Intellectual property (IP) law firms advise clients on matters related to property such as patents and trade secrets. They can assist a company with filing for patents and trademarks, enforcing and litigating violations of IP rights, and establishing licensing agreements. Increasingly, intellectual property firms also focus on managing IP assets that are found online.
Examples of intellectual property include patents on new inventions and copyrights on works of art. Trade secrets, or the methods or practices of a company, are also considered intellectual property. To remain competitive, businesses with intellectual property may find it necessary to protect it.
Assisting a business with the establishment of IP assets is one service provided by intellectual property firms. Applying for a patent is a complicated and lengthy process, and larger companies may apply for thousands of patents or copyrights in a given year. An IP law firm will advise on how to acquire intellectual property rights internationally.
Once an IP portfolio is in place, intellectual property firms assist in managing this portfolio by enforcing property rights. This means monitoring potential infringements of IP rights and suing any party found to be violating a patent, trademark, or copyright. An intellectual property firm may also advise and represent a company that has been accused of infringing another company's intellectual property.
Intellectual property firms can help their clients establish a revenue stream for its IP portfolio. Patented inventions can be licensed to others for a fee. The firm may also assist a company wishing to sell a copyright, trademark, or patent to another party.
Giving advice on protecting and enforcing trade secrets is also part of the work done by intellectual property firms. Trade secrets may be sold or leaked to competitors or taken by a former employee to a new place of business. An IP firm can sue people who leak trade secrets.
With the advancement of technology and the Internet, protecting IP assets has become more complicated. Enforcing IP rights, particularly copyright, on the Internet is now a major area of focus for intellectual property firms. Advising companies on ways to protect their assets online is also a growing part of the work of intellectual property firms.
While many industries can benefit from the advice of intellectual property firms, certain sectors are more heavily reliant on IP assets to remain competitive. Technology companies rely on patented designs and breakthroughs, as do the creators of prescription drugs and other medical products. For communications and media companies, trademarks and copyrights are crucial to ensure profitably.