"What do Intellectual Property lawyers do?"

Key Facts

Intellectual Property ("IP") Law protects creations or inventions made by individuals or businesses. 

An idea by itself cannot be protected by IP law. The creation or invention has to be in physical form. 

There are two main categories of IP law: 

  • registrable rights - so you would have to apply to have the right protected at the Intellectual Property Office (UK)

  • rights that are automatically protected 

IP lawyers can be contentious and non-contentious. 

Registrable IP

Trademarks 

  • Trademarks are a badge of origin - something that represents your brand (i.e. the name of your product or service). 

  • A trademark can take any form - it can include words, sounds, logos, colours and a combination of all of these things.

  • Example: "McDonalds" the name and McDonalds "M" symbol are examples of trademarks. 

Patent

  • A patent can be used to protect an invention that is: 

    • something that can be made or used​

    • new

    • inventive - not just a simple modification of something that already exists 

Design 

  • A design (appearance, physical shape, configuration and decoration) can be protected by registration. 

  • This IP lasts for an initial 25 years and then needs to be renewed every 5 years. 

  • The design must be:

    • New​

    • Not be offensive

    • Be your own IP

    • Not make use of protected emblems or flags

    • Not be an invention or how a product works 

Non-Registrable IP

Copyright 

  • Copyright protection is automatic. No need to register it. 

  • Automatic copyright protection occurs when you create: 

    • original literary, dramatic, musical and artistical work including ​illustration and photography 

    • original non-literary written work such as software, web content and databases 

    • sound and music recordings 

    • film and television recordings

    • broadcasts 

    • the layout of published editions of written, dramatic and musical works 

  • You can mark your work with a copyright symbol, your name and year of creation but this does not impact your level of IP protection. 

Daily tasks of an IP lawyer...

  • Negotiating and drafting agreements involving IP protection such as patent licences, research collaboration agreements, service agreements and a variety of others. 

  • Advising clients (both business and individuals) on acquiring, protecting and using IP. 

  • Assisting clients with their proposed IP and registering registrable IP (trademarks, patent, designs). 

  • Considering the commercially viable options to bring a product (subject to IP) to market. 

  • Working with the wider commercial and corporate teams, offering IP expertise in business transactions and licensing deals. 

  • Advising and assisting clients with any claims against the misuse of IP and any contentious IP issues that arise. 

Skills required to be an IP lawyer...

  • Commercially aware - keep up to date with business and innovation trends 

  • Technical 

  • Good negotiating and drafting skills 

  • Flexible and ability to handle a varied workload 

  • Organised

  • Good communication skills with the ability to translate complex areas of law into clear and concise advice

  • Good client relationship skills