career in intellectual property law
click above

In this article, Qamar Ali Jafri discusses Career Opportunities for law graduates in Intellectual Property Law.

Introduction

Intellectual Property Law (IP) is an exponentially growing field. We are witnessing a paradigm shift from corporations and companies hunting down tangible properties such as land and machinery towards acquiring intellectual assets. India is becoming a hub of startups and R&D centres, which are nothing but intellectual creations. Intellectual Property law is all about protecting and exercising benefits from your intellectual creations. People protect what they create. It is a basic human tendency for which they need another set of people. Now that might be you, aspiring to build a career in IPR because clearly, Google directed you here when you asked it for some career advice.

Why is Intellectual Property law interesting?

Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. Intellectual property law enables individuals to claim exclusive rights and financial gain from what they invent or create, which is a benefit to both creators and the public. With its foundation in human ingenuity, it should be no surprise that for the intellectual property professional, work days cannot be characterized as dull or boring. To state that another way, intellectual property law is unendingly interesting, especially when genius mixes with mortal unpredictability.

Let us look at some interesting cases

S. Victor Whitmill v. Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc

In the movie, The Hangover Part II, Stu Price played by Ed Helms wakes up with a tribal tattoo which is identical to the one Mike Tyson has. Tyson’s tattoo artist Mr Whitmill filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros. Entertainment for copyright infringement just weeks before the release of the movie. Warner Bros. Entertainment, however, saw it as parody falling under ‘fair use’. The injunction order was not granted as the studio was ready to alter the tattoo digitally. Further, to avoid a long trial, Whitmill and Warner Bros. Entertainment settled with an agreement under undisclosed terms.  

Amazon’s 1 – Click Patent

On September 28 1999, Amazon was granted a patent for the ‘1-click technology’. It is a one-click buying technology where customers can do an online purchase in a single click. There have been various disputes regarding this technology which stores all the necessary details in the user’s account online and enables them to make quick purchases. Amazon also filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Barnes & Noble in 1999. Barnes & Noble also used a similar technology under the name of “Express Lane” which also enabled shoppers to make a purchase with one click. The lawsuit was settled in 2002, however, the terms were not disclosed.

Adidas America v. Payless ShoeSource

We identify the Adidas shoes by their three strips, but Adidas is not the only shoe making company that uses stripes. In 1994, Adidas and Payless Shoesource got into a scuffle over these stripes. Payless was selling confusingly similar athletic shoes with two and four parallel stripes. The two companies hashed out a settlement, but by 2001, Payless was again selling confusingly similar shoes. Fearing that the sneakers would dupe buyers and tarnish its name, Adidas America Inc. demanded a jury trial. The trial lasted seven years, during which 268 pairs of Payless shoes were reviewed. In the end, Adidas was awarded $305 million—$100 million for each stripe.

The stories of intellectual property law are infinitely dynamic, surprising, amazing and curious. And as technology, human creativity and law develop and intersect, new problems with new questions arise.

Diverse Work Profile

There is a high probability that you are reading this as a law student who is ready to step into the world of IPR as a lawyer, so let us have a look at the different possible roles that people in this field play:

  • Drafting (here, understanding the invention, strategizing protection, articulating the inventions and understanding nuances of language is very important)
  • Litigation
  • Filing & Prosecution
  • Teaching, training and spreading awareness
  • Analytics and Strategy
  • Technology assessment and marketing
  • Research, policy, philosophy and advocacy

The list is not exhaustive. The idea is to make clear that a single individual takes more than one of these roles up in the Indian paradigm because role specialization is rare, unlike the western countries. These roles might narrow down if you end up in an IPR specializing firm, where only specific roles are provided, but if you step into litigation, you clearly have a dynamic and broad field of practice, which I think is more fun.

