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Careers in Intellectual Property Law

published July 16, 2009

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Artistic creations are covered by copyright laws, which protect music, photographs, movies, books, paintings, and software. These rights give the copyright holder exclusive right to control reproduction or of this works for a certain period of time.

Commercial creations, such as Trademarks or Patents are known as "industrial properties".

An Intellectual Property Law professional, is then responsible for defending the rights that a person or company holds over his intellectual property.

Which positions can I aspire to as an IP professional?

In the area of Intellectual Property prosecution, (the acquisition of rights), is usually distinguished from enforcement, which includes litigation and licensing.

There are two main positions someone can occupy in the field of IP Law:

The most commonly available position in the US market is an Intellectual Property Attorney, a law professional specialized in IP rights enforcement. In the U.S., an IP attorney has to be admitted to practice before the courts. He or she is also admitted to practice before the U.S. Patent Office, and represents parties in Intellectual Property litigations.

While he or she may also prosecute patent applications, prosecution is generally performed by an IP Agent, which is admitted to the U.S. Patent Office, but is not admitted to practice before the courts.

It might be intelligent to consider that IP Agents tend to charge less per hour worked on average when compared to IP Attorneys.

What is it like to work in Intellectual Property Law?

As an IP Agent or an IP Attorney, you will help corporations, small businesses, artists or scientists gain rights over their creations.

A career as an IP Agent or Attorney will involve a great deal of writing and correspondence between an inventor and the Patent and Trademark Office.

You will advise your clients as to whether or not their creations are eligible to be protected by Intellectual Property Law. You may conduct a search for similar creations that might be registered before, and if it is eligible, will draft a patent, copyright or trademark application for them.

You will also be working with the examiner at the USPTO, making adjustments to the application.

Requirements for a Successful Career in IP Law

If you are considering a career in Patent Law, and you are an engineer or scientist, passing the patent bar is an essential requirement to start.

In fact, upon passing this exam, you will be classified as a Patent Agent. If, in addition to a degree in engineering or science, you also have completed the requirements to practice law, then you may be eligible to become a Patent Attorney.

For being considered as an IP Attorney, you must hold a Degree from law school. When choosing a school to attend, consider the fact that employers value generally prestigious Universities such as Yale, Harvard or Chicago. Also, you have to remember that some universities are held in high esteem for their work in Intellectual Property.

Skill Sets

•    Social Skills: There is a people oriented side to IP law since intellectual property agents and attorneys work so closely with right holders. Their dreams might be riding on their creations and you will be there to help them achieve their goals.

•    Excellent Written Communication: Patent agents and patent attorneys as well must also have really good writing skills. Drafting a quality application to the USPTO is really hard work that requires the best in written communication skills.

•    In addition to Patent Agents, a strong background in either science or technology is a must. You will have to be able to understand exactly what has been invented in order to write a patent application.

Prior Experience

Experience in the field is strongly preferred, even for entry level positions in Intellectual Property Law. This makes entering the field a bit more challenging. An Internship comprising involvement in patent or trademark registration and or litigation might payoff, giving a strong competitive advantage to entry level positions in the field of Intellectual Property Law.

Employment Outlook

Any company involved in research and development wants to create inventions and gain patent rights on them. This holds true even at academic institutes across the nation. Patents are one of the most important indicators of success in both the scientific and engineering communities.

Then, most companies with an R&D department might hold possible job opportunities for Patent Law professionals while the entertainment and publishing industries offer a great array of jobs for copyright law professionals.

Salary range

The median salary for Intellectual Property Law Professionals in nearing an annual $180,000, but for the first year, median income is down to about $120,000.

Intellectual Property law is a challenging field offering great opportunities for enthusiastic and intelligent individuals. There are lots of job openings and a scarcity of clever IP professionals out there. If you are fast minded, have good social skills, and you are not afraid of writing, then a career in IP Law might be the optimal choice.

Click here to find intellectual property counsel jobs.