This article is written by Nishka Kamath, a student at Nalanda Law College, University of Mumbai. The author of this article is also an ardent LawSikho student and is pursuing several LawSikho courses. This article focuses on the opportunities and benefits for individuals in the field of intellectual property laws. Further, the major challenges faced while building an IP law career and how to combat them are talked about.
In the 21st century, an individual comes across several commodities that are patented or protected by Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs), throughout the day. These items can be anything ranging from food, shelter, clothing, things of survival to comfort items. Thus, an individual can wake up from a Gautier bed, with a supportive mattress from Sleepwell and a pillow from Hush Puppies, along with a blanket from Signature, then go on with a cup of coffee from Nescafe and take a shower with a body wash from The Body Shop and wear a suit from Armani and shoes from Christian Louboutin, and drive to the office in a BMW car. Later, in the evening, the person watches Sab TV on a Samsung Television, then sets an alarm on a Fossil watch, switches on an air conditioner by LG, and at last, turns off the Wi-fi enabled smart lights by Syska.
Here, the person has used several items that are someone’s intellectual property. All these commodities are protected by copyright, patents or trademarks, which come under the ambit of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).
The 21st century will be the century of knowledge, a century of intellect. The ability of an individual as well as that of the nation to transform knowledge into wealth and social good through innovations and creations would be a determining factor for success in the future. Therefore, we can say that the innovations will hold the key to knowledge creation and processing.
As per World Trade Organisation (WTO), Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) are the “rights given to people over the creation of their minds“. From the ancient times where stamps were used on bricks by the Roman brick-makers for identification purposes and the leader of the Greek city granting monopoly (for a year) for cooking a savoury dish to the modern era of having specified laws for Trademarks and trade secrets, Patents (for inventions), Copyrights (for literary work), the field of IPR has seen exceptional progress.
In this digitised world, the threat of creative ideas getting stolen without the consent of the author is quite high and so is the demand for IP lawyers. So, let us discuss the top career opportunities for IP laws along with their challenges and how to overcome them.
Why should you choose IP Law as a career
With liberalization, the challenge for protecting the innovative works of the inventors and producers has become greater than ever. In order to achieve exclusivity/monopolistic rights over the products’ manufacturing and distribution, it is necessary to protect the innovation, not only in the Indian market but also in the international market. This will certainly create opportunities for IP lawyers in India as well as abroad.
In addition to these opportunities, the high demand for IP lawyers will also lead to higher rewards. IP law practice will flourish in India as India’s global importance as a rapidly growing market for consumer goods, technology, media, automobiles, and luxury items continues to grow. Top IP law firms pay INR 70,000-100,000 to entry-level lawyers, and tier 2 law firms pay between INR 40,000-100,000. Small companies can pay between INR 25,000-40,000. A partner with 10 years of experience can earn 50 lakh-1 crore annually.
Pay scale of an IP lawyer
The average pay scale of an IP lawyer in India is as follows:
Legal Associate: INR 1,99,000-10,00,000.
Intellectual Property Lawyer: INR 2,40,000- 11,00,000.
Judge: INR 8,00,000-30,00,000.
Lecturer: INR 2,92,000-6,10,000.
Author: INR 2,48,000-8,11,000.
Journalist: INR 1,02,000-8,05,000.
Moreover, the average salary of an IP attorney in the United States is $117,360 per annum or $56.42 per hour. The lower limit of that spectrum, i.e. the bottom 10% to be precise, earns around $65,000 annually, whereas, the top 10% makes around $211,000, yearly.
Furthermore, in the United Kingdom, the average salary of a trainee is from £35,100 to 40,900. As a newly qualified patent attorney, the salary ranges from £58,800 and can rise to £69,700 in a two or three years period. Again, a qualified attorney who has about 5 years of experience can earn around £78,000. Additionally, an attorney at a salaried partner level can earn around £115,000 and an equity partner can earn anywhere between £150,000 to £500,000.
Benefits for IP lawyers in the modern era
Ingenious ideas as a means to profit-generation
Ideas have little to no intrinsic value. IP rights have tremendous scope in turning innovations into commercially viable products and services. Copyright and Patent registration provide a constant fee flow, which, in turn, increases the revenue, thus, improving the overall market results. Here, there appears a need for a Copyright and Patent lawyer.
Export business opportunities
Intellectual property also enhances the productivity of a company in the export market. An IP right holder can use the registered logos and/or designs to sell products and services abroad, and may also enter into franchise agreements with foreign companies, or even export the proprietary commodities. Hence, from product registration to overseas sales, the need for an IP lawyer is increasing.
