Soft Intellectual Property (Trademark, Copyright, Trade Secret)
TYPES OF "SOFT IP"
- Trademark Law: Trademark law protects words, phrases, logos, or symbols used to distinguish one product from another. In circumstances where a competitor uses a protected trademark, the holder of the trademark can go to court and obtain an injunction to stop the use.
- Copyright Law: Copyright law protects the creators of expressive works, such as artists, photographers, writers, and musicians and gives them the exclusive right to protect how their works are used. It is important to note that, unline trademark law, copyright law does not protect names or titles. One way that copyright law can be distinguished from trademark law is in the advertising context. Trademark law would commonly protect the name of the product being advertised, while copyright law would protect the expression.
- Trade Secret Law: A trade secret is "a secret formula, method, or device that gives one an advantage over competitors." If the owner of the trade secret takes reasonable steps to keep the trade secret "secret," courts will protect the trade secret owner from unauthorized disclosure by (1) industrial spies, (2) competitors who wrongfully acquire the trade secret, (3) employees of the owner of the trade secret, and (4) anyone with any type of duty not to disclose the information.
- Licensing Law: While licensing law may make use of all the areas of law above, it is a popular enough type of work that it merits some discussion. A license is a grant of permission to do something with an otherwise protected work od product. Copyright holders, for example, can give permission to other individuals to copy their work, or a trademark owner can grant a license to another to use the trademark.
"SOFT IP" OPPORTUNITIES
There are fewer opportunities for trademark/copyright and other "soft IP" attorneys than there are for patent attorneys. There are several reasons why.
First, the trademark, copyright, and licensing fields are not nearly as complex as the patent field, and they do not require a specialized scientific or technical background. In fact, many corporate attorneys are comfortable doing trademark work at a basic level.
Second, as the dot-com frenzy has slowed and many domain name disputes are more under control, there has been a slowdown in trademark work as compared to 1998 through 2000.
Third, while there are some high-profile exceptions to this rule and some firms have extremely sophisticated trademark/copyright practices, very few firms in the U.S. have separate trademark and copyright licensing departments. Many patent attorneys may be called upon to do both trademark and copyright work in addition to whatever their field of specialization is in the patent field. In addition, some people perceive that trademark and copyright licensing work is less intellectually taxing than doing patent prosecution. Many patent attorneys like doing copyright and trademark work because it is a break of sorts from doing straight patent prosecution. Accordingly, many firms and corporations like to offer patent attorneys a wider variety of work to keep them happy.
IF YOU'RE INTERESTED IN PURSUING A CAREER IN INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW...
2. Improve your legal writing by joining Loyola's Law Journal or another of Loyola's student publications.
3. Work as a judicial extern during law school to help develop strong writing skills.
4. Gain practical experience in the field by working as a summer associate or law clerk at an intellectual property law firm.
6. Join the ABA as a student member and participate in events planned by the Section of Intellectual Property Law.
7. Get to know Loyola professors specializing in intellectual property law - Cynthia Ho and Brett Frischman.
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW RESOURCES