Working with intellectual property law is a noble and important job and something that is completely crucial in order for democracy and capitalism to operate as they do. If you work in this area, then you will be tasked with helping protect people’s rights to their ideas and preventing others from making money from their hard work and ingenuity.
Of course though copyright is a complex and difficult area if you have never worked in it before, and it can take some time to fully understand it. Here we will look at the basics you need to understand so that you can get a better idea of whether this is an area you’d be interested in pursuing.
The Three Types of Intellectual Property Protection
First of all, if you get into intellectual property law, you are not just going to have to understand copyright. Actually there are three different kinds of intellectual property law, and each of them is very different and works in a different way. They are…
Copyright: Copyright is the now most of us understand. As soon as you have a creative work such as a story, a work of art, or a character that is protected by copyright as long as you can prove you came up with it first. This is a right everyone is entitled to and it lasts until 70 years after you die (unless you can pass it on to an heir).
Patent: Patent is very different to copyright and is something that you need to actively acquire. Patents don’t concern stories and ideas in the same way that copyrights do, but rather focus on mechanical workings and systems. In other words you could not copyright a new kind of phone, a new medication or a new invention for peeling carrots – but you could patent them.
Patents are much more complicated however and a lot more work than patents. As a lawyer one of your main jobs will be to research and obtain patents and this will cost the inventor a lot of money even before they have paid your fees.
Furthermore, patents only last for ten years, and they won’t be valid in every country – so you can pay a lot of money and not stand to benefit that much. However there is a good reason for this – that being that too stringent laws would prevent the advancement of technology and create market monopolies. Imagine if patents lasted forever and someone patented the chair?
Trademark: Trademarks are different again and this time apply to company names, character names and logos. These are just ‘words’ that are associated with your business and they are relatively easy to obtain compared to patents, though they do also need to be renewed.
If you work in intellectual property law then your jobs will be varied and interesting. You will be required to protect ideas, as well as to defend the use of concepts and designs in court. You never know, you might just play a part in the next great invention or novel…