When farmers plant seeds in their fields, they own the crops that grow.
They can later sell (or choose not to sell) them. In other words, they have
the right to reap what they sow.
Similarly, those who create artistic works or industrial products have
the exclusive right to profit from the fruits of their labors, unless they
choose to sell or give away those rights.
It's the work of intellectual property (IP) lawyers to guard these rights.
They help people and businesses protect the ownership of their creative efforts.
It's much easier to protect the ownership of physical property than intellectual
property. Intellectual property is easily copied and distributed. The Internet
makes it especially easy to violate intellectual property rights.
"The number of materials posted online makes it really easy to copy and
paste material, so that's always a concern," says IP lawyer Darryl Bilodeau.
Although new technology makes copyright infringement easier than ever,
it can also help catch infringers. One example is new software that helps
people find unauthorized uses of their photographs.
"It doesn't just look at the file names (which are easily changed), it
actually looks at the physical image and compares it [with your original],"
says Bilodeau. "So, for example, if you even crop the picture so it's just
a portion of a bigger image, it can even detect that. It's physically examining
IP lawyers work with patents, trademarks, copyrights and even trade secrets.
They not only protect the product, but the idea of a product. Their work may
even lead them into industrial design, geographic origin symbols or plant
IP lawyers work with two main categories: industrial property and copyright.
Industrial property includes patents (inventions), trademarks (such as the
Nike swoosh) and industrial designs. Meanwhile, copyright covers artistic
works such as books, plays, movies, musical recordings and photographs.
Intellectual property lawyers specializing in scientific fields are in
demand. One hot area is protecting the patents of biotech and pharmaceutical
companies. A technical background is vital for lawyers specializing in patents.
"The patent agent must know the technology as well as the inventor in
order to draft the patent application," says Bilodeau.
People with certain kinds of special needs may still be able to do this
job. You need intellectual and communication skills in this profession. Problems
with physical mobility should therefore not be a major limitation. Braille
and other resources may also help those with related special needs overcome
some of the challenges of the job.