Intellectual Property Law

  • Understanding the law and its implications should be your primary objective no matter what role in this field you consider yourself fit for. In addition, a good communication skill is necessary as IPR is widely interdisciplinary.
  • There is marketing involved, dealing with different communities in understanding the inventions, etc.
  • Different roles require different strengths. For instance, a little knowledge in science and technology is required when dealing with patents. Owing to the fact that IPR is multidisciplinary and a bit of studying technology is involved for patents which subsequently is an important part of the IPR, students go technology phobic.
  • A bit of research on this angle of technology tells us that there are lawyers who thrive upon flourishing practices even without having a formal technical degree, which is a requirement under the Patents Act, which is further debatable as to how a technical degree in any field makes one competent for a Patent Agent. Moreover, this is not taken well by the lawyer community.

Fields under IP Law

Lord Walker in the case of Philips v Malcurie declared that the term ‘intellectual property’ has no particular potency.  A consensus is there as to its core content but not as to its limits. Broadly classified under:

  • Trade Marks
  • Patents
  • Copyrights and Related Rights
  • Industrial Designs
  • Geographical Indications
  • Layout Designs of Integrated Circuits
  • Plant Varieties
  • Information Technology and Cybercrimes
  • Data Protection

These fields are governed by various stipulated Acts such as

  1. Trade Marks Act, 1999
  2. The Patents Act, 1970 (as amended in 2005)
  3. The Copyright Act, 1957
  4. The Designs Act, 2000
  5. The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999
  6. The Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout Design Act, 2000
  7. The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Right Act, 2001
  8. The Information Technology Act, 2000

You can read more about the international treaties regarding IP laws here.

How to build a Career in Intellectual Property Law

Choose a specialisation in IP Laws

There are three prominent categories of law students. Those who have good grades, those who do good internships and those who have both. The third category is microscopic, the majority lies either in the first or second category or in a worst-case scenario, they wake up late in the third or fourth year of their law school journey. It is never too late to take a decision. Every law college has some alumni base. Start networking, reach out to them and learn from their experiences. This is not just specific to IPR, be it any field of law, indecisiveness will lead you nowhere. Your seniors will advise you to pick a path and start building yourself for it. For starters, study the subject in its entirety. Once you have explored all the different areas of IP law, pick one to specialize. This specialization becomes important from the perspective of your future employer and your client.

Enroll in IP laws specialised courses

Once you have taken a decision, study the subject with more zeal and enthusiasm. Clear your basic understanding of the law. If possible, do a moot regarding IPR and write some research papers on it. This not only would develop your interest in the subject but also give you an edge and enhance your CV. You can also do an online diploma course for a better understanding. Different law schools and organizations provide such online courses. Enroll yourself in one of them. A few good examples of such courses would be LawSikho, FICCI, WIPO distant learning program, etc.

LawSikho

This course offers a detailed overview of Intellectual Property Law. Offering key insights regarding the impact of IP on businesses or career opportunity related to Intellectual Property Management. It also encompasses Copyright, Trademark, Patent, GI, Trade Secrets and Designs as well as Technology transfers.

Benefits of pursuing this course:

  1. Entrepreneurs can learn how to transform their game-changing products and services into quantifiable market value and trump competition by understanding Intellectual Property Law.
  2. Working professionals and freelancing creative professionals can learn how to signal the current and potential value of their offerings to prospective clients, current stakeholders and competitors.
  3. It is critical for practising lawyers to up their game by enrolling in the intellectual property law course to protecting their clients by preventing rivals from patenting related inventions or preventing the misuse of their trademarks.
  4. There is a growing body of research that shows a positive correlation between an organization growth trajectory and access to capital and patenting.
  5. Students can enhance their output and create a formidable CV during internships by understanding the IP systems and their role in the economy through patents and other types of IPs. Patents are being aggressively used in opportunistic patents.
  6. The evolving digital technologies are able to copy and disseminate unique intellectual achievements which leave a large section of the population vulnerable to vested interests.

You can know more about this course from here.

FICCI

This IPR Online Course has been introduced with the objective to provide a platform for candidates to gain practical knowledge about Intellectual Property Rights and its importance for innovation and growth of businesses and the economy as a whole. They provide a research-based approach to learning through case studies, online lectures and also work in close consultation with industry leaders and IP experts.

You can read more about the course from here.

WIPO

World Intellectual Property organisation provides a variety of courses in IP laws to both professionals and for someone who is new to the field. You can read more about the course from here.

