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If you want to become an intellectual property lawyer, you will need to attend law school and take courses in patent law, trademark law or copyright law. It can also be helpful to have a degree in engineering, science, medicine, technology or some other related field, although this is not always required. You will also need to determine what type of intellectual property you would like to specialize in.
Intellectual property encompasses a wide field of protecting ideas. Many different types of intellectual property are protected under the law, from paintings and books to formulas for new drug therapy to software code for a computer to an identifying mark such as the Nike swoosh. These different types of property are protected under copyright law, which protects works of authorship or art; patent law, which products functional ideas for products such as the design of an invention or a formula for drug therapy; and trademark law, which protects brand identifying marks.
If you wish to become an intellectual property lawyer, you will need to determine which of these fields you want to specialize in. If you opt to become an intellectual property lawyer who primarily handles patents, you generally will need a science or engineering degree so you can understand not only the legal aspect of the patent, but the technical aspect as well. For intellectual property lawyers who handle copyrights and trademarks, a science degree is not a prerequisite.
You also will need a law degree to become an intellectual property lawyer. This means attending law school in the United States, or the equivalent within the country in which you live. Some law schools offer specializations in intellectual property, such as Santa Clara University in San Jose, California. Others do not offer specializations, but you can still become an intellectual property lawyer by attending one of these schools. If your school doesn't allow you to specialize, you should still take as many courses as possible in patent, trademark and copyright law while in law school.
Upon graduation, you will need to find clients. Most companies and individuals who hire intellectual property lawyers work with larger law firms in major cities. As such, you should get good grades in law school and attempt to apply to one of these specialty law firms first. There, you can gain experience and a reputation within the field. You should also supplement that experience by joining professional organizations of intellectual property lawyers and publishing articles within trade magazines and law journals so you can become known within the field and begin attracting clients of your own.
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