been editorial policy at Control Engineering to keep a close eye on topics that have the potential to impact our readership and adjust content appropriately to keep up with relevant trends. Based on a number of key issues ranging from regulations to intellectual property, we are launching a new, quarterly column in this issue—Legalities.

Authored by Mark Voigtmann, a lawyer with Baker & Daniels LLP, who also works with CSIA (Control and Information Systems Integrator Association), the column will address specific engineering-related legal topics. In his first column for Control Engineering , on page 29, Voigtmann explains how handshakes, purchase orders, and 30-page, single-spaced agreements are all contracts that determine the rights of the parties involved, and all can be legally binding.

Though it seems obvious that a pertinent legal column would be a beneficial addition to our pages for most readers, I couldn't help but wonder if the idea of incorporating law and engineering is an idea catching on throughout industry. A little searching helped bolster the belief that the idea of blending engineering and law is gaining momentum.

Last July, the UK Centre for Legal Education (UKCLE) at the University of Warwick, Conventry, initiated a project referred to as "Law and engineers: intellectual property (IP) in the engineering syllabus." According to UKCLE: "For undergraduate engineers and scientists to be able to participate in enterprise-related activities, they need fundamental skills in working with IP and associated legal aspects. Currently, the awareness of IP amongst undergraduate engineers and many engineering academics is low."

Searching also uncovered information about a course involving the College of Law and the College of Engineering at the University of Utah. Initiated in 1995, the course is designed to teach law and engineering students to work together in addressing environmental issues. Looking at the syllabus for the course, I found it interesting that while engineering students take a class known as "Introduction to Environmental Law," the law students take a class known as "How do engineers think?" Though much of the class syllabus for each group of students differs, courses are designed to help one group better understand the other. This is an important detail considering the culmination of each course has each side presenting the other's position—a switch that requires both parties to talk to each other and confirm they are speaking the same language and understanding one another.

Our goal in delivering this column is the same—to help you understand the legal language and importance of specific legal issues relevant to your work.

David Greenfield, Editorial Director

dgreenfield@reedbusiness.com





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