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IP Opportunities for the STEM-Averse

In our study, “Soft” Intellectual Property Law: IP Opportunities for Non-STEM Attorneys (Volume 5 of our 21st Century Legal Career Series, available from Amazon.com https://amazon.com/Soft-Intellectual-Property-Law-Opportunities-ebook/dp/B072BST2NK/ref=sr_1_4?keywords=21st+century+legal+career+series&qid=1557494931&s=gateway&sr=8-4 or in print from NALP https://nalp.org/careers), we said:

“This is the best time in history to contemplate a legal career in intellectual property (IP) regardless of your educational background outside of law school. Whether you combine your law degree with a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) background, or come to law from a purely liberal arts/humanities orientation, IP has great opportunities for you.”

We have not changed that opinion. If anything, today is an even better time to pursue an IP career.

Soft IP opportunities for non-STEM lawyers are proliferating throughout the economy and span the globe. IP considerations have become a component of virtual every business decision, negotiation and transaction. Whereas for most of human history, corporate assets were measured almost solely in goods and services, today such “tangibles” are far outnumbered by IP and intangibles. This growing preponderance of IP and intangible assets will only become greater as technology keeps innovating, globalization keeps growing, and licensing becomes more ubiquitous.

Add to that mix the escalation of product piracy and counterfeiting, the internationalization of IP regulation, cyber theft, and the need to have an organized system for managing intellectual assets, and the legal opportunities that flow from all of this continue to expand.

Supporting Data

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) https://uspto.gov

The Trademark Office is the “soft” IP component of the Patent and Trademark Office. At this writing, it numbers 579 Trademark Examining Attorneys, almost double the size of its examining workforce in just the last few years. It needs this many examiners in order to keep pace with the tremendous surge in trademark applications the office has experienced in recent years, a surge that is expected to continue. Trademark Examiners are often hired without any trademark experience and directly out of law school.

Both the patent and trademark divisions of USPTO also hire non-STEM attorneys for positions in international affairs, congressional relations, legal affairs, human resources, and supporting the Under Secretary and Director’s Office. More than 3,000 people, many of whom are attorneys, are engaged in these functions.

Private Sector

Six factors support the impressive growth in hiring of non-STEM lawyers outside of government:

  1. The trademark application increase addressed in the prior section of this blog. This has prompted law firms to enhance their trademark practices.
  2. The opportunities to file both patent and trademark applications internationally with foreign country registries as well as the Patent Cooperation Treaty Office at the World Intellectual Property Organization and under the Madrid Protocol.
  3. The huge growth in technology commercialization and licensing by companies as well as universities.
  4. The need for systemized intellectual asset management by corporations and other entities.
  5. Copyright law, long a quiet legal practice backwater, has moved to the forefront of corporate and government concern with the expansion of the Internet and social media.
  6. The increase in the number of attorneys employed in IP JD- Advantage positions such as:
  • Content Protection Manager
  • Corporate Copyright Specialist
  • Director of Licensing
  • Foreign Filing Specialist
  • Intellectual Asset Manager
  • Intellectual Property Investigator
  • Rights Manager

A career in soft IP is very attractive. Jobs pay well. USPTO Trademark Examining Attorneys are even entitled to annual productivity bonuses. Work-life balance is superior to most attorney positions. For example, Trademark Examining Attorneys can usually telecommute from anywhere in the U.S. The work is intellectually challenging.