The advice below is from Michael A. Carrier, Distinguished Professor at Rutgers Law and expert on antitrust and intellectual property.
Intellectual property (IP) and information policy more generally are robust and growing fields that include areas such as patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, right of publicity, entertainment, software, fashion, media, privacy, unfair competition, and other areas.
What do IP lawyers do?
Attorneys can find themselves in court or discovery on high-stakes litigation (on music, movies, art, books, software, logos, etc.), prosecuting patents or obtaining trademarks at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, counseling clients on how to best protect their valuable creations, or entering into license agreements with competitors.
Depending on the level of scientific background, students often pursue one of two options. Those with science degrees are able to take the patent bar exam, which you need to practice before the Patent Office. Small patent-focused firms typically require a science background and the patent bar (taken either during law school or immediately afterwards). But even without a scientific background, there are many options! Students can consider practicing copyright, trademark, privacy, data, and other similar areas with law firms in the area, as many Philadelphia-based and NJ firms have practices covering these fields. In addition, other parts of the country have active practices in the entertainment and music industries (NY, LA) and with government regulations (DC).
How can I learn more?
One way to stand out from the crowd is to follow developments in the field and write short blog posts for the Rutgers Institute for Information Policy and Law. It’s also crucial to network. There are a range of events where you can learn how IP law is practiced today and meet some of the leaders of the community—two important events are the Benjamin Franklin American Inn of Court and Philadelphia Intellectual Property Law Association. The first order of business is to join RIPLA, the student organization at Rutgers.
If you want to stay abreast of the latest information in the various fields of information law, there are a wealth of excellent resources available online. We will introduce just a few of them below.
But before that, it’s worth noting that not everything that is useful is a click away. The Rutgers Law Library has some of the most important and often-cited treatises on IP and information law, including Nimmer on Copyright, McCarthy on Trademarks, and Chisum on Patents. The hard copies of these treatises are arguably superior to their electronic versions in some ways. The library also has a large number of monographs and other materials relevant to information law research, so you should familiarize yourself with its collection.
Given that you have student access to Westlaw and Lexis, you should explore the extent of your access to IP resources. These two commercial databases provide access to IP-related caselaw, practice forms, news, law review articles, treatises, statutes, etc., with hyperlinks that will provide access to documents across databases. If you are doing serious research into an information-law issue, the commercial databases should be your first stop.
For free and quick access to the legal codes, the Legal Information Institute at Cornell is a great resource. Other sites, such as Google Scholar, offer free online access to case law. The USPTO website has a large number of patent and trademark resources and databases (and is a great place to get background information on patents and trademarks). And the U.S. Copyright Office has information and resources related to copyright law.
There are many student journals that publish specifically in the area of information law. For instance, Rutgers Law publishes the Rutgers Computer and Technology Law Journal. There are IP journals at many schools, which can easily be located through Scholastica or ExpressO. If you are thinking of publishing a student note or article, you should consider submitting through these sites to an IP journal.
Many law firms, solo practitioners, law professors, law students, and even non-lawyers maintain blogs that offer commentary on recent information-law developments. While some blogs have been in operation for more than a decade, new ones are always appearing.
There are many lists of IP-related weblogs. Another way to find lists of weblogs is to look at the “blogroll” or list of links on any weblog — most IP bloggers tend to link to other bloggers. The blogs you decide to read will depend on what type of blogging you like. Some blogs are funny, some are focused on litigation, and some are focused on particular subfields (e.g. fashion or biotech). The following blogs are good starting points:
- Patent Law: Patently-O, Patent Baristas
- Trademark Law: 43(B)log, Las Vegas Trademark Attorney, The TTABlog, The Trademark Blog
- Copyright: Clancco, Techdirt(tagged copyright), Hollywood, Esq., Property: Intangible
- Internet Law: Tech & Marketing Law Blog, Freedom to Tinker, Harvard’s Berkman Center
- IP/Information Law: Arstechnica, IP Watchdog, EFF
And of course, there are many other forms of social media that you can use to stay on top of IP news and developments. RIIPL broadcasts on Twitter and YouTube and you can find links on those pages to some of the people and organizations we “follow.” There are also many free IP-related podcasts.
Of course, given the vast quantity of IP news available today, you won’t have time to keep up with even a fraction! Your law school coursework should come before blogs and other social media. But these resources are a good way to supplement what you’re learning in class and to get a sense of the latest cases and controversies. They may also be a good way to obtain ideas for student publications.
What classes should I take?
Rutgers Law School offers courses covering IP and information more broadly. “Traditional” IP law encompasses various forms of intangible property, such as patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Information law also encompasses privacy law, media law, advertising law, free speech, and Internet law.
