Intellectual property law involves the rules for securing and enforcing legal rights to intangible assets like inventions, designs, and artistic works. The purpose of these laws is to provide an incentive for people to come up with ideas that can benefit society by ensuring they can profit from their works and protect them from others.
There are two general categories of intellectual property: industrial property, which includes inventions (patents), trademarks, industrial designs, and geographic indications of source; and copyright, which includes literary and artistic works such as novels, poems and plays, films, musical works, artistic works, and architectural designs.
Career prospects in Intellectual Property Law are strong. Technology changes in the industrial sector have created a demand for patent protection, and the continuing shift to digital online media increases the need for copyright attorneys.
Interested in specializing in intellectual property law? Explore our list of the best intellectual property law schools in the U.S.
Note: Schools are ranked according to the U.S. News and World Report 2019 Best Intellectual Property Law Programs.
University of California at Berkeley Law School
The Berkeley Center for Law & Technology is the hub of intellectual property study at Berkeley Law School. The Center offers over 20 courses per year, ranging from an intellectual property survey class to advanced courses in privacy and cybercrime. The curriculum at Berkeley Law is reassessed regularly to ensure that important issues are covered. Current course offerings include Chinese IP Law, Secrecy: Use and Abuse of Information Control in the Courts, Information Privacy Law, and Trade Secret Law and Litigation.
Berkeley Law offers J.D. students a Certificate Program in Law and Technology. Requirements include core and elective coursework in law and technology, a research paper, and participation in a law and technology student organization. Berkeley also offers students the opportunity to get hands-on experience through the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic. Established in 2001, the clinic serves as a source of interdisciplinary policy research as well as a traditional legal clinic.
Tied for the No. 1 ranking, Stanford Law’s intellectual property law program is extensive and prominent. The program is housed within the Stanford Program in Law, Science, and Technology, and courses include Trademark and Unfair Competition Law, the Business and Law of Technology and Patent Licensing, and Copyright Law.
Supported by its own Intellectual Property Association, Stanford Law’s program in intellectual property law reaches beyond the university to peer schools and the broader inventor community.
Students can develop their skills by advocating on behalf of actual clients through The Juelsgaard Intellectual Property and Innovation Clinic. Participants engage in cases ranging from internet/information technology to online free speech and new media. Students in the clinic have written amicus briefs to the Supreme Court and a policy paper on behalf of tech startups advocating for net neutrality at the FCC.
NYU Law offers 16 areas of study, including Intellectual Property and Innovation. Nearly 30 intellectual property courses are offered each year, from core courses in patents, copyrights, and trademarks, to upper-level seminars and independent research projects. Due to IP Law’s intersection with culture and business, the courses are frequently taught by experts from the field.
NYU offers the semester-long Technology Law and Policy Clinic, which is a combination of fieldwork and coursework focused on the public-interest aspect of technology law and policy. Half of the clinic works with faculty on current cases involving the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy & Technology Project and National Security Project. The remaining students in the clinic represent individual clients and not-for-profit organizations on specific intellectual property matters.
In addition to traditional intellectual property classes, NYU offers courses in antitrust law and competition policy in both U.S. and European legal systems. Outside of class, students can explore IP law through the student-run Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law Society or contribute to the NYU Journal of Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law.
Santa Clara University Law School
With its vital location in Silicon Valley, Santa Clara University Law School is a leader in intellectual property law. Santa Clara’s High Tech Law Institute was created with a mission to educate and train “lawyers who find innovative legal solutions to intellectual property and technology issues.”
Coursework in the High Tech Law Institute includes International IP Law, Advanced Legal Research in Intellectual Property, Advertising and Marketing, and Biotechnology and Law.
The Santa Clara Computer and High Technology Law Journal is both a course and a resource for the technology and legal communities. Topics covered include patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secret intellectual property; technology licensing; and computer crime and privacy.
Students at Santa Clara Law may also participate in intellectual property law moot court competitions like the INTA Saul Lefkowitz Moot Court Competition, which focuses on trademark law, and the AIPLA Giles S. Rich Moot Court Competition, which concentrates on patent law.
Santa Clara’s Student Intellectual Property Law Association (SIPLA) holds interdisciplinary discussions with current law students and local IP practitioners, including High Tech Tuesdays, where practicing attorneys share emerging intellectual property issues.
George Washington School of Law
George Washington Law established a Master’s of Patent Law program—a precursor to its intellectual property program—in 1895. Today, GW Law’s Intellectual Property Law program includes patent, copyright, trademark, and communications law; computer and internet regulation; electronic commerce; and genetics and medicine.
In addition to foundation courses in Antitrust Law, Intellectual Property, Patent Law, Copyright Law, and Trademark Law and Unfair Competition, GW offers 20 advanced courses in topics ranging from Genetics and the Law to Art, Cultural Heritage, and the Law.
GW offers several scholarships to students with an interest in Intellectual Property Law. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims Bar Association’s Carole Bailey Scholarship is intended for students with a demonstrated commitment to public service, the Marcus B. Finnegan Competition offers monetary prizes for the best essays in any area of intellectual property, and the Mark T. Banner Scholarship is awarded to students with a commitment to pursuing a career in IP Law.
Intellectual Property Law events at GW include speaker series and symposiums with law professors and industry experts from throughout the country.
UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law
Tied for No. 5 on the list of best intellectual property law programs, the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law offers a J.D. Certificate in Intellectual Property Law. To receive the Intellectual Property Law Certificate, students must complete 15 credit hours of required foundation and elective coursework. Recent IP classes at UNH have included Advanced Patent Litigation, Copyright Licensing, Copyright and Trademark Litigation Strategies, and Federal Trademark and Copyright Regulation.
A leader and innovator in IP Law for 30 years, Franklin Pierce Center for Intellectual Property hosts Intellectual Property Scholars’ Roundtable events to bring together national and international scholars. UNH also hosts the Intellectual Property Scholarship Redux Conference, where IP graduates with a previously published paper discuss their work, analyze what they did right, and explain they would change.
University of Houston Law Center
The University of Houston Law Center offers 11 institutes and centers, including the Institute for Intellectual Property and Information Law which is “recognized throughout the world for the strength of its faculty, scholarship, curriculum, and students.”
Beginning in their second year of law school, students at UH’s Law Center can begin exploring over three dozen courses related to Intellectual Property Information Law. Recent course offerings have included Intellectual Property Strategy and Management, Property Crime in the Information Age, and Internet Law.
Students considering a career in intellectual property law may join the IPSO (Intellectual Property Student Organization). IPSO promotes awareness of issues in intellectual property and information law. In addition, the organization creates networking opportunities and works in coordination with the Institute of Intellectual Property and Information Law.
Boston University School of Law
The BU School of Law offers over 200 courses in 17 legal fields, including a flexible and expansive concentration called Intellectual Property & Information Law. The concentration focuses on patent, copyright, trademark, computer law, and information law.
Upon completion of core coursework, IP & IL concentrators take specialized courses such as Copyright Policy Rhetoric & Rights, Economics of Intellectual Property Law, Entertainment Law, and Free Speech and the Internet.
Outside the classroom, law students have the opportunity to advise entrepreneurs seeking to establish or develop IP-intensive businesses through the Entrepreneurship, IP, and Cyberlaw Program. Additionally, students can stay engaged with the IP community through the Intellectual Property Law Society or by contributing to the Journal of Science & Technology Law.