Intellectual property law is all about protecting the mind’s creations, such as ideas, songs, and literary works.
Just like property law, it’s a field of law that aims to uphold individuals’ and groups’ rights to own property, except in this case the property isn’t physical in nature.
If you’ve ever come across the terms patent or copyright, which you will have if you watch Dragon’s Den or Shark Tank, then you’ve already had a glimpse at what intellectual property law is all about.
The whole idea behind this field of law is to defend people’s rights to make money from their ideas and creations, since of course, this is a path that many creatives choose to take.
It’s a particularly fascinating field to explore in the modern era where streaming sites are king, and more and more creations are made available online which opens the doors to legal questions.
What are the 4 types of intellectual property rights?
There are four main types of intellectual property rights, and brushing up on all of them is a great place to start if you wish to pursue further study in the field of intellectual property law.
These are the intellectual property rights that clients will come to you with as an intellectual property lawyer, and your goal will be to ensure that they are sufficiently protected.
It’s all too easy to copy someone else’s idea, especially these days now that so much information is available online in the public domain. As such, intellectual property protection is crucial for preserving business and making sure the right people get the credit for the work.
Here are the four types of intellectual property rights:
A patent is a form of protection that guarantees nobody will be able to copy your creation in its exact form.
Usually, patents last only for a limited period of time, and are typically reserved for new inventions that would prove useful to a lot of people.
Legally, if a patent has been filed for a product, others will not be able to make or sell the same product.
As you might imagine, a lot of work goes into creating and upholding a patent in the eyes of the law, so if you work towards a career in intellectual property law you’ll want to know exactly what patents are and all the legal ins and outs to holding one.
Trademark is another term that we’re sure many of you will have heard of at one point or another.
An easy way to think of trademarks and patents is to remember their definitions together, since they have similar meanings. While a patent is designed to protect inventions from ideas, a trademark is put in place to protect words, phrases, and even symbols.
There is one thing that separates trademarks from patents though, while a patent is a temporary protection, a trademark more often than not is indefinite.
So that means if you try and establish a fast food restaurant that has a couple of gold arches, you’ll almost certainly land in legal hot water courtesy of McDonald’s legal team.
There are examples of trademarks everywhere you look, in fact, we’d be willing to bet you’ve probably come across a phrase or word with a trademark in the last 30 minutes.
Prominent examples include the Nike tick, the Apple logo, and Coca-cola.
Not to be confused with copywriting - the process of writing text for marketing - a copyright is a form of protection for intellectual property that is intended for creators who make music, literary work or art.
This might sound similar to a patent, and it is, but copyrights are more to do with the original author of the creative work. These days, even computer software can be protected by copyrights.
The other difference with copyrights is that they are instantly registered the moment you create the work, though you will have to file a lawsuit with an intellectual property lawyer if someone infringes upon your copyright.
Trade secrets are most likely the least well-known type of intellectual property rights.
So what exactly constitutes a trade secret and why is it important that the law protects it?
Well, to use an example, think about that special sauce that your favourite fast food restaurant uses in its burgers. If there weren’t trade secret protections in place, anyone would be able to copy the sauce and sell it as their own, boosting their business and leaving your restaurant without an original product.
This kind of private information that, if released, would harm a business is protected by law in the form of trade secret protection. With this protection, nobody will be able to steal the sauce, recipe, or idea.
Unlike the other forms of intellectual property protection, trade secrets aren’t officially registered. The way it works is if you come and steal Sprite’s secret recipe and try to sell your own strikingly similar lemonade, Sprite can come after you with the backing of legal powers.
What do you do as an intellectual property lawyer?
You may be wondering at this point, what would your daily tasks and responsibilities be as an intellectual property lawyer?
Well, in the field of IP law, you will face the choice of working with one of two types of IP which are known as contentious and non contentious IP.
Contentious IP refers to instances when a client feels like their IP rights have been infringed in some way.
As such, this is the type of IP law that requires you to fight in the corner of clients and resolve legal disputes.
Non-contentious IP refers to the kind of work that involves going over patents, drawing up commercial agreements, and more.
So this is the type of IP law work that is more desk work and less time spent resolving issues like infringements.
Under the umbrella of IP law, you will also find that there are several primary areas in which you might operate.
These areas include the following:
- Trademark law
- Copyright law
- Trade secret law
- Patent law
- Unfair competition
Is intellectual property law in demand?
Yes, intellectual property law is growing in demand by the day, since for many organisations IP is what the business revolves around.
There are so many industries these days that rely upon intellectual property law in order to thrive, and without this field of law wouldn’t be able to create without constantly looking over their shoulders.
IP lawyers free up creators to go ahead and come up with intellectual property without fear of being copied or having their ideas stolen by the competition. As such, these lawyers are in huge demand in some sectors such as science and technology, as well as of course game design, music, and the literary world.
Given that capitalism breeds competitiveness between organisations, there will always be the need for intellectual property lawyers to keep an eye on patents, trademarks, and licensing agreements.
The only time in which intellectual property lawyers wouldn’t have a place in society is if the world stopped creating and inventing, and we don’t know about you, but to us that doesn’t sound like a world anyone would want to live in.
Other in-demand fields of law include the following:
How do you become an intellectual property lawyer?
So you want to be an intellectual property lawyer...
Working in intellectual property law can be very gratifying, and it is all about protecting authorship and original works which arguably makes the world a better place.
But how exactly do you get into this field of law?
- Study for a law degree
Typically, as you would imagine, an undergraduate degree in law is favourable for most practising lawyer positions.
However, with intellectual property law, it’s common for lawyers to come from other subjects such as the entertainment industry or technology due to the nature of the work.
STEM subject degrees are an excellent option, too, and with any degree you should be able to do a 1-year law conversion at the end.
- Work Experience
This is something that we can’t emphasize enough.
If you want to make it as a lawyer working in any field, you’re going to need to prove that you have the initiative to go out and get real world work experience.
Working in IP law, maybe you get experience working in the entertainment industry, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a law firm although that is preferable.
- Take the LPC
When you’re ready, you’ll need to take the LPC (Legal Practice Course).
You may face stiff competition to get into an LPC, but once you do, you’re set.
Upon completion of the LPC you are free to go out into the world and practise law either on your own or as part of a law firm.
Superprof is a tutoring platform that connects tutors with students, so if you want to learn more about intellectual property law you can find a private teacher who specialises in law for one-on-one tuition.
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