Encourage ideas by backing them up with IP protection
When a creator has a unique idea or development, there will be people who will try to replicate the concept of development for monetary gain. In such cases, these ideas, innovations and concepts must be protected from getting infringed by any third party. IP security can be implemented in enterprises of all forms and sizes. Therefore, after assessing the market needs and situations, an individual should decide which Intellectual Property Rights (Trademarks, Copyrights or Patent registration) should be used to cover different areas of IP law. Even here, there exists an apparent need for an IP lawyer.
COVID-19 pandemic and IPR
The open COVID pledge is an effort of techies including IBM, Microsoft, Amazon, Twitter, Hewlett Packard and Sandia National Laboratories. They have vowed free use of Intellectual Property (IP) to fight COVID-19. Thus, start-ups could take advantage of this for accelerating the creation and implementation of diagnostics, vaccinations, etc.
Since this move, political leaders around the globe have submitted proposals to increase access to IPRs related to COVID-19. Also, some countries are considering a compulsory license system whereby the government authorizes the third party to perform or use certain procedures without the consent of the patent owner.
Thus, due to the above matters, the demand for IP lawyers has increased tremendously.
Now, let us have a look at several career opportunities available for an IP lawyer, in India and across the globe.
Careers in IP Law
If intellectual property is known to monopolize a creation or invention, Competition law is known to stave off monopoly. The TRIPS Agreement provides the scope of enforcement of competition law vis-à-vis anti-competitive licensing practices and situations. Therefore, a thorough analysis of strategy, company policy and the development of new policies along with drafting contracts is an emerging opportunity for IP lawyers.
Audits and valuation
Intellectual Property Auditing is a tool primarily used to take into account the intangible assets which the companies have developed over a period of time. IP auditing and valuation is very important because it accounts for the goodwill of the company and is one of the many reasons why the companies acquire protection.
In times of change, it is important to identify intellectual property that is owned, used and acquired by a company for managing risks, troubleshooting issues, and implementing best practices in IP asset management and the company usually needs an IP lawyer to perform all the aforementioned activities.
In the field of Intellectual Property, contracts/agreements are very important legal aspects and include drafting of confidential information agreements, license agreements, assignment agreements, franchise agreements, inter alia.
Therefore, an enterprising lawyer must be familiar with the problems associated with IP and its associated agreements. This opens up a plethora of job opportunities.
Investigation and enforcement advisory
One of the key areas of IP enforcement is the detection of IP rights being violated. In such cases, the investigators who have proper knowledge of laws relating to intellectual property can conduct inquiries and deliver appropriate direction on whether to take any action or not.
Fashion, media and sports
These are the niche areas of practice where Intellectual Property law plays a central role. These sectors are IP intensive. In addition to registering patents, copyrights, and trademarks, these industries have a substantial amount of work relating to licensing, franchising, assignment of IP, IP prosecution as well as enforcement of IP rights worldwide.
Litigation is an evergreen field. An individual just has to take the time to work hard and make their name known in the field. The judiciary is also concentrating on this area of law, considering its dynamic nature. Intellectual Property law proceedings are very much common in the high courts of Indian cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. Moreover, trademark litigation and dispute matters are at the top, followed by Copyright and Patent law.
There can be several jobs a lawyer having specific knowledge of patent law can do. Some of them are as follows:
The role of a patent analyst is to look up for potential patent applications. They may also work for a company that develops a product, evaluates the proposed product, and decides whether it can be patented or not. They are responsible for doing a lot of research and investigating if an equivalent item is currently patented, or if a patent of a similar item is pending approval. They need to ensure that the patent application does not face legal ramifications.
Licensing specialists typically work for government agencies. They are responsible for providing licensees and permits to applicants while complying with the rules and regulations of the company. Amongst others, their duties include the following:
collecting and verifying identification files,
reviewing and validating requirements,
collecting fees, etc.
Patent LPOs (Legal Process Outsourcing)
The role of a major LPO service provider includes several features such as:
- legal documentation and writing legal reports,
- legal memo development,
- document management,
- litigation support, and
- data entry.
Moreover, patent search, application drafting, trademark and copyright registration, legal research and analysis of intelligence services are other highly-skilled LPO tasks.
Patent Drafting Specialist
A patent specification is a highly technical legal document and has two purposes, they are:
- To disclose an invention to the public in a language that will enable the public to work the invention when relevant patent rights have expired.
- To identify the subject matter that the patent applicant or patent owner intends to claim exclusively for themselves.
As a key person responsible for drafting a patent specification, the patent attorney must be able to quickly extract the idea of the invention and ultimately, convert it into a specification that protects the invention. Thus, sufficient knowledge of the relevant technology and technical patenting skills is essential for creating patent specifications in a time- and cost-effective manner, especially for a patent drafting specialist.
Top IP law firms
An individual can join the corporate world as an IP lawyer. These jobs are glamorous and will help you fetch a good amount of money. There are several top IP law firms in India, as well as in foreign countries. Some of the top Indian IP law firms are as follows:
- Anand and Anand,
- Remfry and Sagar,
- Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas,
- Khaitan & Co.,
- Obhan & Associates, and
- Fidus Law Chambers.
