10 Reasons Why I Love Intellectual Property
25 April 2011
Posted by on
“World Intellectual Property Day” begins here in San Jose, California in just a few hours, on April 26, 2011. This particular day of the year was chosen because it was the day that the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) was created.
In honor of this day, I put together a top 10 list of the reasons why I love practicing intellectual property. So, in no particular order, here they are.
- Living on the Edge. Well, ok, I’m blogging from my couch while watching the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Not exactly Point Break material. But when you work in the IP field, especially in a technology related field, you’re surfing the cutting edge of innovation. I love receiving invention disclosures, because you never know what cool gizmo or method the geniuses at your company have come up with. Sometimes, when you see technology rolled out to the masses, you harken back on those meetings you had about it several years prior. Pretty cool. Love it.
- Coolness Factor. Let’s face it, any time someone asks you what you do, and the first word out of your mouth is “intellectual”, it’s not a bad gig. And since a surprising number of people have no idea what it is, you’re always explaining it to people. People always have questions to ask about it, and I enjoy answering them. Finally, my wife said she was never attracted to firefighters and police officers and other assorted men in uniform. She always wanted to marry an IP counsel because they’re all so sexy. That’s what I tell myself at least.
- The engine of the company. I don’t mean to denigrate other legal fields, because they’re all cool in their own way. But disciplines such as employment law, contract law (which I do a lot of) and others — while critical functions — exist to ensure the company moves along in a comfortable manner. On the train, they’re the conductors, wait staff, kitchen staff and so on. Upper management are the locomotive engineers (or motormen — I admit that I had to look this up). But intellectual property? It’s the engine that makes the train go. People take the train to get from point A to point B, and it’s the engine that does the job. At my current company, efforts (spearheaded by yours truly) to emphasize intellectual property resulted in going from 0% of company profit coming from intellectual property royalties to 25%. In just a few years! Like I said, I’ve got nothing against other disciplines and see their value. But it’s fun being involved with the engine.
- You’re only as good as the company you keep? My parents always believed that the people you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with. All throughout my childhood (and now that I think about it, to a certain degree even after I became an adult!), they tried to control who I socialized with. I remember being thoroughly confused when my parents told me that under no circumstances was I allowed to hang out any longer with the kid from the other side of the neighborhood. The last time I heard about him, he apparently ended up having kids when he was 19, never finished high school and was arrested a few times. It’s a fool’s errand to legitimately try to figure out where your life would have gone if you had taken one of a googolplex of other paths, but I suspect that if I had continued to hang out with him and his circle of friends, I might instead be blogging about prison tattoo removal and how to fake urine tests. So what the heck does this have to do with intellectual property? I’ll tell you what. I generally get to hang out with good, extremely smart people. We’re talking engineers, scientists, programmers, attorneys and other people with assorted trigraphs representing their post-graduate credentials. I don’t have to speak slowly. I don’t have to use monosyllabic words like I’m speaking to someone from the Jersey Shore. I have a cousin who has spent his entire career working as a supply chain professional. For most of his career, he was working in the technology industry. Then he decided to purchase his own auto parts franchise. Still supply chain, but now for auto parts. While he loves what he’s doing and especially the independence, his one major complaint was that he’s now dealing with people who think a flash drive involves a trench coat and a golf club.
- IP Man. I’ve had several coworkers and friends call me “IP Man.” And not necessarily because of any perceived prowess in the field of intellectual property, but because of an excellent movie called IP Man. I absolutely love the Ip Man himself (or at least the fictionalized version of him), so being called Ip Man is just fine by me.
- Real Property Sucks. Especially if you live in the Silicon Valley. Other than awful traffic, it’s my only complaint about this area. The property around here ain’t worth the astronomical price. When people say “what would you do if you won a million dollars,” I tell them “I would pay my mortgage off. And then I would keep working so I can make the property tax payments.” Ugh. So wait, what was my point? Oh yeah. Intellectual Property > Real Property. Yay.
- Silicon Awesomeness. I’m not talking about silicone. That’s what Southern California is known for. But up here in Northern California, in the Silicon Valley, it’s awesome being an IP practitioner. The new iPhone 5? Potential Facebook IPO? The smartphone wars, and the tablet wars that will follow? Old legends such as IBM, Intel and HP? It’s all here, and it’s all here because of IP. And I didn’t even mention the bustling biotechnology and defense industries, as well as the numerous fantastic academic institutions in the area.
- Making the World a Better Place. United States patent law was established by the Constitution to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” Our forefathers knew that doing so would incentivize innovation. Put simply, despite its warts, our intellectual property laws reward innovation and make this rock a better place to live.
- Online Colleagues. I only joined Twitter a little while ago, and I’m already astounded at how many terrific IP related resources there are out there. From @ipwatchdog to @patentlyo to @ballard_ip, there are tons of valuable “follows” on Twitter, not to mention blogs, web sites, and other resources. BTW, no offense to anyone I didn’t mention. I can’t name everyone. Check out my IP list for others.
- Complexity. If there’s any legal field more complex than intellectual property, I’d love to know what it is. For my money, even something as common as claim construction and interpretation is more complicated than anything else I’ve seen. This complexity creates challenges. And I love challenges. I am easily bored. Or at least, that’s what they called it when I was growing up. If I grew up today, I’d be diagnosed with ADD or something similar and would soon have enough drugs to make Charlie Sheen take notice. Wait, what was I talking about?
So there you have it. Happy World IP Day!
Copyright 2011, Pav S. Athwal. All Rights Reserved.