Intellectual property solicitors, known as intellectual property lawyers in some countries, are legal professionals who work with legal issues having to do with intellectual property. They are often responsible for filing and defending patents and also prepare legal documentation to assert and defend copyrights and trademarks. This sector of the law is very actively involved in international legal work, and in ensuring that all countries respect intellectual property rights.
The term intellectual property refers to any idea or non-physical possession over which an owner or creator enjoys special rights of control. The specific sorts of non-physical property covered by intellectual property law vary from nation to nation but include such things as copyrighted works of music or fiction. New industrial or chemical processes protected by patent law and registered trademarks often fall into the category of intellectual property as well.
Many intellectual property solicitors spend their working days filing and arguing legal actions to defend the copyrights of artists, authors, and musicians. This branch of intellectual property law was relatively quiet until the arrival of file sharing and the Internet, which focused a great deal of attention on issues of ownership and theft of music. Pressure from recording industry groups and intellectual property solicitors has proven somewhat effective in shutting down many file-sharing sites and in driving others underground and out of the reach of casual users.
Software is another commonly stolen type of intellectual property, and as a result, many intellectual property solicitors are hired to pursue violators of the copyrights on software. Computer games were once the major battleground for this dispute, but in recent years, commercial software has come under greater assault. China, in particular, has a very week record of protecting copyrights on software, and large software firms employ staffs of intellectual property solicitors to work on this issue.
Patent law is another key area of intellectual property law. Patents are somewhat different than copyrights, in that they are designed to allow inventions to enter the public domain after a period of single-party control. In many cases, disputes in patent law and the resulting tasks for intellectual property solicitors, deal with the extension of patent rights. A great many intellectual property solicitors are required simply to keep up with the business of filing patent applications.
New medicines, for example, are typically protected for only a few years by a patent, but that protection can be extended in many jurisdictions if a firm can prove that the medicine has some other benefit that has only just been discovered and deserves an extension of patent protection for a different medical condition. Intellectual property solicitors are employed by drug companies to defend and extend patent rights and by other companies to reduce those same patent rights in order to erode a competitor’s advantages.