What is Patent Law – Intellectual Property Law?
T here are four main types of intellectual property: patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets. The patent system exists in most industrialized countries and is designed to reward inventors and authors. Patents are granted by the US patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), where patents are carefully examined and protection granted for those that meet legal standards.
Copyright protection is governed by federal law and applies to literary, musical and dramatic works, to name a few. The owner of a copyright has the exclusive right to reproduce and distribute copies of their work. Limited use of the copyright work is allowed for education and research purposes without the permission of the copyright owner.
Trademarks can be a single word, or a group of words or a logo that is used for sale of goods. The owner of a trademark can exclude others from using it in the sales of their goods. It not only protects the trademark owner but the public as well as it minimizes confusion, and buying something that is in fact something else.
Required Education and Coursework
Patent law is a specialized field within the practice of law. To enter into this profession, you will need to accomplish a number of things. First you will have to obtain a college degree. Then you will have to enter and finish law school as well as pass the bar exam. Once you pass the bar exam, you then become licensed to practice law.
If you are thinking about specializing in patent law, it is best if you obtain a college degree in engineering, physics or natural sciences such as chemistry and biochemistry. To succeed in this profession a general knowledge, understanding and liking of science is a must.
Patent law degree programs cover courses such as intellectual property, copyright law, patent law and policy, trademark law and unfair competition, antitrust, bioethics, genetics and the law, international intellectual property, international trade law as well as patent claim drafting. This list is in no way exhaustive but it does give you an idea of the curriculum and skills targeted and developed within this profession.
Careers with Patent Law Degree
Patent lawyers work in a variety of settings, from corporations and law firms to universities and government agencies. In corporations, you would work as an in-house counsel. You would have expertise in the technology of your corporations and your main task would be driven by the business of the corporation. In law firms, you would have a wide variety of clients and would practice patent law across a wide spectrum of technologies. At universities, you could work as a law professor. In these types of positions, you would not only teach but have the time to do research and write articles and presentations on intellectual property law. The federal government employs a large number of patent lawyers. In this role you would represent the government and litigate on behalf of government agencies.
Patent lawyers spend most of their time in procurement and licensing of patents. Procurement of a patent begins with the inventor describing his/her invention to the lawyer. You would then have to evaluate your client’s description and think about its utility, novelty and obviousness of invention. Your job at this stage is to evaluate if your client’s idea can be labeled a valuable patent and if a patent application should be filed. In order to accomplish this task successfully you will have to have great mastery of law but also the technical field involved.
Let’s say a decision is based to apply for a patent. Your job then is to draft a patent application and file it with USPTO. The application is rather elaborate and includes a detailed description of the patent, how it is made and how it will be used. A significant portion of the application defines the inventor’s patent rights. Once filed, the application is assigned to an examiner. As a patent lawyer, you would be the main contact person for the examiner and would need to spend many hours in correspondents with the goal of getting a favorable final action for your client.
If the patent application is not approve, you would be responsible for filling appeals to the decision to the USPTO’s Board of Appeals or even to the US Court of Appeals for Federal Circuit. However, if the patent application is approved, you will then develop and investigate licensing and filing corresponding patent applications in other countries.
Patent Lawyer Salary – How much could you make?
If you like what you read about patent law so far, you are going to love what comes next! According to PayScale.com, in 2005 the average patent lawyer salary was $115,000. The American Intellectual Property Law Association reports the average salary to be over $180,000. If this surprises you, it should not. Keep in mind that you must have a strong science or engineering background in order to become a patent attorney. Due to such high education demands, this specialization of law is more in-demand that other legal areas of practice. As a result, salaries are high.