IP law includes patent; copyright; trademarks; trade secrets; and right of publicity. All of these areas are related in that they deal with protecting products of the mind but in other ways they are very different.
Patent law involves obtaining a patent on an invention issued by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office—this is called patent prosecution and only registered patent attorneys can engage in prosecution. To be a registered patent attorney, you must have a science background in addition to a law degree. Another area of patent law is patent infringement litigation which can be engaged in by any attorney. This type of litigation is incredibly expensive – often costing millions of dollars in attorney and expert fees. Additionally, developing a strategic portfolio of patents is another important activity attorneys can do in conjunction with business people.
Trademark law involves the use of trademarks to sell products/services. Trademark applications are filed in the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Trademark infringement litigation is a major area because companies with strong trademarks must be vigilant about protecting their trademarks to avoid losing them because they become generic words.
Right of Publicity
Trade secret law provides protection for proprietary information used by a business enterprise. This can include protection for technological and business know-how that is maintained in secret.
The primary work in the copyright area today involves applying this body of law to electronic and digital media to control its duplication and distribution.
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“IP is fascinating because it frequently deals with very abstract issues that can have significant monetary consequences depending upon how the law is applied.”