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What is Intellectual Property?
WIPO, World Intellectual Property Organization, the leading body governing Intellectual Property rights issues defines IP or Intellectual Property as "Creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce." Given the fact that the world economy is slowly but surely moving towards the knowledge economy, innovations and new inventions are increasingly intangible in nature. This makes it difficult for the innovator or the inventor to apply for patents for these new kinds of innovations. This changed scenario led to the development of the concept of IP.
IP, as the definition says, covers, but is not limited to, domains like Software, Architectural and Industrial design, Pharmaceutical Research and Development, Music, Literary Pieces. In other words, Intellectual property encompasses the entire gamut of intellectual inventions that cannot be quantified.
Intellectual property can broadly be sub-divided under two categories - Copyright and Industrial property.
- Copyright includes primarily artistic and literary creations like Photography, Poems, Painting, Plays, Novels, Architectural Designs, Music and Sculptors.
- Industrial Property caters to commercial domains like Industrial Designs, New Technologies, Processes and Methodologies and Trademarks.
Brief History of Intellectual Property
The first intellectual property law was passed in Venice in 1474 which protected the investor's interest against copying of their creation. England soon followed suit to grant intellectual property rights to its inventor for a limited period. With increase in international trade, intellectual property theft was on the rise. This led the birth of Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property in 1883 which allowed individuals in one nation of obtaining protection globally. The Paris Convention and the Berne Convention brought in the intellectual property regime that we understand today.
With the advent of the Internet and the developments in digital technologies, copyrighting of movies and music are in demand. But patenting and copyrighting is not only limited to entertainment industry because almost everything is at a risk of being replicated. Access to all important information has made IPR a must-have in the present world. There is an increasing need to control and stop intellectual theft because one company's brain drain is benefiting the other.
Till the 1980s, patenting of software were not done as they constituted of mathematical algorithms and thus unpatentable. The scenario changed in the following year, as the US Supreme Court allowed the patenting of a software program that monitored a temperature in a synthetic mold.
The situation is worse of in a matured economy than a growing one. As more intellectual advancement takes place in a developed country, the perils of intellectual theft are frequently faced by them. Software piracy is one of the menaces that are taking place in developing countries like Russia, Vietnam, China, India and other
South Asian countries which are causing a huge loss to the software companies. Hence patenting becomes important for the software companies.
Nature of Work
An IPR attorney is primarily responsible for safeguarding the commercial interests of his or her client. The KRA (Key Responsibility Areas) of an IPR attorney involves protecting the Intellectual Property Rights of individuals as well as organizations. As a part of this job, the IPR attorney is responsible for assessing if any given innovation, improvement or invention can be patented or not. They are also responsible for creating draft patent applications, and protect the client in case of an infringement.
Apart from the education that one receive in a law school there are certain attributes one should have to become an IPR attorney. Sensing intellectual theft and trying to curb the situation might be a frontrunner in this section. If the situation goes out of hand an IPR attorney should have a sound knowledge of law to bring the responsible persons to books.
To be a successful IP attorney, a grasp of the law with a good knowledge of IT and technologies is essential. The internals and workings of technology, products and processes would come handy while doing research. Knowledge of technology is more important than the law itself, since the IP attorney is dealing only in the Copyright Act and nothing else, unless of course he or she is practicing in other forms of law.
A good writing, presentation skill and research oriented are few of the soft skills which are looked for in an IPR Attorney.
If somebody wants to become a patent attorney and be recognized as one he or she has to first register oneself. Generally the same methods are followed to become a patent attorney everywhere in the world. For instance, in U.S one has to give the Law School Admission Test, a law degree and pass the state bar to become an IPR attorney. By obtaining a bachelor's degree in Biology, Computer Science, Electronics Technology, Chemistry, Pharmacology, Physics, and Engineering Degrees one can apply to A category for the patent bar examination. But if one has a bachelor's degree in any other field he can apply for B or C category. Only a patent attorney can help clients with patent validity, infringement cases, and all patent litigation. The completion of the course and the at least two years of practice under professional supervision can ensure a bright career for the IPR attorney. Some of the Top International law school which gives professional training in IP law in the U.S.A are:
- George Washington University
- Franklin Pierce Law Centre
- Columbia University
- Stanford University
- New York University
Apart from these in India we have:
- National Law School
- National University of Juridical Science
- Symbiosis Institute
The IP law course generally comprises of Biotechnology patent policy, Chemical and Biotech patent policy and practice, Comparative and International Intellectual Property seminar, Comparative patent law seminar, Computer law, Copyright Law, Electronics and Computers' Policy and Practice, International and Comparative Patent Law, International and the Country's regulation of foreign trade, Licensing of Intellectual Property Rights, Patent Enforcement, Patent law, Trademark law, Unfair Trade Practices
Colleges, Institutions and Universities
- National Law School
- National University of Juridical Science
- Symbiosis Institute
Career Prospects and Growth
With the advent of the Internet, the world has witnessed two tectonic shifts in the market dynamics - Free flow of Information and Globalization of the world Economy. The Internet was designed to be a fail proof mode of communication by the US Army, but this strategic innovation turned tactical, and has changed the world for ever. One of the most important changes has been in the field of Information Sharing. In addition to the obvious positive aspects of instant access to the global storehouse of information, this boon brought along it its own set of evils. The major drawback being, information ceased to be proprietary. New innovations were quickly assimilated and applied in business organizations without benefiting the inventor. And since national economies became more interlinked, manufacturing powerhouses from emerging economies threatened companies that invest a large amount of their top-lines in research and development.
IPR attorneys are integral part of in-house teams of business organizations formed with the sole aim of identifying and stopping copyright and IP infringements. IPR attorneys are also being actively employed by a whole range of organizations like Specialty Law Firms, Government and Self supported Think Tanks, Law Enforcing bodies and universities.
- Corporate houses: Most of the knowledge economy firms like technology entertainment firms generally have an in house team of corporate IPR attorneys who are actively involved in decision making activities and also contribute to creating corporate policies. While this particular avenue lets an aspiring IPR attorney develop highly specialized knowledge in one domain, it also restricts the scope of learning for that attorney because he lacks the knowledge of another domain.
- Law firms: Most of the law firms, especially in developed and emerging economies like the US, EU, India and China has specialized divisions that cater to litigations concerning infringement of Intellectual Properties. In U.S and EU, there are law firms that specialize in intellectual property law. A law firm primarily acts as a third party, and hence offers exposure to a diverse range of technologies and domains. In addition to this, an IP team in a law firm generally has lawyers from different technology backgrounds, and hence offers better learning opportunities as compared to an in house corporate legal team. In general, a law firm offers better compensation as well as growth opportunities. In the same lines, the work pressure is quite higher in a law firm as compared to a corporate legal team.
- Government agencies and think tanks: Government agencies and policy making bodies are one of the most prolific employers of IPR attorneys. One of the most obvious agencies is the Patent and Copyright office of any country. Apart from this, in general, other departments like Justice, Commerce, Defense, and Information Technology also employ IPR attorneys.
- Universities and Independent Research Organizations: Most of the universities undertake large industry and government sponsored research projects. These projects invariably involve innovation in cutting edge technologies, and hence most universities have an in house cell of IPR lawyers that help them protect their interests. With the increasing frequency of technology start ups originating from university campuses, the legal department of universities has its hands full trying to protect the intellectual capital of these start ups.
- Faculty at Law schools: With the rapid growth in demand for IPR attorneys, there is an increasing demand for faculties in old as well as newly established law schools
The remuneration of an IPR attorney is quiet high but to be frank it depends on the industry where one is seeking a job.