Traits of an Experienced IP Attorney
Intellectual property law (often called patent law or just IP law) deals with protecting someone’s ideas through copyrights, trademarks, and patents. Failing to safeguard your inventions or creations can have serious legal and financial consequences. This is why it is so important to hire an IP attorney if you run into any issues. However, IP law is a highly specialized area of the law that needs extra education and licensure to practice competently. So how do you know if an attorney has the knowledge and expertise to handle your case properly? Here are a few important traits of an experienced IP attorney.
What Do IP Lawyers Do, Exactly?
IP lawyers must have the ability to perform the tasks of any other lawyer, such as research, negotiation, communication, and more. But the practice of IP law itself is slightly different to other practice areas. Much of the work IP attorneys do is not in a courtroom but in an office. They will spend most of their time writing or reviewing important documents and analyzing technical material for their clients.
One of an IP lawyer’s most important jobs is to help inventors and creators file applications and obtain the proper IP protection, whether it is a trademark, copyright, or patent. They can also help you earn money from your intellectual property by negotiating purchase or licensing agreements.
Further, an IP lawyer will be essential if you need to pursue legal action against someone who is using your intellectual property without permission. Most of the time this may need only a strongly worded demand letter, but any experienced IP attorney should be prepared to file a lawsuit should the circumstances require it. For more information, you can check out this IP lawyer and take a closer look.
What IP Protection Does Your Work Need?
There are three basic areas of IP law: patents, trademarks, and copyright. Knowing what kind of protection you need can go a long way in finding the right attorney.
The U.S. Copyright Office defines copyright as protecting original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic work. Examples include poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.
Trademarks are regulated by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design, or a combination of those that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. Trademarks, along with service marks, typically protect brand names and logos used on goods and services.
Patents are also regulated by the USPTO. A patent is a limited-duration property right relating to an invention granted in exchange for public disclosure of that invention. Patents cover new, nonobvious, and useful:
Articles of manufacture (including ornamental designs),
Compositions of matter, or
Improvement of any of the above.
Patent registration is very complex. A patent attorney needs to have specialized training and certification.
Check Credentials and Education
Every lawyer, of course, needs a law school education and a license, But for attorneys that want to specialize in some IP law, they need more than just a bar card.
The USPTO has its own set of rules for patent lawyers, which includes specific scientific and technical qualifications, as well as good moral character and reputation. A patent attorney must have a bachelor’s degree in a science or engineering field and must pass an extra exam (known as the patent bar) before the USPTO will certify them. You can search the USPTO’s website for patent attorneys in good standing, which is the best way to know if your attorney is qualified to handle a patent case.
Trademark and Copyright Law
Unlike with patent law, lawyers are not required to apply for registration or recognition to practice trademark or copyright law. They just need to be admitted to (and in good standing) with any state bar. However, any attorneys that do handle trademark matters are subject to the USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct.
There are special law school programs that allow students to get hands-on experience with these types of law. This is a good way to show clients that they went above and beyond to get the right training. There are moot court competitions specific to IP law, and the USPTO itself has a Law School Clinic Certification program where the schools with the best IP law professors and programs educate future attorneys. If your attorney has any of these certifications, you know that they have taken the extra initiative to make sure they know the law.
Additionally, you want an attorney who regularly handles trademark and copyright cases. Your attorney should have experience registering and licensing trademarks and copyrights as well as handling infringement litigation.
Because there is no specific certification for copyright or trademark lawyers, you can check out some of the most trusted lawyer review websites or publications to point you in the right direction. Sites like SuperLawyers, Avvo, Martindale-Hubbell, and Best Lawyers have specific and rigorous methodology for choosing the best practitioners in their field.
Protecting your intellectual property is an important job that you don’t want to trust to just anybody. Some firms specialize only in IP law, and that’s a good place to start. Making sure a lawyer has the proper accreditation, education, and certification for the job is the best way to ensure your rights are protected.