The top IP law firms outside India are:
- Allen & Overy LLP,
- Arnold & Porter,
- Baker McKenzie,
- Bird & Bird LLP, and
- CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang LLP.
Why is IP Law intriguing
Intellectual property (IP) refers to the creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. Intellectual property law allows individuals to claim exclusive rights and have monetary gains from what the inventor or creator has produced. This is beneficial for the creator as well as the public, as it is based on human creativity and originality. It is not surprising that for lawyers in the IP field, working cannot be dull. In other words, IP law is infinitely intriguing, especially when geniuses are mixed with mortal unpredictability.
Is IP law for you
Roles of an IP lawyer
An IP lawyer plays a variety of significant roles in relation to the protection of intellectual property. From court proceedings to serving as advisors and counselling them, an IPR lawyer performs all the roles.
One task that every IP lawyer does is to prepare the documents required to apply for a patent or trademark. The other is to represent an individual or a company in dealing with others who are abusing their intellectual property.
An IP lawyer may also interpret rules and regulations for clients, conduct research used to create multiple documents, and communicate with clients and other attorneys in both, written and oral form.
Responsibilities of an IP lawyer
The responsibilities vary depending on whether the IP attorney is advising an individual client or being employed by a company to safeguard their products from infringement. However, an IP attorney will need to:
- Discuss the inventions and the processes with inventors/manufacturers and determine if a patent may be granted.
- Analyse scientific or technical documents, including documents of patents that are already granted, to assess whether an invention is new and innovative.
- Write technical descriptions of inventions in detail and accurate legal terms/.
- Prepare responses to reports from patent examiners, etc.
Skill set required to succeed as an IP lawyer
An IP lawyer must admire inventiveness and creativity, and understand several aspects and methods of its expression. This field of law encompasses several fascinating projects that are technical and require an in-depth knowledge of trends and modifications in line with their type. As there will be multiple projects running at the same time, skills like organising and flexibility, combined with the ability to handle complicated discussions will be of paramount importance.
Thus, with the right skills and expertise, this area of law can be particularly lucrative and can fetch you millions or six-digit figures, at least.
Challenges faced by an IP Law enthusiast
- Complicated IP Laws
There are several fields in IP law like Trademarks, Patents, Copyrights, Industrial Designs, Geographical Indications, Data Protection, inter alia, and each of them are governed by a separate law. For instance, in India, we have the Trade Marks Act, 1999, for Trademarks, the Patents Act, 1970 (as amended in 2005) for Patents, we have the Copyright Act, 1957 for Copyrights, etc. So, it becomes difficult, at times, to understand all the complexities of these laws which can be too tedious a task.
Deep knowledge of IP Laws
Needless to say, to get and maintain the job of an attorney, one needs to fully understand all the intricacies of the law they are practising. The same is the case for IP lawyers, as they constantly need to update their knowledge and practices. As a law student or a law graduate, it becomes tough for an individual to keep up with all the new laws and amendments carried on.
Diverse work profile
There is a fair chance that you are reading this as a law student or an IP enthusiast who is apt to step into the world of IPR as a lawyer, so let us take a look at the different possible roles played by the people in this field. They are as follows:
- Research, policy framing and philosophy,
- Analysis and strategy planning,
- Technology assessment and marketing, inter alia.
A note must be taken that this list is not exhaustive. The concept is to make clear that a single individual can take up more than one of the aforementioned roles, the reason being that specialisation in a specific field (especially, in India) is not widespread. These roles may narrow down if you end up in a firm that deals with issues related to IPR only. Otherwise, if you decide to step into litigation, you have to have a dynamic and broad subject of practice.
Thus, to avoid confusion and to gain more knowledge of all the basics of IPR, it is always advised to consult a person who is an expert in the field.
Getting an IP job
There is a common myth that getting an IP job is easy because it is ‘hot’. But the reality is far different. IP law is constantly advancing and evolving. It is changing its shape and size with every technological invention, every application of the copyright field and every case of unjust competition. In addition, the procedural IP laws adhere to the territorial principles and the companies are still learning to adapt to them. However, it is not a cakewalk to get a placement into IP law firms. It becomes more problematic when everyone thinks that it is easy and decides to choose this direction.
Learning to give attention to details
It is not a fact unknown that awareness of how to identify potentially important details can be a significant point in winning a proceeding. Many nuances in IP law can make the difference between fair use and copyright infringement, and this is why an IP lawyer needs to know how to spot and identify such details.
Information Technology (IT) skills
While dealing with Intellectual Property, be it patent or copyright, one particular requirement is to be well-versed in computer skills. An IP lawyer does not have to be a hacker, but must essentially know how to search a database, verify information, and possess a technical understanding.
