How To Find The Best IP Lawyer: Everything You Need To Know About Intellectual Property Law

Michael Gargiulo - CEO, VPN.com

By: Michael Gargiulo, CEO at VPN.com

Updated: 4:47 PM ET Mon, May 24th 2021

intellectual property flow chart
You have a great idea for a new invention, a novel process, or something else that you expect to create value. While this idea isn’t something that you can reach out and touch, it is nonetheless your property. This sort of intellectual property constitutes a vital asset for every business, and a breach of your IP rights can be highly damaging. However, you can rely on the services of an IP lawyer to register, maintain, and protect your intellectual property.

What Is An IP Lawyer?

An IP lawyer specializes in one or more subfields within the realm of IP law. This legal area is complex, multifaceted, and vital to the integrity of businesses. As such, the subject matter expertise and qualifications of a dedicated IP attorney are essential assets. This knowledge means that they can assist clients with registering their intellectual property, pursue litigation, and provide an array of other services.

Virtually anyone might have cause to hire an IP lawyer at some point in their lives. Larger businesses must be active about protecting their IP, but even smaller businesses have intellectual property of considerable value. Private citizens, inventors, and victims of unfair competition and false advertising might also consult with an IP attorney. The field of intellectual property law is remarkably broad and impacts everyone’s lives to some extent.

What Does Intellectual Property Law Encompass?

Patents

Patents may be the type of intellectual property that the general public is the most familiar with. The US government and other governments issue patents to recognize inventors and protect their rights regarding what they create. Patents specifically protect new processes, inventions, engineered plant breeds, and related intellectual creations. One of the curious marks of a patent is that it’s temporary and typically lasts for 20 years. During this period, the patent-holder has sole rights to the process or product that the patent describes. Once the patent ends, the patent holder’s ownership also ceases and their creation enters the public domain.

Copyrights

Written stories, theater productions, musical and artistic creations, and more enjoy the protection of copyright. While it’s possible to register a copyright for certain advantages, they also enjoy common law protection. Anyone who creates copyrightable content has rights regarding sole usage of the IP. While copyright is temporary, it lasts a fairly long time. It starts at the moment of creation, and typically continues until 70 years after the death of the creator. Then, the creation enters the public domain and anyone may use the formerly copyrighted content.

Trademarks

The images, phrases, and other symbols that businesses use to distinguish their goods and services are trademarks. Trademark owners may register this form of intellectual property, but simply using a trademark gives the owner certain rights. It’s possible to pursue litigation against an infringing party on a common law basis so long as it’s clear that your business has already used the trademark in question.

While patents and copyrights eventually expire, businesses may maintain their trademarks in perpetuity. This is because their role in commerce relates solely to the brands that create them. Without the brand behind the trademark, it has no value. When trademark violations occur, the damages to the rightful owner lay in the fact that the other party is muddying the waters surrounding their brand. For instance, a restaurant repurposing iconic elements of the marketing of a popular brand may result in them profiting from the work of the larger brand. Furthermore,

Trade Secret Law

While trade secrets constitute intellectual property that the owners have the right to, there are no formal means of registering and protecting them. After all, the protection of trade secrets relies on businesses maintaining their confidentiality, which is inherently at odds with the public registries that exist for other types of IP. Despite the fact that you cannot register them in the same way you might do so with a patent, the U.S. government and others have formally enshrined trade secrets as private intellectual property. For instance, the Economic Espionage Act of 1996 explicitly labeled the theft and misuse of trade secrets as a crime.

Licensing

Licensing is an important way for organizations to monetize their intellectual property. Through licensing, the owner of a patent, trademark, or copyright can allow another party to use their IP. Typically, this transaction involves the second party paying a fee to the IP owner in exchange for use rights. If either side of the agreement breaks its terms, the other can suffer considerable damages.

Unfair Competition

Unfair competition laws govern a wide umbrella of different intellectual property abuses. They typically deal with businesses that have suffered from unethical or abusive practices of their rivals. However, unfair competition also encompasses a range of consumer protection measures. For instance, advertising a product via fraudulent measures that make it appear to be a prestigious brand is unauthorized substitution, a type of unfair competition. While trademark law is its own field, the specific violation that is trademark infringement also falls under this umbrella.

Why Intellectual Property Law Is Important

Intellectual property law is important because it acknowledges and protects the value of intangible properties. Without IP law, it would prove difficult to reap the benefits of any novel idea or creation. After investing time and effort into a new invention, a person might find competitors immediately imitating their design. In this sense, patent law specifically incentivizes people to create by entitling creators to certain rights.

Likewise, trademark and copyright laws allow individuals and businesses that deal in intellectual productions to reap the benefits of their work. Thanks to copyright, they’re protected against other parties using the characters, storylines, music, etc. they develop. This also serves as reputation protection, as brands and characters have a consistent image in the public eye. If every popular new film produced an uncontrolled deluge of poor-quality imitators using the same characters, it would devastate the value of the original IP.

