Patent solicitors can point to many instances of controversial intellectual property cases have increased in the UK and the US over recent years. Intellectual property relates, as the name suggests, to ownership and responsibility for ideas, inventions and concepts. Prevalent increasingly in academia and in industry, the notion of intellectual property has become crucial in a global marketplace in which free-flowing ideas and communication may lead to the proprietor of ideas losing track of his or her enterprises.
Patent solicitors work in a patent department of a large firm, in a specialist legal firm that deals with patent law, or in a government department. Their concern is simple: to obtain intellectual property rights for their clients, and to enforce them where necessary to ensure the legal rights of their clients are not being infringed. Although one may construe ‘intellectual property’ to be an ambiguous concept, the development of concrete symbols designed to embody intellectual ownership facilitates the collection and protection of intellectual property rights.
The world of intellectual property is inherently complex and disputes may arise frequently. The three key forms of intellectual property ownership – patents, industrial designs, and trade marks, may be contested in their validity or applicability by rivals to the inventor. It is therefore up to the lawyer to work to protect these rights for their clients. To understand these forms of ownership, let us now outline them individually.
A patent is offered by the government to individuals or firms that should be construed as an exchange. The government receive public disclosure of an invention, which may in some cases have substantive benefit to society, while the inventors receive the legal guarantee that others will be unable to use that invention for a specified time period. There is a broad spread of items that have been patented over time: ranging from novelty gadgets one might receive in a Christmas stocking, to intricate and important scientific discoveries. The process of obtaining a patent may be long and arduous, as the details are necessarily very specific, and IP lawyers act to ensure the deal is clear and correct.
Industrial design is, it might be considered, a much more superficial brand of intellectual property ownership. It refers to incidences where designers or inventors have created enhanced or novelty visual addition to an existing product. This may relate to cars, stereos, computers, telephones; any consumer good in which novelty design may enhance appearance and thus promote sales. Original additions may be registered with the government by patent solicitors with the intention of securing exclusive use of the design for a specified period.
Lastly, IP lawyers deal with trade marks, which exist to associate specific goods with particular manufacturers. Examples include vacuum cleaners (Hoover) and sound systems (Tannoy). They exist in an attempt to prevent competitors from copying the good and selling it, with or without a confusingly similar brand name, which may confuse consumers. Patent lawyers work with clients to prevent this.