The popularity of intellectual property (IP) law is no surprise given its pertinence in the modern world: protecting people’s and companies’ most valuable assets—their ideas and creations.
IP law encompasses several fields. So, before 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 five areas of practice: patent law, trademark law, copyright law, trade secret law, and licensing law.
Keep in mind that to become a patent prosecution attorney (whose scope covers before and up to the granting of a patent), you must pass not only a state bar exam but also the patent bar exam, which requires a science/technical degree.
After doing your due diligence, if you still think that IP law is for you, here are some tips on finding the right school to help you achieve your goals.
Intellectual Property Courses
While Yale Law School offers a few IP courses, the George Washington University Law School has a strong focus on IP law and has more than 25 different IP courses ranging from foundational to specialized courses such as “Patent Appellate Practice.”
In addition, the highly ranked New York University (NYU) School of Law offers more than 30 classes under the umbrella of IP and Information Law including “Fashion Law and Business.”
Meanwhile, the University of New Hampshire’s Franklin Pierce Center for Intellectual Property includes two IP areas of focus in its curriculum: Patent Law and Trademarks and Copyright, with more than 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 necessary academic background to succeed.
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 Law School’s Juelsgaard Intellectual Property and Innovation Clinic encompasses a slightly broader spectrum of clients, from entrepreneurs to biohackers, and extends to not only IP cases but also regulatory policies. Boston University offers a Startup Law Clinic in collaboration with MIT that provides guidance to its own campus-based entrepreneurs.
The University of Houston Law Center’s Institute for Intellectual Property & Information Law organizes an annual national conference for scholars to discuss current trends and practices in the field, with past symposiums focusing on such topics as patents and cyberlaw.
It is worth considering the opinion of legal educators when choosing the right IP program. However, if you are committed to being a patent lawyer (often referred to as a patent prosecutor), school rankings matter 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 both help defray tuition costs and 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.