Intellectual property law ("IP") consists of 3 main branches - copyright, trademark, and patent law. Copyright law deals with protecting written work (books), recordings (songs), and visual arts (paintings, etc.). It can also be used to protect software code, but now this is generally covered under patent law, which offers more stringent protection. Patent law covers inventions and recently has been expanded to protect business ideas, such as Amazon's 1 click shopping (as a controversial example of a business patent that has been approved). Trademark law protects brands and logos, examples would include the brand name NIKE and the Nike Swoosh logo.
IP law is a booming field, as the information technology age has continually expanded the need for, scope of, and value of intellectual property. While Silicon Valley, where I practiced, is the hub of IP law, other IP centers include Boston, Austin, San Diego, and New York. (For those who do not know, Silicon Valley is about 1 hour south of San Francisco. Palo Alto, where Stanford is located, is the heart of it).
I practiced law with Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, the largest law firm in Silicon Valley. I did both trademark prosecution and litigation. Prosecution is where you actually work with clients on developing brands, providing risk analysis and strategies to mitigate risk, and then file and oversee the application process with the US Patent and Trademark Office. Trademark litigation is when two companies are suing each other over who has superior rights to a trademark or examine whether any defenses are available to the infringing party.
Both prosecution and litigation have their own pros and cons. Prosecution is enjoyable because you get to brainstorm with your clients during the initial phase of trademark development and clearance, but the filing of the marks is pretty mechanical and generally done by paralegals.
Trademark litigation can be exciting as you prepare briefs and argue your case in front of the judge (as you get more senior, most of your first two years you watch the senior partner present the case while you do the legwork and brief writing). However, litigation involves large amounts of stress and a high workload (working through the night on occasion) as case deadlines approach.
Patent law is also divided up into prosecution (getting the patent filed and approved) and litigation. To practice patent prosecution one must have a scientific background (such as engineering or chemistry) and pass the patent bar, a smaller version of the bar on US Patent law procedures. Patent prosecution lawyers are very in demand because few attorneys have the scientific background to practice patent law.
Patent litigation does not require that one have a scientific background, but it certainly helps.
Copyright attorneys generally focus upon copyright litigation, as copyright prosecution is very easy and always done by paralegals.
IP licensing, that is working with companies such as Intel, and licensing their technology or trademarks, is also a very large field in addition to prosecution and litigation.
I highly recommend IP law to all, for I feel it is the most exciting field of law out there at present as we continue to live in a world dominated by technology. Law schools that excel at IP law are first and foremost, Berkeley's Boalt Hall, secondly Stanford, and then there is a big drop, but other strong IP law schools include George Washington, Columbia, NYU, and Franklin Pierce.
IP law is at a crossroads at present, for while it is a means to protect intellectual property, the reason for its creation was to spur new technology by offering authors a means to protect and profit from their creations. Ironically, IP law may now be so stringent that it is hindering more than helping spur new innovations.
The following article, written by yours truly, explores how trademark law needs to be reformed to again incentivize innovation.
http://www.registeringatrademark.com/re ... -law.shtml
Another article I wrote conveys the basics of trademark law (actually quite fascinating and intuitively easy to understand) by explaining how to create a protectable trademark:
http://www.registeringatrademark.com/pr ... mark.shtml
Even for those who do not anticipate practicing IP law, I recommend that you take an Intro to IP course for you will likely find it quite fascinating.