Updated: 2021-01-08 by
Intellectual property refers to “creations of the mind,” such as works of literature and art, inventions, designs, symbols, and unique names -- creative work that is critical to the way our society and economy functions. Your creations may be protected by one of several areas of intellectual property law, including copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade secrets, and licensing.
Intellectual property (IP) is a highly detailed and complex area of the law. It’s rife with gray areas, and both individuals and companies will often aggressively protect their intellectual property rights. While you may be able to handle some IP tasks on your own -- for example, securing a straightforward trademark to writing a letter asking a website to take down your copyrighted content -- an intellectual property attorney can guide you in more complicated matters.
What Does an Intellectual Property Lawyer Do?
Among other things, a good intellectual property lawyer can help you:
- Understand how intellectual property works, including which area of intellectual property law applies whether your work is eligible for protection.
- Secure a trademark to distinguish your product or service in the marketplace.
- File for and obtain a patent to protect an invention.
- Protect a secret method, formula, or device (a trade secret) that gives you a competitive advantage over other businesses.
- Leverage your intellectual property to attract business investors.
- Draft or review contracts to license your work or to transfer ownership of it.
- Figure out whether someone is using your work illegally and stop others from infringing your rights.
- Avoid stepping on someone else’s IP rights, including searching to find out what rights others own or keeping you out of trouble by explaining how the law applies to what you want to do.
- Negotiate licenses to use or buy someone else’s protected work.
- Go to court to stop someone from violating your intellectual property rights.
Find a Good Intellectual Property Attorney
Like tax law, bankruptcy law, or estate planning law, intellectual property law is a specialty subject involving complex legal rules. Within the IP field, attorneys often focus on certain types of transactions -- patents, for example, or licensing agreements.
Someone claiming to be an intellectual property lawyer should be able to point to experience and deep knowledge of the type of law that applies to your issue. If the lawyer has the right experience, many aspects of your transaction will be routine. The lawyer you choose should be able to advise you on the best way to proceed with your intellectual property matter, given the type of work at issue, what you want to do with it, and the regulations, statutes, and cases that apply.
If you're going to hire an intellectual property lawyer, make sure you get a good one. Do your homework and comparison shop before you hire someone to represent you.