The three major fields within IP law (patents, copyrights, and trademarks) also protect consumers. They ensure that consumers can expect a certain level of quality from brands, characters, and products without extensive background research. When people hear that, say, a new Pixar or Marvel movie is coming out, that’s often enough to pique their interest and they can be reasonably confident in the quality of the movie. This also extends to consumer goods, where certain brands promise higher quality or cost-efficiency.

While the core fields of IP law help creators and consumers, the other fields explicitly protect commerce and consumers. By recognizing and protecting intellectual property, trade secret protections allow brands to benefit from novel inventions and discourage illegitimate corporate behavior. Overall, the field of IP law plays an indispensable role in protecting commerce and consumers alike. It provides an avenue for creative, intellectual pursuits to claim, maintain, and protect their inventions, thus incentivizing the act of creation.

The Role Of IP Lawyers

IP lawyers specialize in the various subfields of intellectual property law and help the general public understand their rights. Registering your IP and understanding what qualifies as infringement can be fairly complex. Attorneys who specialize in intellectual property allow anyone to understand and benefit from the protection of these laws. From the initial application to the process of protecting your intellectual property, attorneys have services to offer.

Key Services That IP Lawyers Offer

While the nature of legal services across the different fields of IP law vary, there are certain services and benefits that IP attorneys typically offer. In addition to their legal expertise, they typically know a great deal about intellectual property itself. They’re also specially suited to maintain the integrity of your intellectual property via monitoring, investigation, and litigation.

Subject-Matter Guidance

Another element of what makes IP law unique is that some subfields have more rigorous requirements for attorneys. For instance, patent law places a higher emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) expertise than legal experience. This familiarity with the often-mechanical or technical work that pertains to patents gives them unique insight and ability to support the efforts of clients. It’s often possible to consult IP lawyers about more than just the laws surrounding the intellectual property in question.

Application And Registration

An IP attorney’s combination of subject matter knowledge and legal expertise makes them uniquely situated to support registrations. Applying for recognition of your IP requires a familiarity with the laws and the ability to write in a dense, technical style. However, it also requires sufficient understanding of the IP in question to write about it. While the IP holder will understand their property, they might not be able to write in the manner that applications require. Many people do write applications on their own, but it’s commonplace to entrust applications to an IP lawyer.

Intellectual Property Investigation

Investigative services are an important asset for first-time registrants as well as established owners of IP. Once you begin the registration process, it’s essential to make sure that you’re not infringing on existing intellectual property. While a great deal of IP infringement is malicious, it’s common for people to accidentally commit innocent infringement. This is the act of infringing upon extant IPs without realizing it, putting both the infringer and the owner in a difficult position. Hiring an IP lawyer can help you ensure that you don’t accidentally violate someone else’s IP.

IP Monitoring

When you’re busy with your own business, you’re not necessarily going to have the time to make sure no one is violating your IP rights. Furthermore, the average person might not recognize infringement at a glance. However, this is one area where IP attorneys specialize. It’s normal for them to offer services pertaining to monitoring the registries of different IP and look out for cases of infringement. This sort of watchdog service has the benefit of allowing you to actually detect potential cases of infringement before they damage your brand.

Litigation

Ultimately, all of the protections that IP law confer hinge on the power of litigation. Without the ability to pursue litigation through an IP lawyer, it would be impossible to actually enforce your rights to IP. Additionally, average citizens may have cause to hire an IP lawyer in the case of unfair competition such as false advertising or unauthorized substitution. The scope of their legal expertise and experience is a valuable asset to anyone looking to pursue IP-oriented litigation.

How To Choose The Right IP Lawyer

Once you’ve realized your need for an IP lawyer, the next step is to find the right professional. Since there are many subfields within IP law, there will always be some with more relevant qualifications for your needs than others. Before approaching an IP attorney, you should understand how to make the right choice and successfully find the most suitable firm.

Identify Relevant Specializations And Qualifications

An IP attorney will often provide case studies, certifications, and other testaments to their expertise on their website. Testimonials are usually available, and can help provide insight into the type of cases a lawyer usually handles. In many cases, lawyers will also advertise themselves as specialists within one of the IP law subfields. All of these assets are useful starting points that help you see how relevant their skill set and experience are to your needs.

Additionally, you can find a great deal of relevant information from other sources.You can search online directories and attempt to discover whether or not a given attorney is in relevant legal organizations. The state bar is also a valuable resource, as they can verify whether or not the lawyers you’re looking into remain in good standing.

Agent Or Lawyer

In some cases, it’s possible to seek IP-related services while turning to an agent rather than a lawyer. While some jurisdictions use these terms indistinguishably, others use it to denote whether or not an individual practices law. It’s not a matter of one type of professional necessarily being better than the other, but the services they’re qualified to offer. A patent agent, for instance, will offer much lower rates than a lawyer and be able to assist with patent applications. However, they do not have legal experience and may not offer any type of legal counsel or pursue litigation in court. When you need to pursue litigation against a party that’s infringing upon your rights, an IP lawyer is the only choice.

