Intellectual property lawyers work on behalf of individuals and companies.
Graduating with an advanced degree in law – a qualification known as a Juris Doctor – can prepare you for legal practice in an array of areas, from immigration law and criminal defense to property and environmental law. Making the decision between choosing a specific path or practicing law more generally, however, can be challenging. This article will take a closer look at one area of law that you could opt to specialize in upon graduation from law school: intellectual property law. Read on to learn more:
What do intellectual property lawyers do?
According to The Balance, the practice of intellectual property law is concerned with legally safeguarding work or ideas created by an individual, individuals or organizations. For example, intellectual property lawyers can help inventors secure patents for inventions and ideas. They can also, as detailed by the American Intellectual Property Law Association, help companies trademark logos and brand names – Coca Cola, for example, is trademarked – as well as copyright creative products such as films, books, music, photography, design work and so on. The Balance noted that intellectual property lawyers typically have extensive expertise in areas such as distribution, franchising and mandates pertaining to trademark and copyright law.
According to intellectual property lawyer Jeffrey I.D. Lewis, writing for Law Practice Today, some of the most common duties associated with the role include:
1. Processing applications for protections under copyright and trademark law.
2. Processing applications for patents.
3. Assisting with a process known as clearance. This means assessing whether a product or idea violates laws that protect another individual or product. In essence, clearance is conducted to ensure that clients are not sued by other people.
4. Conducting litigation in court on behalf of clients or companies. For example, a client may hire an intellectual property lawyer to sue an individual for plagiarizing book content, using a trademarked logo and so on.
5. Helping clients to earn income from protected property. For example, an author may need help selling rights to his or her book to a film studio, looking to adapt the production.
6. Consulting with clients and offering guidance concerning work that may be defensible under copyright, trademark or patent law.
Lewis stressed, however, that intellectual property lawyers working specifically to prosecute patent applications need additional recognition from the United States Patent & Trademark Office bar to practice legally. Professionals admitted into this bar will usually have a comprehensive educational background in the sciences, as well as law. Professionals who become a part of the USPTO bar are subsequently allowed to specialize solely in patent law and adopt the title of patent attorney.
The state of the job market
For lawyers in general, the job market is promising, with growth forecast until the year 2024, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. The increase in employment is expected to amount to around 6 percent during the 10 year period spanning 2014 until 2024. The growth is expected despite the fact that an increasing number of individuals are graduating from law schools nationwide, ensuring that demand for positions is high and competitive.
Intellectual property lawyers can command lucrative salaries, with trusted careers website Payscale reporting that the median average salary for the role, nationwide, is close to $140,000 annually. It is of course possible to earn considerably more than that, with salaries approaching $200,000 per year not uncommon.
How to succeed as an intellectual property lawyer
Lewis argued that some of the most successful intellectual property lawyers will have an understanding of and experience with various forms of technology. This knowledge is particularly well-applied when working with patent licensing. This isn't mandatory though. As stressed above, only lawyers who prosecute patent applications need a formal education in the sciences to be admitted to the bar of the USPTO.
Those specializing in various forms of intellectual property will succeed if they exhibit a number of qualities that all lawyers should have, regardless of specialization. These qualities include, according to the Houston Chronicle, the ability to think critically and clearly, often in short spaces of time, the ability to communicate effectively with clients, strong written communication skills and the ability to make sound, evidence-based judgments.