World IP Day: Young lawyers reveal how they discovered IP
Managing IP speaks to junior in-house counsel, private practice trainees and students about why IP appeals to them and how to inspire the next generation
The fast-paced nature of intellectual property law and its ability to appeal to the imagination are key factors inspiring junior and aspiring counsel to take up patents, trademarks and copyright in their studies and careers, say young lawyers on World IP Day.
Several sources including junior in-house counsel, final-year law students and private practice trainees say IP’s links to the creative industry also appeal to them.
But they warn that IP is often only touched upon during degree-level studies, and add that more focus should be placed on basic IP education at an early age to encourage the next generation of lawyers and innovators.
One source describes the lack of knowledge among young people as “obvious”. “When I give training for marketing – mostly to a young audience – I notice that most people do not have much knowledge of IP.”
Young and restless
The theme for this year’s World IP Day is IP, youth and innovating for a better future. The day promises to explore how young, innovative, energetic and creative minds are driving positive change and how such change can be further encouraged.
WIPO, which founded World IP Day in 2000, said it will celebrate the ingenuity, creativity, vision and courage of the world’s young creators, inventors and entrepreneurs to build a better future.
Managing IP sought the views of recently qualified lawyers to find out why IP appeals to young minds and what might be done to ensure the discipline stays attractive as a career for future generations.
But while sources say they are positive about the opportunities offered within the field, they note that more needs to be done to convey its importance.
Eva Scheel, legal counsel at dairy multinational Friesland Campina in the Netherlands, who qualified as a Benelux trademark attorney in 2020, says she first learned about IP during her law degree.
“The lack of knowledge among young people is obvious,” she says. “When I give training for marketing – mostly to a young audience – I notice that most people do not have much knowledge of IP.”
She says that as soon she began learning about IP, it quickly became the most interesting area of law to her. “It is about creativity. I always liked the examples of IP infringement cases, as they are tangible and appeal to your imagination,” she says.
Joel Todd, a first-year trainee at EIP in London, who specialises in patents, had a similar introduction to the field.
“I hadn’t specifically learned about IP anywhere else, apart from occasionally hearing about tech start-ups getting ‘pay-tents’. It was only when I attended an open day that I realised that it’s actually pronounced ‘pah-tent’.”
He tells Managing IP he first found out about the IP profession after looking at a list of jobs suitable for physics graduates.
“At first, I couldn’t quite believe that there was an intersection between physics and law. But as I did more research, I found myself more and more interested in the idea of explaining how inventions work and arguing that they are or are not inventive.”
Todd says he believes students at all levels, particularly those studying STEM subjects, could benefit significantly from learning about IP, even if they didn’t end up going into a career in the field.
Scheel agrees, adding that the IP community should get involved with aspiring lawyers even more than they currently do. They could take time to explain cases and share knowledge more actively to make young people enthusiastic about IP, she says.
Lukas Schwope, a final year law student at Stockholm University, says the profession should do more to raise awareness and understanding of the basics – mainly what IP rights exist and what they cover.
“So far, it’s rather a matter of coincidence whether people at a young age get in touch with IP, even outside the legal context,” he explains.
Like Scheel, Schwope says he only learned about IP during the third year of his law studies. “Before that, I had heard about copyright and trademarks, but had not given it any further thought.”
Good day to learn
These calls to focus on education may have come at the right time.
Last week, Managing IP reported on plans from the EU to include IP education in its Digital Competence Frameworkfor the first time.
But a separate survey by data analytics and polling firm YouGov, released to coincide with World IP Day, has revealed that many young people don’t understand the basic principles of IP protection, even if they do feel supported to innovate.
Finn Hummer, a masters graduate from the University of Münster, says more young people may be inspired to join the IP ranks if more focus is placed on the broad opportunities IP offers.
“Unlike most areas of law, IP offers a very wide range of job opportunities in a creative environment. It is a very good opportunity to combine different interests. Communicating this more effectively could help to attract the next generation of lawyers to IP,” he says.
A senior IP counsel at a multinational company in Europe agrees that IP provides more opportunities than other areas of law.
“I work in IP but could move into marketing because there is some crossover there. You aren’t just limited to one department.” He says he enjoys being part of a bigger team dealing with commercial and legal challenges.
Schwope agrees, adding: “It’s important to highlight and provide information about the practical relevance of IP law and the multiple areas it’s connected to, which allows for a wide variety of different work areas.”
Working in the music sector would be very different from working in the audio-visual industry, he notes.
Getting the break
Sources also offered some tips for prospective IP professionals looking to get their first break.
Looking at the bigger picture is important for an IP lawyer, says Scheel. “You must really understand what the business needs, and thus also be able to advise on other areas of law that might be of relevance as well.”
Hummer notes that because IP is a broad field that covers a lot of topics, candidates should develop a basic understanding of the connections between said areas.
“Once you’ve discovered where a particular interest lies, focus on that”, Hummer notes. “This doesn’t necessarily need to be in a law context, but could be from a user’s perspective.”
Todd at EIP says communication is key, particularly in a patent attorney role.
“Be prepared to do a lot of writing. The job is inherently focused on words – words used to claim or describe an invention and words used to explain the complexities of the law to clients.”
Scwhope says the best advice he’s been given is to stay up to date with IP-related developments.
“Law is always subject to changes, and IP law in particular is very fast paced. Constant changes of the law require constant awareness in order to remain capable of working with it.”
The passion young people have for IP is clear, even if they’re only getting acquainted with it during their legal studies.
The challenge, as WIPO has correctly identified, is to get the word out before that stage.