The term ‘IP lawyer’ is an abbreviation for ‘Intellectual Property’ lawyer. Intellectual property (IP) is a blanket term for a package of intangible assets including trade marks, copyright, design rights and patents. An IP lawyer is a highly skilled professional specialising in the protection, commercial exploitation and enforcement of intellectual property rights.
What Do IP Lawyers Do?
IP is a niche area of law, and those practicing it have extensive specialist legal knowledge and experience. Many IP lawyers specialise in specific industries, such as sport, tech, music and fashion.
The services provided by IP lawyers are vast, and include the following:
Intellectual Property Protection
Some intellectual property rights, such as copyright, arise automatically in the UK. However, there are still specific steps that should be taken to ensure the rights are easily identifiable and enforceable. For example, design drawings should be signed and dated to prove the date of creation so if a third party subsequently copies them, you can easily prove that yours was produced first. IP lawyers regularly advise businesses on the appropriate action to take with respect to specific intellectual property assets to ensure the rights are as watertight as possible.
Other intellectual property rights, such as trade marks, need to be registered before they are effective. In the UK, trade marks are registered with the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO), which keeps a database of all registered trade marks. Various legal criteria must be satisfied before the IPO accepts a mark for registration. For example, the mark must be distinctive and capable of distinguishing its owner’s goods or services from those of competitors. An IP lawyer will advise on the registrability of your proposed mark, suggest any modifications required and prepare and lodge the relevant documentation with the IPO. Many IP lawyers offer a trade mark monitoring system whereby they actively monitor activity at the IPO and flag any third party trade mark applications that may impact your registered marks.
Intellectual Property Commercialisation
The value of a business’s intangible assets and intellectual property frequently outweighs that attributable to its tangible ones, such as its premises.
Intellectual property can be commercialised in the same way as tangible property. It can be sold, licensed and even used as security for a loan. Rights such as trade marks can generate significant revenue streams for a business through commercial activities such as licencing programmes and franchising.
An IP lawyer is ideally placed to assist you in identifying which aspects of your business’s intellectual property are capable of being commercialised and advising on the best way of doing so. IP lawyers regularly prepare commercial IP Agreements including Assignments and Licences. They will use their experience in the industry to negotiate the best possible terms and ensure your rights are properly protected.
Intellectual Property Enforcement
Intellectual property owners can prevent third parties from using their IP without permission. Some intellectual property rights, such as trade marks and patents, are monopoly rights, meaning their owners enjoy the exclusive right to use them. Other intellectual property rights, such as copyright, are protected only insofar as the third party’s use is a result of copying.
Any third party who uses your intellectual property without permission may be liable for infringement. Rights owners are entitled to ask the Court to order the infringing party to immediately stop their use, grant an injunction preventing any future use and award damages. Intellectual property proceedings are notoriously complex, lengthy and uncertain, often costing many thousands of pounds. However, few intellectual property disputes reach trial, with the parties’ IP lawyers instead negotiating a commercial settlement.
How much does an IP lawyer charge?
The level of costs charged by your IP lawyer will depend largely on which solicitor you choose and the services they perform on your behalf. Where the work is relatively straightforward, such as trade mark monitoring, most IP lawyers charge a fixed fee. Other work is usually charged at an hourly rate, which your IP lawyer will make you aware of prior to the commencement of your matter. IP lawyers are subject to strict rules in respect of costs. They should tell you how much your case is likely to cost at the outset wherever possible, and keep you updated with regular fee quotes, estimates and breakdowns. IP lawyers must also ensure their firm’s complaints procedure is clear and easy to follow, and that any costs concerns are addressed swiftly and comprehensively. Given the important commercial value of intellectual property, most businesses view the costs paid to their IP lawyer as being money well spent.
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