Many people have heard, read, spoken, written, or signed documents with the phrase "intellectual property". But do they always know what intellectual property, or IP, entails? When beginning with a new employer, there is often a confidentiality clause or document that includes an IP reference, usually to the effect that any creations of the mind resulting from employment or at employment are the property of the employer. Most sign these documents and aren't always sure what they are agreeing to.
Intellectual property law covers a wide spread of legal territory, from trademark and copyright, to inventions, to design, to creative aspects such as writing, music and art. The practice of IP law may be protecting those who are the creators of new ideas or designs or may defend the company with the IP clause in the contract. For example, an intellectual property attorney may help an inventor or entrepreneur file a patent for a new invention or file the papers to trademark the logo for said invention. A singer or musician may work with an IP attorney to file copyrights to protect their rights regarding recorded performances and sales of their works.
Because this area of legal practice is so broad and wide ranging, it is not uncommon for IP attorneys to specialize within the practice of IP. Some attorneys may hold engineering degrees or backgrounds that bolster their understanding of industrial part of IP law and all of the work that and technical understanding those patents incur. Other attorneys may have strong work experience and education in the fields of business, banking, non profits, or the performing arts, again helping to understand and better practice the nuanced and specialty aspects of trademark, copyright and patent law.
Although many cases in IP law involve individuals filing for patents and trademark or copyright, there are many cases involving businesses as well. Large corporations to sole proprietorships all may find the need to file a trademark or copyright. Working with an intellectual property attorney, allows for all possible conflicts or infringements to be researched and hopefully avoided. These attorneys may also work to help with the actual paperwork and process of filing and managing the trademark or copyright. It may be that down the road a competitor or newly started company knowingly or unwittingly infringes on a trademark or copyright. Having an attorney who knows the history can be very advantageous when protecting said identifiers.
For any individual or company looking for an IP lawyer, the first step is to find an attorney with the expertise and specialty experience in the field. A performing artist working with an IP lawyer who specializes in technology may not be a good fit. But if that artist can find a firm with experience and expertise in performing and creative arts, the next step is to then ensure the firm works with individuals. Some firms only work with business entities, some only with individual and some with both. Of course it also important to work with a firm whose culture and personality fits with the client's.