Search Bunsnip.com

bunsnip (at) gmail (dot com)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

IPSO facto

Today I attended the introductory meeting for IPSO, the Intellectual Property Student Organization at Lewis & Clark. I've been a little hesitant about spouting my interest in intellectual property because, being a humanities major, I lack the technical background most people have when they go into the field.

Ok, first, maybe some of you don't know what I mean when I say "intellectual property". IP covers non-tangible property, namely patents, trademarks, copyright, and trade secrets. The big money item in that list is patents. Usually when you tell someone you are going into IP, they assume you are going to be doing patents.

Patent attorneys sit for two bar exams: the regular bar exam for whatever state they want to practice in, and the patent bar exam so they can prosecute patent applications with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. In order to sit for the patent bar, you have to have a background in something like engineering, chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics, etc. I have a background in humanities, so unless I wanted to really be a masochist and get that technical background, I can't sit for the patent bar.

But I'm interested in IP anyway, particularly copyright. I think with the digital age, we are at the doorstep of new era in intellectual property. I can't tell you where I think IP is going, but I have some ideas, and in any case, I think it's going to be exciting. But I was worried that maybe I'm wasting my time trying to get into IP if I can't do all the areas of IP.

Then today, at the IPSO meeting, I heard from our three intellectual property professors at L&C, none of whom has a technical background. Granted, they are all academics now, so maybe that's not a good measure of what kind of IP career you can have without a technical background, but it was heartening to know there are others out there like me.

Furthermore, the patent professor emphasized that the only thing you can't do without a technical background is prosecute patents with the USPTO. You CAN, however, LITIGATE them. (In this area of law, prosecution means filing patent applications with the USPTO and trying to get those applications to issue into patents, while litigation means filing or defending suits about already issued patents in court.)

I never knew that you could be a patent litigator without a technical background, even though I worked in an IP firm for 3 years. (Of course, we only had one litigation case during those 3 years, and it was a trademark matter.)

So I came home today feeling renewed and excited that maybe I'm not chasing the purple unicorn with these aspirations for studying IP. This is further bolstered by a presentation I went to last week by an IP practitioner on Diversity in Intellectual Property. The title led me to believe that we were talking about getting more racial diversity in the IP field (since it seems like that's what diversity means now), but really the presenter wanted to emphasize that the field could use more diversity of thought. So people of non-scientific backgrounds are perhaps being welcomed into the field more than traditionally.

In any case, I'm really excited about pursuing this further. And I'm glad to know I can still deal with patents if I ever want to litigate.


 Subscribe to Bunsnip

2 comments:

B.R. said...

As an academic in the Humanities I'm cognizant of the importance of IP and how it needs to be protected and supported. Especially, in a day and age where information is so easily procurable and credit is not always given where it's due.
I would think that a synthesis of technical background and IP academic training are of much importance at this point.
Exciting times, no doubt.

B.R. said...

As an academic in the Humanities I'm cognizant of the importance of IP and how it needs to be protected and supported. Especially, in a day and age where information is so easily procurable and credit is not always given where it's due.
I would think that a synthesis of technical background and IP academic training are of much importance at this point.
Exciting times, no doubt.

Post a Comment