Intellectual Property Law: Do You Have What It Takes?

Intellectual property (“IP”) law deals with rights related to products of the mind, such as works of art, technological innovations and the identifying marks of particular businesses. These intangible assets are known to the world as copyrights, patents and trademarks, respectively. Also included in the field are trade secrets, “moral rights” and other abstract concepts.

At the moment, few legal fields are as “hot” as IP (i.e. there are many job opportunities in the field), due to the ever-increasing importance of the intersections between the Internet, media and technological innovation, especially across international boundaries.

What Do Intellectual Property Lawyers Do?

IP lawyers can be generalists or specialists and may work on transactional, regulatory or litigation matters, among others. Because patent work is often highly technical, however, and requires a deep intimacy with the workings of government authorities (e.g. the United States Patent and Trademark Office), patent lawyers tend to be the most specialized and often work solely on patent matters.

That said, intellectual property lawyers may handle the following types of tasks:

    • Advising businesses in connection with transactions involving IP assets, such as:
      1. The acquisition of a new Internet company; or
      2. The purchasing of valuable patents from a biotech firm. This type of matter may involve negotiation with other lawyers, drafting of contract provisions, and research related to government filings regarding the assets in question. A recent example is the acquisition of Digifonica’s patent portfolio by
    • Representing a party in a lawsuit involving an IP dispute, such as:
      1. A movie studio suing a website that provides illegal streams of the studio’s copyrighted films; or
      2. A luxury handbag maker suing the manufacturer of counterfeit handbags that infringe on the maker’s trademarks. A recent example is the suit between Hearst TV and Aereo regarding streaming of content via antenna.
    • Review of international IP laws to advise a business on how best to protect its valuable assets when entering a new market. A recent example is Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (Docket No. 11-697, Opinion entered March 19, 2013), which holds that tangible copies of copyrighted works sold in one country may be resold in another under “first sale” doctrine.


    • Advising public figures in connection with articles published about them or statements made in the press. A recent example is a defamation suit in which a Miss America contestant claimed that the contest was rigged.


  • Advising businesses with respect to agreements needed with employees to protect IP produced in the course of working for the company. A recent example is the suit between the writer of the comic Ghost Rider and the publisher thereof.

Notable Intellectual Property Matters

The United States Supreme Court recently ruled in an interesting case involving a suit between the agribusiness company Monsanto and a soybean farmer in Indiana. The farmer had planted Monsanto’s patented genetically engineered soybeans after purchasing seeds from another farmer without paying Monsanto the appropriate patent licensing fee. Monsanto then sued for infringement of its intellectual property rights. One of the farmer’s defenses centered on the idea of “patent exhaustion,” a legal concept that in this instance, the farmer argued, allowed other farmers to sell him the seeds they owned without infringing on Monsanto’s IP rights. The court held otherwise and ruled in favor of Monsanto.

Other examples of landmark IP cases include A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc., 239 F.3d 1004 (2001) and Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. (Docket No. 12-398, Opinion entered June 13, 2013).

Well Regarded Intellectual Property Law Practices

In 2013, each of these firms is among the top firms in the intellectual property field, according to peer rankings:

  • An, Tian, Zhang & Partners (China: Beijing and Guangzhou)
  • Arochi, Marroquín & Lindner, SC (Mexico: Mexico City, Spain: Barcelona)
  • Dannemann, Siemsen, Bigler & Ipanema Moreira (Brazil: Sao Paulo)
  • Nakamura & Partners (Japan: Tokyo)
  • Oblon, Spivak, McClelland, Maier & Neustadt LLP (United States: Washington D.C., Japan: Tokyo)
  • Sughrue Mion, PLLC (United States: Washington, D.C. and San Diego, CA, Japan: Tokyo)

The Value of an LL.M. in U.S. Law for International Property Lawyers

@WashULaw, an online LL.M. in U.S. Law, is ideal for foreign lawyers that want to expand their practice into intellectual property law, especially internationally. Course work focuses heavily on the topics central to representation of business entities with U.S. involvement, including the basics of American business law, but also include intellectual property topics, such as the course Intellectual Property Law and Practice. By earning an LL.M. in U.S. Law, a foreign practitioner can gain expertise not just with American legal concepts, but also with the intellectual property issues that are central to today’s modern international law practice.

If you are a foreign practitioners looking to take your practice to the next level, @WashULaw provides you the means to do so online, without leaving your home country or disrupting your career.