Practice Areas

Intellectual Property Law

Introduction

Intellectual Property or “IP” as it is called for short is – as the name suggests – the law relating to the establishment and protection of ‘intellectual’ creations, such as inventions, designs, brands, artwork, books, music, pharmaceuticals and so on.

These rights are established, protected, enforced and promoted through a variety of means, such as patents (usually for such things as technical inventions); trademarks (for goods and services); copyright (music, art and literature); and designs (products and logos).

What does this type of lawyer do?

IP lawyers tend to specialise in either contentious or non-contentious IP. On the non-contentious side, lawyers are involved in such activities as checking and registering their clients’ rights (through patents, trademarks etc); and drafting commercial agreements to allow others the use of those rights, for example through issuing licences.

On the contentious side, lawyers are involved when a client’s rights have been infringed or abused in any way, for example where counterfeits of a brand are being sold on the market, or a song has been recorded under another artist’s name.

What skills are required?

As an IP lawyer, you could be acting for a very wide range of clients: from unknown individuals with a brilliant idea to patent, to pharmaceutical giants and famous artists. You therefore need to be able to build a rapport with a wide range of different people, and to be able to think commercially and from a client’s point of view.

You need to be able to understand complex and often technical language: many IP lawyers have previous relevant backgrounds or experience for example in the fields of science, technology, or medicine.

Given the nature of the work, attention to detail is absolutely vital: as is the ability to manage huge volumes of paperwork, often with deadlines attached.

As, in addition to IP law, the work is likely to involve commercial law and litigation, so make sure you also look at the skills required for those practice areas.

Current issues

IP is an important asset to any company and when times are tough companies are very keen to protect any infringements of their rights. Consequently, while not totally unaffected by the recession, IP departments have remained relatively buoyant throughout the economic downturn.

One of the biggest changes pending is the establishment of the Unified Patent Court which will govern patent registration and litigation across the 25 participating European countries. The UPC is expected to be in operation at the end of 2016.

What's it like in practice

Find out what some of our people who have practised IP law say about it, and the advice that they would give those interested in a career in this area. Look at the following Case Study:

More information

The student guides to the legal profession have useful information on working in intellectual property law. Look at:

    Find out more about the world of IP on the Intellectual Property Office’s website: