Trademark + © law: good, bad, and ugly.

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Trademark + © law: good, bad, and ugly.

Postby realhero » Wed May 02, 2012 4:50 pm

General impressions about anything T+C very welcome!

--ROI of attending T14 at sticker > T/C attorney in NY/LA
--How creative are these fields as compared to other specialities?
--Are people less 'uptight' than in other areas of law?
--Job prospects
--Being just a trademark prosecutor vs. litigator?
--Marketing/ad background necessary/helpful?
--Most well dressed law speciality? (half joking but fully curious)
--Avg. salary compared to biglaw and public interest
--Best schools for it
--How much is client counseling component
--Added benefit, if any, of prior MS in management

Thank you!

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Re: Trademark + © law: good, bad, and ugly.

Postby oliverlovesyou » Wed May 02, 2012 8:00 pm

This is relevant to my interests.


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Re: Trademark + © law: good, bad, and ugly.

Postby treeey86 » Wed May 02, 2012 10:25 pm

Here are some rambling thoughts from someone who practices in the area. I have not organized these thoughts at all. I rarely frequent these boards these days so chances of follow up Q&A is quite low. I have some downtime on a project I am working on and ended up here somehow....

Uh at the end of the day you are a lawyer....just one who practices in trademarks and copyrights instead of mass tort defense/bankruptcy/whatever else

Therefore you are generally like any other lawyer. You wear normal business suits and none of that GQ stuff of suits/jeans/sneakers that you might see some advertising associates wear.

Lawyers are always uptight no matter what area of law you practice in.

With copyrights and trademarks your clients can range from individual celebrities ( ex: songwriters like Lil Wayne) to mega-corporations ( like Coca-Cola who want to trademark some new symbol they came up with; a recording company wants a contract buying sound recording rights to a song, etc). You will mostly be hired for your skill and not your personality. When Outkast gets sued for copyright infringement, they are not going to their bff general entertainment lawyer to litigate the multimillion dollar case. They are going to a big firm with a top trial lawyer who specializes in copyright infringement defense to handle the case.

Job Prospects are just as competitive with other areas of the law if not more so. As a "soft IP" a lot of the IP boutiques staffed with patent lawyers with science backgrounds will take up trademark and copyright work on the side to add more billables and money. Big firms will hire litigators without a science background into their IP practices. Those positions are highly competitive, especially for law students looking to go from an SA to an associate position in an IP practice without a science background. Typically need to have the big firm grades, kill a big firm interview, and hope after summer rotations there is a spot in the IP department and you get placed there.

The creativity of this field comes up purely in litigation ( trial strategy) and how you might write your court briefs or USPTO and Copyright Office responses ( so overall basically no more creative than other areas of the law).

You will not make a living just being a trademark prosecutor. Anyone can file a trademark ( through Legalzoom) without needing a JD. Most paralegals at the larger firms handle all the trademark prosecution stuff anyway and just have their supervising attorney sign off on the finished product.

The work and money comes mostly from litigation, especially copyright litigation.

Average salary for a big law copyright/trademark lawyer is whatever is market for the big firms. It might vary a tiny bit if your IP practice group has some famous superstar partners and therefore the group as a whole pays its associates a bit more than what other associates at the firm might make ( I believe Kirkpatrick does this).

Public interest opportunities are limited in the IP field. There are some "Lawyers for the Arts" non-profit groups around the country that do probono IP work but those offices are small ( like 2-4 lawyers tops) and likely the only way you get in is if someone leaves.

After the big firms, most of the IP/Copyright practices are located either in-house with a company, or with mid-sized IP boutiques. As I said above, most of those mid-size boutiques are only filled with patent bar eligible lawyers who do trademark and copyright work on the side (because typically if you are representing a client with a patent, he will have trademark and copyright needs stemming from having to make a business centered around said patent).

There are always small shops out there that dabble in trademark and copyright alongside their other practices. Yes there are tons of 1-3 person "entertainment" firms that also do trademark and copyright work for their clients. It is hard to get in with those without previous connections or a book of a business. If you go for the small entertainment firms my advice is to just intern there as a student and hope something opens up or you meet connections and hear of something opening up somewhere else. Hiring is highly informal, positions are few and far in between, and everyone wants to be an entertainment lawyer these days. The work that smaller shops do will tend to be basic trademark consultation and filings, and lower profile copyright infringement cases. If enough money is on the line the work will go to a big firm no doubt, or the smaller entertainment practice will make an arrangement with a bigger firm to collaborate on the case together, because typically (but not always) the smaller firms simply don't have the resources needed to handle the big copyright infringement cases and/or the client wants the peace of mind of knowing that if they lose the case they went with the lawyer with big firm backing. The bread and butter of most smaller shop are copyright transactions, where billing wise it makes no sense to go with a big firm for that (ie: deal between a celebrity chef and publisher to publish a cook book).

Best schools are obviously the top schools since that is where the big firms will hire deeply from, and thus your chance of getting in with a big firm IP practice doing trademark/copyright work is greatest.

After those schools you go to whatever school is in a market ( or feeds into a market) that has a lot of that type of work: LA (obviously), NYC, DC ( but work is mostly patent) and to a lesser extent Seattle, Atlanta ( rap, hip hop, GA tax breaks to film movies and tv shows) and Nashville (country). Top entertainment schools not from the T-14 are UCLA and USC hands down due to them being relatively high in the rankings and located in the top market for IP work. Top non-T14 IP school is GW due to its location and strong offering of IP related coursework ( has the top IP LLP in the country). Plenty of IP lawyers come out of other regional schools like Vandy, Emory, Fordham, and UW, but just not in droves like UCLA, USC, and GW.

Client counseling is a huge component of trademark/copyright work....but client counseling is a huge component of any legal field.

On the transactional end of trademark/copyright work you will find a lot of lawyers starting in non-related big firm transactional practices of M&A, corporate transactions, business transactions, finance; banking; real estate etc and then transition to the IP transactional practice by either going in-house, lateraling into an IP practice, or hanging up their own shingle ( usually requiring them to have contacts and business ahead of time to do so). The reason being if you can learn how to practice transactional law at a big firm you have acquired the basic skills to do IP related transactions.

On the litigation end, as I said above you just need to get in with the right department of a firm or just try to get your supervising attorneys to toss you cases. Develop familiarity with the law and learn how to litigate. It all comes down to trial and pre-trial strategy like any other area of litigation.

Final thoughts: Soft IP law is hard to get into. Lots of competition for limited spots. But overall breaking in is just like breaking into any other field really ( and all fields are hard to get into now). My advice is if you go to law school intent on being an IP lawyer, make it known from day one. Network your ass off. Kill it with your grades. Try to land in a big firm. If not, use said networking connections to intern anywhere remotely related to IP law, and hustle until an opportunity opens up. There will be opportunities although not many. It is just up to you to make sure you put yourself in a position to compete for such opportunities when they do come up.

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Re: Trademark + © law: good, bad, and ugly.

Postby banjo » Wed May 02, 2012 11:03 pm

^I hadn't thought about practice area much, but that that's a fantastic overview. Thanks!

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Re: Trademark + © law: good, bad, and ugly.

Postby realhero » Fri May 04, 2012 7:06 pm

Wow, this is fantastic. Thank you so much, I feel like I have a more solid understanding of what this field entails.


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Re: Trademark + © law: good, bad, and ugly.

Postby mushybrain » Sat May 05, 2012 1:01 pm

Thanks for the summary! That was excellent.

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