People with prior knowledge of technology are prioritized over others
Oftentimes, lawyers with a technical degree (like a degree in science or IT or engineering) along with a law degree are given more preference. Even those candidates who have prior experience of working in an advertising company or the music industry are prefered. However, it is important that one does not get discouraged by this. All an individual needs is to have a scientific passion to succeed, which is based on knowledge and understanding of the client’s business and technology space they work in.
To continue working as an IP lawyer, one must not only have the practical knowledge of maintaining public relations or have good public-speaking skills for matters relating to courtrooms but also possess effective communication skills to contact and communicate with clients and their advertising teams. At times, an IP lawyer has to teach the clients how to safeguard their Intellectual Property, as well.
There is a possibility that such skills or how to impart such skills may not be taught to us at law schools. This is why we need to work on brushing up such skills or receive guidance from a person who is an expert in the field of IP.
Now, let us have a look at the major ways to vanquish such challenges.
How to overcome these challenges
An IP law enthusiast can refer to bare acts (with or without short comments) to have a better understanding of the laws related to IPR and for gaining deeper knowledge related to Intellectual Property.
Specialization in IPR
An IP law enthusiast can, after graduating from law school, opt for a master’s degree in Intellectual Property. In India, there are top-notch colleges that offer the same. A law student can attempt CLAT-PG exams or CET exams to get into a good college, for which LawSikho has a specially designed comprehensive course, which can be accessed here.
Also, as there are different areas to cover in the field of IPR, one must explore all the different options and then pick one to specialize in. This specialization will be important while you are seeking a job or when a client is approaching you or vice versa.
An IP law enthusiast can take up several courses while in law school or even after graduating. Some of the specialised courses in the field of IPR are as follows:
LawSikho has one course that is a Diploma in Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Law. You can know more about the course from here. Furthermore, if you would like to gain some insights about IP laws in the US, LawSikho has another course to offer and can be accessed here.
This IPR online course provides a platform for candidates to gain hands-on knowledge about Intellectual Property Rights and their importance for innovation and growth of business and the economy as a whole. They provide a research-based approach to learning through case studies, online lectures, and also work closely with industry leaders and IP experts. You can read more about the course from here.
The World Intellectual Property Organisation provides a variety of courses in IP laws to both professionals and IPR enthusiasts. You can read more about the course from here.
One can have a better understanding of IP laws by doing internships in the field of IPR. Real-world knowledge is very important and an IP law enthusiast can get it through internships. It is one thing to read about IP laws in textbooks and a completely different thing to be involved in matters related to IPR where the laws are put into practice. This is why internships are of utmost importance for understanding IP laws and then securing a job in a firm, eventually.
Moreover, LawSikho has its career counselling team, from whom you can receive guidance if you need any. All you need to do is fill up a form or request a callback. You can know more about it here. Furthermore, every individual who takes up a course on LawSikho will have several internships and job opportunities delivered via mail right in their inbox.
Follow IP law blogs
An IP law enthusiast can further gain knowledge by reading blogs related to the subject. Some of the blogs to follow are:
Another way to learn more about IPRs is by writing legal blogs on topics related to Intellectual Property.
This will not only be a great way to build a network, but also assist in grabbing the attention of the employers who are looking for potential employers and are hiring in this field. Also, by publishing legal blogs on IPR, an IP law enthusiast would let their future employers know that they have some prior legal knowledge in that area of law.
An IP law enthusiast or even a first-year law student can submit blogs at iPleaders, which is India’s biggest legal blog.
Attend webinars and Bootcamps
There is nothing better than seeking insights from experts. An IP law enthusiast must attend webinars and Bootcamps related to Intellectual Property Rights to gather information and learn in detail about IP laws.
These Bootcamps will help an IP law enthusiast to gain insights about the field of IP law along with the practical knowledge and skills required in this field, as they are often conducted by experienced professionals.
The team of LawSikho has organised a Bootcamp for which an IP law enthusiast can sign up here.
- Watch recorded videos from YouTube
Intellectual Property is a well-paid work area because of its specialised nature of work, performance critique, and wealthy corporate clients. The ambit of IPR is ever-growing, both in India and internationally, and so is the demand for IPR lawyers.
Moreover from the above discussions, we can certainly say that there are several career opportunities in the field of IPR for law students and IPR enthusiasts. To succeed in the field of IPR, it is always advisable to receive guidance from an expert and then choose a career plan to follow.
Words of motivation
It is never too late to choose a career path. Plus, no one can evaluate you better than you and tell you what you need to work on or which skills you need to enhance further. This career path may not be as easy as ABC, but so is the same with other fields. It won’t be easy, but it will definitely be worth it. All the best!
Students of Lawsikho courses regularly produce writing assignments and work on practical exercises as a part of their coursework and develop themselves in real-life practical skills.
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