Areas of work, specialisms and alternatives

What is intellectual property law? A guide for aspiring solicitors

17 Aug 2023, 11:52

Intellectual property lawyers advise on intellectual property rights for individuals, small-and-medium-sized enterprises and multinational companies.

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Intellectual property (IP) law has blossomed over recent years to become an exciting and fast-changing area of practice that law firms actively seek to recruit into. While it may often be most associated with the patenting and protection of scientific developments (and a certain drive to hire science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) students as trainees), it also has facets relating to individual or corporate creative works.

What is intellectual property law?

IP law protects and regulates intellectual property through a system of IP rights. IP is intangible property that is the output of human creativity and intellect. Core IP rights include patents, trademarks, copyright and design rights, though these vary by country.

What do intellectual property solicitors do?

Lawyers advise on a number of IP rights, with some practising both contentious and non-contentious work. Solicitors negotiate over licensing, assignment or, for example, the allocation of potential rights arising from a joint venture. Some lawyers specialise in litigation over IP rights, such as its validity or infringement. A trademark or patent attorney deals with applications for registered rights.

The work involves advising individuals, SMEs and multi-national technology companies. Some areas, for example the development of 5G, artificial intelligence or pharmaceutical products, are busier than others. Litigation concerning IP rights tends to be highly evidence based and stakes can be high, with only around half of cases going to court.

What is life like as an intellectual property trainee?

Trainees are likely to be involved in all aspects of a case and will attend meetings as part of the wider team. They may get involved in drafting, such as preparing (parts of) licence agreements or court pleadings, and legal research.

What skills do you need to be an intellectual property law solicitor?

IP solicitors will need a willingness to get to grips with new concepts and ideas that they may not understand, an analytical brain and lateral thinking skills. Good teamwork and communication is also essential, as IP solicitors are often called in by other teams to work on the IP aspects of other areas of law.

Types of law practised within intellectual property

  • Contract
  • Tort

How much can I earn in intellectual property law?

You will likely undertake intellectual property law as a seat on a training contract as part of a rotation and may specialise later. You can take a look at our article on How much you can earn as a trainee solicitor to get a broader picture of how much law firms pay trainees, but it’s not uncommon for firms with UK offices to offer £50,000 to trainees in their first year, rising to anywhere up to and above £100,000 upon qualification.

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