What Is a Patent Attorney?
The ability to protect intellectual property is critical to the success of most modern businesses. Working with an IP lawyer or patent attorney Brisbane ensures that you are able to unlock the full value of your ideas and commercially exploit inventions. Obtaining the best possible protection for your ideas means working with the right type of professionals. While there’s some confusion over patent attorneys and how they relate to IP lawyers, the distinction is simple, and we’re going to clear things up in this article
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What Is a Patent Attorney?
Patent attorneys are a special class of legal representatives that focus on patents. If you need to draft, file, or prosecute a patent, a patent attorney has the skills and advice you need.
In Australia, patent attorneys are the only legal professionals that are specifically allowed to prepare patent documentation and applications. These patent documents often contain highly technical information about the nature of the invention and the protection being sought. For that reason, patent attorneys are required to hold qualifications in one of the sciences, ensuring they have the technical knowledge needed to draft and prosecute effective patents. It’s common for inventors to work with patent attorneys who hold a bachelor, master, or Ph.D. level qualification related to their invention.
While patent attorneys are qualified to prepare patent documentation, they aren’t required to hold legal certifications, so they aren’t equipped to perform the same functions as lawyers.
What Is an Intellectual Property Lawyer?
Intellectual Property (IP) lawyers are a related class of legal professionals that focus on the legal issues attached to intellectual property. IP lawyers provide advice and representation for things like patents, trademarks, copyright, registered designs, licensing, and any associated proceedings.
Where patent attorneys are required to hold degrees in the sciences, IP lawyers are required to hold traditional law degrees. A law degree allows an IP lawyer to provide advice and representation to their clients, including during negotiations or court proceedings. IP lawyers play a vital role in the intellectual property process, including:
- Offering counsel about intellectual property matters
- Offering advice, reviews, and interpretations of IP documentation, such as patent specifications
- Drafting and interpreting legal documents, including trademark and design applications (but not patent applications)
- Representing clients during negotiations and court proceedings related to their IP
- Managing licensing agreements
- Managing IP renewals
- Transferring IP ownership from one party to another
While IP lawyers aren’t expressly qualified to draft patent applications, they’re often involved in researching patent documentation, offering advice, and representing patent matters in court. A lack of subject matter expertise means IP lawyers are unable successfully prosecute patent applications that offer real protection for their client’s inventions.
How to Become a Patent Attorney in Australia
Australian patent attorneys are required to hold a high level of subject matter expertise to qualify for registration. The first step in the process is to obtain a bachelor, master, or Ph.D. level qualification in one of the sciences, such as information technology, biology, engineering, or medicine. Additionally, aspiring attorneys need to complete a Master of Intellectual Property (MIP). A MIP is a specialist degree that provides instruction on the laws and requirements associated with patents, trademarks, and registered designs.
After completing an undergraduate degree and MIP, aspiring patent attorneys are required to work with a registered patent attorney for a minimum of two years. This apprenticeship system allows aspiring attorneys to gain exposure to the industry and experience with patent research and drafting. Upon completion of their apprenticeship, aspiring attorneys can apply for registration with the Trans-Tasman IP Attorneys Board.
The Differences Between Lawyers and Patent Attorneys
There is some overlap between the roles and responsibilities of IP lawyers and patent attorneys. This often creates a bit of confusion with clients, but the main difference between a patent attorney Brisbane and an IP lawyer is relatively simple:
In Australia, patent attorneys are the only professionals that are allowed to draft, file and prosecute patents. IP lawyers are legal specialists and they may play a role in researching or defending a patent and licensing deals, but they aren’t equipped to obtain the best protection possible. Instead, the two groups work together to offer comprehensive legal protection, with IP lawyers handling negotiations, court proceedings, contracts, and more. For instance, if there is a dispute over a patent, an IP lawyer will provide representation, including taking the matter to court where necessary.
If you are an inventor then you will likely find yourself working with both patent attorneys and IP lawyers. This is especially true if you intend to commercialize your invention. IP lawyers are equipped to work on the commercial side of patent law and handle licensing, the sale of IP, court prosecution, opposition proceedings, revocation actions, and more.