Intellectual Property Rights : An Emerging Career

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Introduction

What is Intellectual Property?

WIPO, World Intellectual Property Organization, the leading body governing Intellectual Property rights issues defines IP or Intellectual Property as “Creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce.” Given the fact that the world economy is slowly but surely moving towards the knowledge economy, innovations and new inventions are increasingly intangible in nature. This makes it difficult for the innovator or the inventor to apply for patents for these new kinds of innovations. This changed scenario led to the development of the concept of IP. IP, as the definition says, covers, but is not limited to, domains like Software, Architectural and Industrial design, Pharmaceutical Research and Development, Music, Literary Pieces. In other words, Intellectual property encompasses the entire gamut of intellectual inventions that cannot be quantified. Intellectual property can broadly be sub-divided under two categories – Copyright and Industrial property.

    • Copyright includes primarily artistic and literary creations like Photography, Poems, Painting, Plays, Novels, Architectural Designs, Music and Sculptors.
    •  Industrial Property caters to commercial domains like Industrial Designs, New Technologies, Processes and Methodologies and Trademarks.

Nature of Work

An IPR attorney is primarily responsible for safeguarding the commercial interests of his or her client. For example, if you invented a new alloy like Hastelloy B, an IPR attorney would, in other words, write you up a shield against intruders that would like to imitate your intelligence, hence intellectual property. The KRA (Key Responsibility Areas) of an IPR attorney involves protecting the Intellectual Property Rights of individuals as well as organizations. As a part of this job, the IPR attorney is responsible for assessing if any given innovation, improvement or invention can be patented or not. They are also responsible for creating draft patent applications, and protect the client in case of an infringement. Apart from the education that one receive in a law school there are certain attributes one should have to become an IPR attorney. Sensing intellectual theft and trying to curb the situation might be a frontrunner in this section. If the situation goes out of hand an IPR attorney should have a sound knowledge of law to bring the responsible persons to books.

Personality

To be a successful IP attorney, a grasp of the law with a good knowledge of IT and technologies is essential. The internals and workings of technology, products and processes would come handy while doing research. Knowledge of technology is more important than the law itself, since the IP attorney is dealing only in the Copyright Act and nothing else, unless of course he or she is practicing in other forms of law. A good writing, presentation skill and research oriented are few of the soft skills which are looked for in an IPR Attorney.

Career Prospects and Growth

With the advent of the Internet, the world has witnessed two tectonic shifts in the market dynamics – Free flow of Information and Globalization of the world Economy. The Internet was designed to be a fail proof mode of communication by the US Army, but this strategic innovation turned tactical, and has changed the world for ever. One of the most important changes has been in the field of Information Sharing. In addition to the obvious positive aspects of instant access to the global storehouse of information, this boon brought along it its own set of evils. The major drawback being, information ceased to be proprietary. New innovations were quickly assimilated and applied in business organizations without benefiting the inventor. And since national economies became more interlinked, manufacturing powerhouses from emerging economies threatened companies that invest a large amount of their top-lines in research and development. IPR attorneys are integral part of in-house teams of business organizations formed with the sole aim of identifying and stopping copyright and IP infringements. IPR attorneys are also being actively employed by a whole range of organizations like Specialty Law Firms, Government and Self supported Think Tanks, Law Enforcing bodies and universities.

    • Corporate houses: Most of the knowledge economy firms like technology entertainment firms generally have an in house team of corporate IPR attorneys who are actively involved in decision making activities and also contribute to creating corporate policies. While this particular avenue lets an aspiring IPR attorney develop highly specialized knowledge in one domain, it also restricts the scope of learning for that attorney because he lacks the knowledge of another domain.
    • Law firms: Most of the law firms, especially in developed and emerging economies like the US, EU, India and China has specialized divisions that cater to litigations concerning infringement of Intellectual Properties. In U.S and EU, there are law firms that specialize in intellectual property law. A law firm primarily acts as a third party, and hence offers exposure to a diverse range of technologies and domains. In addition to this, an IP team in a law firm generally has lawyers from different technology backgrounds, and hence offers better learning opportunities as compared to an in house corporate legal team. In general, a law firm offers better compensation as well as growth opportunities. In the same lines, the work pressure is quite higher in a law firm as compared to a corporate legal team.
    • Government agencies and think tanks: Government agencies and policy making bodies are one of the most prolific employers of IPR attorneys. One of the most obvious agencies is the Patent and Copyright office of any country. Apart from this, in general, other departments like Justice, Commerce, Defense, and Information Technology also employ IPR attorneys.
    • Universities and Independent Research Organizations: Most of the universities undertake large industry and government sponsored research projects. These projects invariably involve innovation in cutting edge technologies, and hence most universities have an in house cell of IPR lawyers that help them protect their interests. With the increasing frequency of technology start ups originating from university campuses, the legal department of universities has its hands full trying to protect the intellectual capital of these start ups.
    • Faculty at Law schools: With the rapid growth in demand for IPR attorneys, there is an increasing demand for faculties in old as well as newly established law schools

 

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