Intellectual Property Courses
All lawyers can benefit from exposure to intellectual property law, and our Introduction to Intellectual Property course provides a basic overview of the fundamentals of copyright, patent, and trademark law. Our introductory course is also helpful to students planning to specialize in a particular field of intellectual property, as it explores the relationships between the various IP regimes. Note that the Introduction to Intellectual Property course is not a prerequisite for taking more advanced IP courses, and that it may be taken simultaneously with other IP classes. Introduction to Intellectual Property is offered every year.
Our more advanced IP courses offer deeper explorations of specific regimes of intellectual property. Trademark examines state and federal trademark registration and litigation, as well as related unfair competition doctrines. Copyright explores federal copyright law in detail, including recent developments in digital copyright law. Patent Law introduces fundamental patent law concepts. Patent Litigation focuses on the procedural and substantive law of the Federal Circuit. Transactional Intellectual Property is a skills-oriented class focused on IP-related business transactions. The Intellectual Property Practicum is also a skills-oriented class focused on simulating a range of IP-related legal services. Legal seminars on specific topics are often offered as well. Various IP seminars can be useful to students seeking to strengthen their research and writing skills, as well as broaden their knowledge of contemporary issues. The Intellectual Property: Current Issues seminar is typically offered every other year.
Information Law Courses
Rutgers Law also offers a broader range of courses on information law and policy. Digital Privacy Law explores cutting-edge issues relating to consumer privacy, government surveillance, national and foreign privacy statutes, and conflicts between privacy and free speech, and between privacy and commerce. Media Law focuses on the laws of media communications, including news gathering and journalism. Advertising Law explores the regulation of advertising at the state and federal levels. Freedom of Expression explores the constitutional law doctrines protecting free speech under the First Amendment and the laws of other jurisdictions. Entertainment Law explores the various legal issues that arise in the entertainment industries, such as film and music production.
Students hoping to practice in the field of intellectual property should acquaint themselves with the broader range of laws that affect businesses. Courses such as Business Organizations, Bankruptcy, and Business Torts are good choices. Students should also consider Antitrust, as competition issues frequently arise in IP, and Advanced Antitrust, which has a heavy IP focus covering patent trolls, smartphones, Google, and the pharmaceutical industry. Classes that focus on statutes, including Statutory Construction, also can be very helpful, since most of intellectual property and information law is statutory.
To be successful in IP and information law (and the legal profession generally), you need to stay abreast of current issues, establish networks of contacts, and learn the landscape of legal practice. We strongly encourage students who hope to practice information law to participate in IP-related clubs and student events and to take advantage of reduced rates for student membership in regional IP associations. Your first order of business should be to join Rutgers Intellectual Property Legal Association (RIPLA) if you are at our Camden location.
RIPLA is a student-run organization within Rutgers Law – Camden dedicated to making students aware of the Intellectual-Property-based opportunities available to them in Philadelphia and beyond. General meetings are held throughout the year with practicing attorneys who are invited to speak about their career paths and those available to students in their field. Our own Rutgers Law professors are also often invited to speak about current issues in the field and how they may affect students who are pursuing their own career in the field of Intellectual Property.
RIPLA also provides updates to students of IP-related academic and employment opportunities in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas. Networking opportunities, internships, and writing competitions are only a few of the opportunities that RIPLA keeps its member students informed about. Given the extremely competitive nature of the job market in recent years, RIPLA recognizes that it is vital for students to get a leg up on the competition through the contacts they form through these events. Email RIPLA to learn more.
It is never too early to get into contact with local practitioners — including many Rutgers Law alums — who work in the area of IP and information law. One way to do this is to join local, national, and international organizations as a student member. Many IP law groups offer student members steep discounts on membership dues (generally about $25). The following are a list of organizations you may wish to join to learn more about IP practice.
National & International
- INTA – The International Trademark Association
- The Copyright Society of the USA (Note that CSUSA has a Philadelphia Chapter)
- AIPLA – The American Intellectual Property Law Association
- ABA-IP – The American Bar Association Section on Intellectual Property Law (Note that the ABA has a section on Science & Technology Law)
- PIPLA – The Philadelphia Intellectual Property Law Association
- The Benjamin Franklin American Inn of Court
- NJIPLA – The New Jersey Intellectual Property Law Association
- NYIPLA – The New York Intellectual Property Law Association
In addition to these local groups, other area law schools in Philadelphia and New York also have student IP law clubs that sometimes host public events. IP-focused students from Rutgers Law are encouraged to attend these events.
IP Advocacy, Lobbying, and Pro Bono Organizations
The organizations listed above generally include those actively practicing in the field of IP and information law. In addition, many national and local organizations engage with IP in pursuit of specific political goals. Some of these organizations seek public support in their lobbying, pro bono service, and litigation efforts. For example, the Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts and the New Jersey Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts offer pro bono services to the arts community. Organizations like Public Knowledge and the Electronic Frontier Foundation attempt to influence the future direction of IP law. IP Students at Rutgers Law have worked for these and similar organizations during the course of their law school studies.