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Intellectual Property Lawyers

History

Dating back to the 1700s, people have sought help to protect their ideas. Unfortunately, in the past both lawyers and clients were often frustrated in their attempts to gain support for patents and copyrights in court. The country as a whole, the court system, and Congress were intent on not allowing monopolies to gain control of innovative products or ideas. This fear of monopolization caused the patent holder to get little if any help or protection from the government. Within the past 20 years, however, Congress and judges have started to see innovative ideas and products as valuable for our trade status in the international market. 

Attitudes are not the only things that have changed. Compared to the earliest years of inventions, innovative ideas, and patent seeking, huge amounts of intellectual property are now created and need protection daily. Intellectual property now includes music, computer software, written documents, programming code, and much more. Just as the volume and type of intellectual property has grown, so have the ways to steal it. Thieves today use home computers, digital equipment, and satellites. This boom in intellectual property and its need for protection have increased the demand for IP lawyers. Previously, IP law was a smaller segment of a law firm's business, so it was hired out to smaller boutique-type law firms. Now major firms and corporations have entire teams in-house to meet the demands of intellectual law.

The Internet has also been instrumental in creating a demand for IP lawyers as publishers and other organizations seek to protect the use of their digital content. The increasing popularity of e-books, proprietary databases, video games, and other types of electronic content has created a need for IP lawyers who have knowledge of the intricacies of patent, trademark, copyright, and general intellectual property law.

A major development in U.S. patent law was the passage of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, which was signed into law in September 2011. Legal experts believe that it is the most significant change to the U.S. patent system in half a century. One of the main aspects of the law is the transition of U.S. patent law from a “first to invent” to a “first to file” system, which is the standard used by most other countries. Patents are awarded to the first company or individual that applies, rather than the first inventor. Critics of the law believe that it provides an advantage to large corporations, which have more legal and research resources than independent inventors.