Shop Around

Before committing to one lawyer or another, be sure to explore the options in your area. This will give you a grasp on the average prices, qualifications, and experience of the attorneys you have to choose from. If any seems to have prices that don’t match up with their relative qualifications, then you’ll have questions to start asking. However, you should be asking certain questions before hiring an IP attorney regardless of this.

Ask The Right Questions

Once you’ve found one or more attorneys that seem suitable, you should prepare your questions for them prior to hiring. First off, ask via email or phone call if they’re accepting new clients, and if the answer is yes proceed with scheduling a consultation. Once the consultation arrives, be prepared with the following inquiries:

What type of intellectual property cases has the firm dealt with before? Does their experience lay primarily in the subfield you’re looking for services in? If not, make sure that they have a level of relevant experience and qualification that you’re satisfied with.

Ask about the manner in which they pursue the services you’re looking for. This can yield answers relating to how long it will take and how much hiring them will cost you.

Prolific, successful IP attorneys often have numerous clients. As such, it’s essential that you ask any potential partners about whether or not they have a conflict of interest. If existing clients of theirs are direct or indirect competitors of yours, it’s likely best to look elsewhere for your IP law services.

Learn More About Protecting Your IP

Here at VPN.com, helping people understand their rights in today’s digital world is among our highest priorities. If you’re looking to learn more about intellectual property, online privacy, and your rights with regard to both, you’re in the right place. Follow VPN.com to learn about all of this and more.
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Arabic
Kurdish, Arabic
Hebrew
Arabic
Arabic
Arabic
Arabic
Arabic
Arabic
Arabic
Turkish
Capital
Abu Dhabi
Manama
Baghdad
Jerusalem
Amman
Kuwait City
Beirut
Muscat
Doha
Riyadh
Sana'a
Ankara
Pop.
9,890,402
1,701,575
40,222,493
8,655,535
10,203,134
4,270,571
6,825,445
5,106,626
2,881,053
34,813,871
29,825,964
84,339,067

Oceania Domains

Country

American Samoa

Australia
Cocos Islands
Cook Islands
Fiji
French Polynesia
Heard and McDonald Islands
Kiribati
Mariana
Micronesia
Nauru
New Caledonia
New Zealand
Norfolk
Palau
Pitcairn
Samoa
Solomon Islands
Tokelau
Tonga
Tuvalu
Vanuatu
Wallis and Futuna
Domain Extension
.as
.com.au
.cc
.co.ck
.com.fj
.com.pf, pf
.hm
.com.ki
.mp
.fm
.nr
.nc
.co.nz, .nz
.nf
.pw
.pn
.ws
.sb
.tk
.to
.tv
.vu
.wf
Language
Samoan, English
English
English
Rarotongan, English
Fijian, English, Fiji Hindi
French
English
Kiribati, English
Chamorro, Carolinian, English
English
Nauruan, English
French
Maori, English
English, Norfuk
Palauan, English
English
Samoan, English
English
Tokelauan, English
Tongan, English
Tuvaluan, English
French, English, Bislama
French
Capital
Pago Pago
Canberra
West Island
Avarua District
Suva
Pape'ete
N/A
Tarawa
Saipan
Palikir
Nauru
Nouméa
Wellington
Kingston
Ngerulmud
Adamstown
Apia
Honiara
Nukunonu
Nuku'alofa
Funafuti
Port Vila
Matā'utu
Pop.
55,191
25,499,884
544
17,564
896,445
280,908
0
119,449
57,559
548,914
10,824
285,498
4,822,233
1,748
18,094
50
198,414
686,884
1,357
105,695
11,792
307,145
11,239

South America Domains

Country

Argentina

Bolivia
Brazil
Chile
Colombia
Ecuador
Falkland Islands
French Guiana
Guyana
Paraguay
Peru
S.Georgia and S.Sandwich Islands
Suriname
Uruguay
Venezuela
Domain Extension
.ar, .com.ar
.bo
.com.br
.cl
.com.br
.ec
.co.fk
.gf
.gy
.com.py
.pe
.gs
.sr
.com.uy, .uy
.com.ve
Language
Spanish
Spanish
Portuguese
Spanish
Spanish
Spanish
English
French
English
Paraguayan Guarani, Spanish
Spanish, Aymara
English
Dutch
Spanish
Spanish
Capital
Buenos Aires
La Paz, Sucre
Brasilia
Santiago
Bogotá
Quito
Stanley
Cayenne
Georgetown
Asunción
Lima
King Edward Point
Paramaribo
Montevideo
Caracas
Pop.
45,195,774
11,673,021
212,559,417
19,116,201
50,882,891
17,643,054
3,480
298,682
786,552
7,132,538
32,971,854
0
586,632
3,473,730
28,435,940
en_USEnglish
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