Everything you need to know about intellectual property solicitors
Intellectual property solicitors offer a range of very specific services. This post provides everything you need to know to make the right choice.
Words by Todd Bateman
If you're a business looking for help with your intellectual property - it is important to know what to look for in an intellectual property solicitor. There are massive law firms out there who keep worldwide brands at the top of their tree, and there are individual lawyers who can provide just the right solution for a certain problem - and everyone in between (including us!)
We've put this guide together without bias to help you evaluate the options out there and make the right choice for you and your business. Read on!
What you need to know about intellectual property solicitors
Intellectual property law firms are built for one purpose, to cater for intellectual property law and nothing else.
Intellectual property law is a niche area (which contains its own niches such as patents and trademarks!), which means that the most capable solicitors who work in the area are specialists who have spent their entire careers in that field alone.
As a result, generalists or other lawyers who "dabble" in the area often find themselves in trouble quickly and IP solicitors are by far and away best placed to assist businesses in securing their intangible assets.
To understand the difference between an ok, good and great IP solicitor - there are a number of things you may consider.
Why intellectual property law is important and unique
To understand what makes an excellent IP solicitor it is important to grasp what makes IP law important and unique.
Many generalists or commercial lawyers can view IP as superfluous to larger commercial concerns. Simply put, they do not come into contact with it as much and underestimate the complexity and intricacy of the area.
Many world-leading businesses are heavily reliant on IP (including their brands) as a lynchpin of their value.
Take a look at the top 20 richest companies in the world here - how many of these have worldwide recognisable brands, or are based on technology that is protected by IP?
As much as it is easy to underestimate IP, overlooking it can be a business's biggest mistake. IP law and securing intellectual property rights are important to keep originality and uniqueness within a business and should be approached in a purposeful strategic way.
The right intellectual property solicitors (as you will see below) are able to apply complex law and discern the best way to protect what it is that makes you special - locking your distinctiveness and revenue for decades to come.
What makes a good IP practice
Ok, so what is it exactly that separates the best from the rest? Below we lay out the key attributes you should be looking for in any intellectual property solicitor.
How long have they been around? A longer-serving IP law firm is more likely to have the trust of many clients, therefore improving your trust towards them. Also means they have been around long enough to build up experience in all areas of IP law.
What is their case history? You want to know that the IP law firm has experience in similar cases and winning them, providing peace of mind that you have a better chance with your case as it will be second nature to the firm.
How long have their solicitors/attorneys been doing the thing you’re after? The more experience each individual has in the specific need you’re after will improve the chance that whoever is assigned to your case can deliver a swift victory.
Do they have in-house expertise in IP litigation, trademarks and other key areas? This is important to know for example you want a trademark, you will want to know they have a trademark attorney in their team.
Has the firm produced precedent in case law? This should highlight their knowledge and confidence in arguing the law in order to reach the outcome you desire.
Do the members have the firm have broader interests in business and your area? Some lawyers will only know the law and not external areas such as business, a lawyer should be commercially aware so they are on the same page as you as well as the law, so they coincide together.
Does the law firm do other things than IP? A firm that only focuses on IP means they invest in their training and enhance their knowledge on IP continuously as they master their craft. IP law firms are up to date on the law and know the best strategies regarding the "ins and outs of IP law.
Does the firm rely on outside help? Depending on how specialist the firm is (and how specialist your need is) you may find that firms rely on outside help to get the job done. A true specialist will be able to handle most cases without help unless they go to trial. This could slow down the process it takes to get your case tied up and finished as well as increase fees due to needing third-party help.
Does the firm have specialists in dedicated roles? If the firm lacks dedicated specialists any work may be completed at a lower standard than a specialist can provide, leading to potential issues in the future.
In an IP law firm, a good practice will have a good balance whilst avoiding issues that generalists have.
If you have an IP issue be sure to ask yourself these questions before instructing intellectual property solicitors.
What kind of IP services do intellectual property law firms offer?
Intellectual property solicitors typically offer a number of different services.
It is important to note that there are some sub-specialisms within intellectual property, that some IP firms may not cater for.
Trademark attorneys are separate from IP solicitors, for example - and specialise in the process of trademark registration, in particular.
The same goes for patent attorneys who are trained in the specific area related to registering patents.
Most intellectual property solicitors should offer the following:
- Brand protection and monitoring
- Trademark registration
- Design right registration
- IP dispute support and IP enforcement (copyright, patents, trademarks, designs, passing off etc.)
- Commercial agreements relating to IP
- IP commercialisation (licensing, franchising etc.)
- IP strategy
- Internationalisation of IP
- Data protection
- IP contracts (e.g. employment and 3rd party contracts)
- Confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements
This is a non-exhaustive list, but most intellectual property solicitors who specialise should be able to offer this broad offering without the need for outside assistance.
Generally speaking, the wider the offering, the more capable the firm, as "joined-up thinking" of how IP works within a business increases the likelihood that your solicitor will achieve your broader commercial goals.
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ABOUT VIRTUOSO LEGAL
Virtuoso Legal is a team of intellectual property specialists based in Leeds and London - operating worldwide. Virtuoso Legal's team of IP experts have successfully tried cases in the IPEC, High Court, Court of Appeals and United Kingdom Supreme Court. In addition, the team assist companies in creating, commercialising and protecting the big ideas that make their business unique. The firm and its professionals are ranked yearly in legal directories such as the Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners, cementing their status as a Top 2% law firm in the world.
Disclaimer: This FAQ should not be construed as legal advice on any specific facts. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only. You are urged to consult your solicitor on any specific legal questions you may have.