When we think of innovation we think of new ideas, new devices, and sometimes a new method of doing things. Innovation, however, is much broader. Meeting the demands of new requirements in any setting requires better solutions to target existing and future needs. This, in essence, requires more effective products or services. We can thus define the term “innovation” as something original and more effective and, as a consequence, that breaks into the market or society.
When we talk about innovation within the legal sphere, it is hard not to draw your mind to intellectual property law. Intellectual property consists of intangible rights which are part of a larger bundle of rights. Here, property rights attach to the inventive and innovative creations of the mind (ideas which are products of intellectual property). Intellectual property law seeks to protect these creations of the mind through patent, copyright and trade-mark protection.
Often, intellectual property can be an organization’s most valuable asset and thus it has created the need for lawyers with specialized backgrounds in intellectual property law, to help protect the intellectual capital of businesses, authors, inventors, musicians and other owners of creative works. With this in mind, it’s no secret that there will always be a demand for intellectual property lawyers. Inventive and innovative minds have always existed and will continue to exist. This means that intellectual property lawyers will always be needed to obtain the rights to new ideas and to protect the ownership of existing creations. More recently however, the creation of the internet leaves creators vulnerable to a plethora of intellectual property crimes. This has certainly lead to an increased need for informed intellectual property lawyers.
So why do some JD candidates fear this area of law? What scares most of my classmates away from intellectual property law seems to be this stereotype that you need to have a science or engineering background. However, intellectual property lawyers are not just hired by artists and scientists – they are hired by businesses, authors, inventors, musicians and other owners of creative works. Often times this work transcends international borders which truly gives you a scope for how important this field of law is.
The digital age has reformulated the way we approach intellectual property law. What excites me the most is that the laws around intellectual property continue to be defined which means that our generation of lawyers may be able to effect change in the field. This was exemplified in cases such as British Columbia Automobile Assn et al. v. Office and Professional Employees’ International Union, Local 378 et al where an entire website was held to constitute the tort of passing off (something not seen before). Furthermore, cases such as Harvard College v. Canada have attempted to expand the range of patentable subject matters. If the Court was to ever redefine their stance on the patenting of higher life forms, this could reinvent the way we approach patent law. Additionally, although the recent negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (and the Intellectual Property Rights Chapter more specifically) have seemingly been the topic of much controversy, the attention that the negotiations gave to intellectual property has demonstrated that intellectual property law is a prominent matter at the forefront of the global community. Thus nevertheless, it is still an exciting time to be involved with intellectual property law.
To conclude, as an intellectual property lawyer you will commonly be examining and considering creative ideas. You will likely be dealing with something new and sometimes, something that has never been seen before. You may be tasked with effecting a new or unsettled area of the law with regards to intellectual property laws in Canada. The point is that working in an area that is conducive to change and innovation puts you in a perpetual state of legal evolution. As you evolve and develop, so too do your clients and the work they bring forth. There is no stagnation because stagnation does not open us to new realities. There is the opposite of stagnation; what some may call a boom or a rise. How can one get bored at work when the very essence of intellectual property is to excite through the implementation of the brand-new? This area of law excites me and I have made up my mind that I need to be a part of its creative domain. Overall, I acknowledge that everyone is drawn to an area of law at some point in their legal schooling or legal career. I echo the sentiments that if you have not yet decided what area you may want to practice in, maybe the creative and legal realm of intellectual property is right for you. As I mentioned before, one thing is for certain: as long as invention and innovation exist, the field of intellectual property will remain fruitful and reliable for lawyers.