Plan your internships in IP specialised Law Firms/Advocates

Real world exposure is necessary. All practical legal skills are rooted in tacit knowledge- the type of knowledge that is difficult to write down or verbalize. Try to do as many internships in the field of IPR as possible. It is one thing to read about it in textbooks but it is a completely different thing to be involved in an IPR issue to put the law into practice. IPR is a keyword that the firms will look for in your CV when you apply for an internship. When interning under a practising IP attorney, you need to have a basic understanding of procedural laws such as CPC and other specialized acts.

Element and Geographical Preference

This phase is tackled in the last days of your law school or preferably post-law school. IP law is too wide and dynamic. Unless you plan to start your own practice in this field of law it is advisable you pick your element. Institutional wise specialization is rare in India, but clients always look for someone who specializes in the issue concerning them. By this time, you might have developed a significant interest in a specific area of IP law, through your internships.

  • List down specific positions that interest you.
  • Include job titles and, if a job title is not sufficiently descriptive of a position, elaborate on it.
  • Make sure to note that job titles are not necessarily the same from one employing organization to the next, so include as many alternative job titles that might describe the same or similar duties and responsibilities.
  • List down examples of specific employers where you are likely to land such a position.
  • The key is to logically back your interest in such positions. Do it by providing a background of your previous works and internships that qualify you for such a position.
  • Now before applying for a job in a firm through campus placements or off campus, pick your geographical preference as to where you would like to work.
  • Unless you have to, do not be specific and unnecessarily limit your options. Opportunities may arise that are so enticing that you might have to reconsider your locational preference if they were presented to you.

Legal luminaries in the field of IP law

Honestly, there are no set parameters to decide this. However, I have listed down three people whose stories would inspire you to be an IP law professional.

  • Justice Gautam Patel of the Bombay High Court
  • Justice Prabha Sridevan, former judge of the Madras High Court and former Chairperson, IPAB
  • Prof Shamnad Basheer, Founder, SpicyIP

First, let’s take Justice Gautam Patel. Reading his judgements would remind you of your jurisprudence classes in Law School, which would emphasise three elements of legal reasoning: law, logic and coherence. Justice Patel’s judgments are ‘strong’ and ‘measured’ on all these fronts. Click on this link to see how he inspires his interns to work efficiently in the field of IP law.

Justice (Retd.) Prabha Sridevan served as a judge of the Madras High Court from 2000 to 2010. Post-retirement, she was appointed as the Chairperson of the IPAB (Intellectual Property Appellate Tribunal) from 2011 to 2013. In her capacity as Chairperson of the IPAB, she delivered a number of important IP decisions including one relating to India’s very first (post TRIPS) compulsory licensing case. She also played a monumental role in improving the functioning of IPAB. Most notably, it was her judgment at the IPAB that validated the IPO ruling on India’s first compulsory license in Bayer Corporation vs Union of India and Ors. The matter went in appeal to the Apex Court; argued by the best lawyers in the country. The SC agreed with the robust reasoning of IPAB and the IPO.

As for Prof. Basheer, his contributions to the world of Indian IP are diverse and significant, given that he has been involved with Indian IP for more than 15 years now! Most notably, he founded the ‘SpicyIP blog’ in 2005 as a way of democratizing the discussion around intellectual property issues and to foster more transparency in Indian IP law.

Debunking some misconceptions around IPR

Here are some misconceptions which are unhealthy if you wish to aspire a career in IPR:

Getting an IP job is easy because IP law is ‘hot’

The reality is different. IP law is of an evolving nature. It is changing its shape and sizes with every technological invention, every application of copyright filed and every case of an unfair competition is hitting the news. Moreover, the procedural IP laws adhere to the territoriality principle. The firms are just adapting to it. However, it is not easy to get placed in an IP law firm. It is even more difficult when everyone assumes that it is easy and decide to take this route only.

Technology phobia

No doubt the market is slightly better for attorneys with a technical degree but so is the case with people who have previously worked with an advertising company or a music industry. The consensus regarding this controversial clause of the Patents Act to necessarily have a technical degree is that you just need to have a scientific passion to thrive based on knowledge and understanding of the client’s business and technological space they work in.

