Introduction to Intellectual Property Law
Intellectual property lawyers assist clients with legal issues regarding intellectual property. Intellectual property law consists of four primary areas of expertise: patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets. Sports, Computer, and Entertainment law also are closely intertwined with intellectual property law. The Intellectual Property pathway is designed to assist students in selecting courses in this area regardless of whether the student is generally interested in this area of law, or more specifically interested in developing an area of expertise.
The range of legal practice for intellectual property lawyers is as broad as legal practice more generally. For example, a lawyer may protect a client’s rights regarding intellectual property through preparing and filing of copyright registration documents or through an application for a patent. Or a lawyer may advise a client on how to avoid copyright or trademark infringement. Other intellectual property lawyers will draft licensing agreements. Lawyers may litigate with respect to any issues arising from intellectual property, or give advice regarding the prospects for litigation.
Patent law is generally divided into two practice areas: patent litigation and patent prosecution. Patent prosecution encompasses the representation of inventors before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) in proceedings to obtain patents. In order to represent individuals in patent prosecution proceedings, one must pass the patent bar examination to be registered to practice before the PTO, but one does not need to be a lawyer. To represent individuals or companies in patent litigation in the courts, one must be a lawyer but one does not need to be registered to practice before the PTO or to have a scientific or technical background. The requirements for taking the patent bar examination include having taken scientific or engineering courses. Students planning to take the patent bar are encouraged to do so before graduating from law school. For additional information about the patent bar exam, including the specific requirements for admission, visit the USPTO website.
Copyright and Trademark work do not require a scientific or technical background, but these areas often will intersect with business law. Therefore, these students might find it useful to consult the Business Law pathway for additional information regarding course selection and preparation.
Given the diversity of intellectual property law practice, students are advised that the Career Services Office has a variety of information available for students seeking careers in intellectual property law. Additionally, students should consult with the faculty in this area for additional advice as needed.