The rising popularity of Intellectual Property (“IP”) Law comes as no surprise given its pertinence in the modern world: protecting people and companies’ most valuable assets – their ideas and creations.
IP law encompasses a number of fields so before jumping in or declaring your commitment in your law school applications, be sure to get a good lay of the land. In a very broad sense, intellectual property law encompasses four areas of practice: patent prosecution, copyright/trademarks, intellectual property transactions (licensing and collaborations) and patent litigation.
In order to practice patent prosecution (i.e. before and up to granting of the patent), you must not only pass a state bar but also the Patent Bar which requires a science/technical degree. If after doing your due diligence, you still think that IP law is for you, here are some tips on how to find the right school for you.
Intellectual Property Courses
Obvious, but worth confirming. While Yale offers a few IP courses, George Washington Law School has a strong focus on IP law and has over 25 different IP course offerings ranging from foundational courses to specialized courses in areas such as Patent Appellate Practice.
Highly ranked NYU offers over 40 classes under the umbrella of IP and Information Law including Fashion Law and Business.
The University of New Hampshire’s Franklin Pierce Center for Intellectual Property includes two IP areas of focus in their curriculum, Patent Law and Trademarks and Copyright, with over 30 IP specific classes. If you know which area of IP law you want to pursue, confirm that your law school of choice will provide you with the academic background necessary.
Not all learning happens in the classroom. In fact, clinics offer some of the best real world legal experience you will receive while in law school. Look at which schools offer the type of hands-on experience that you want.
Stanford’s Juelsgaard Intellectual Property and Innovation Clinic encompasses a slightly broader spectrum of clients, e.g. the occasional inventor or photographer, and extends not only to IP cases but also regulatory policies. Boston University offers an Entrepreneurship and Intellectual Property Clinic that provides guidance to its own campus-based entrepreneurs.
The University of Houston Law Center’s Institute for Intellectual Property and Information Law organizes an annual national conference for scholars to discuss current trends and practices in the field with past symposiums focusing on topics such as patents and cyberlaw.
It is worth considering the opinion of legal educators when choosing the right IP program.
If you are committed to being a patent prosecutor, however, school ranking matters less than for other areas of IP law. Your technical background will matter more.
If you have a technical degree, consider working at a law firm or a company as a technical advisor/patent agent while in school to not only help defray tuition costs but to get some on the job training as well.
IP law can be such a great fit for so many aspiring lawyers; be sure to do your research before deciding if it is right for you.