It is multidisciplinary. There is too much to study

No matter how much you study any subject. There will always be a new law, which a lawyer needs to study as an when they arrive. It is in your best interest to understand the general framework and how to negotiate within the general types of subject matter, such as statutes and case laws. In addition, there are various types of roles within IP law that may suggest the relevance and importance of non IP courses. For instance, IP litigation. Sometimes it is the non-IP courses such as fundamentals of CPC and contracts that come in handier than actual IP courses during an IP attorney’s practice.

I am halfway through law school. Is it too late to start studying IP laws

This is one of the biggest misconceptions that need to be tackled. Do not let the vastness of the IP law field scare you. Most law schools in India, have kept IPR in their curriculum to be taught in the 6th or the 8th semester, which is the third or fourth year. There is a reason why this is done. No one decides in his or her 1st year to become an IP law attorney. The right time to pick a line of path and start walking on it in any law school would be the 4th year. One should align everything he or she does in a law school ( such as moots, papers & internships) with the path that has been decided.

Top IP law blogs to follow

Below is a list of blogs to follow for an IP law enthusiast.

Different Careers in IP Law

The area of Intellectual Property Law opens a plethora of career options.  A career in Intellectual Property is a secure one. An intellectual property professional can opt to become a specialist in one of the many Intellectual Property areas. They are so many in number that discussing all of them in one article is next to impossible. However, some of the prominent career options are discussed below:

Litigation

Litigation is an evergreen field. One just needs to give time and work hard to make a name. Due to the dynamic nature of IP law there is an alignment of focus by the judiciary on this area of law also. The lifespan of an IP lawsuit in the commercial courts if functional is comparable to highly ranked jurisdictions of the world. Moreover, IP litigation has a wild landscape, concentrated in the High Courts of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. In terms of volume, trademark litigations is at the top followed by copyright and patent.

Patent Related Career Options

The table below illustrates some of the flourishing career options in the area of patent law. 

Job Work Profile
Patent Analyst To provide a comparative analysis of inventions and patents with the intricacies of technology.
Patent Valuers Expert who decide the market value of a patent on the basis of various financial metrics. This is helpful during mergers and acquisitions.
Licensing Specialist Responsible for licensing of Patents. Both inbound and outbound.
Patent LPOs (Legal Process Outsourcing) Several Patent LPOs have established in India. Their job is to prepare, file, prosecute and maintain patents bringing down the
Patent Drafting Specialist They draft patent specifications and patent claims in an application.

Law Firms

You can also step into the corporate world as an IP lawyer. The jobs are however tedious, glamour and the money is good. The table below discusses some of the top IP law firms in India.

Firm Description
Anand and Anand Often unanimously agreed that it has the best IP law professional in the country. Its reputation is international and foreign associates usually rely on this firm.
Fidus Law Chambers Top-tier firms in European markets place their trust in strategic advisory and advocacy outfit Fidus Law Chambers when they need assistance in complex trademark spats in India.
Khaitan & Co Eminent full-service firm Khaitan & Co has a “very bright IP team which deserves its excellent reputation in trademarks”
Remfry & Sagar Not only is it one of the oldest IP players in India, it is also one of the largest, with 80 professionals taking on a sizeable chunk of inbound Indian market work. Many of its members are thought leaders in the international IP community and are influential in the development of India’s IP infrastructure, too
Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas Under the leadership of Ranjan Negi, the IP law team has built some reputation in the world arena.

Propel Your Career with Blogging

The wide array of intellectual property law opens the gates to write about them to educate people. These ventures are often paid and open to both professionals and students. If not a full time thing, IP law blogging is an extra something in their work profile, which on one hand enables them to garner reputation for themselves and on the other hand is of great help to the commoners to understand IP law. SpicyIP is one such example. It is the top 3rd Patent blog in the world.

Some Motivation

No amount of career advice is the end game. No one can assess you better than yourself and tell you what you need to work on. Just work hard. Work harder than anyone above you and below you. Nothing commands respect and satisfaction more than a good work ethic. This career gig isn’t easy but you’ll make it through.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here