Patent law is a specific area of study within intellectual property law that focuses on developing and protecting brand-new inventions. Typically, people interested in building a career in patent law will pursue advanced-level degrees in intellectual property and information law.
A patent is a must-have for any inventor, providing them with the legal ability to keep others from replicating, using, or selling similar inventions in a given period.
To secure a patent, an invention must be original, useful, and nonobvious and meet other criteria. With a patent, the patent holder can sue infringers for violating patent law.
There are several steps involved in applying for a patent, and students graduating from patent law programs in the U.S. can expect to become well-versed in this process through a host of real-world field experiences.
What other skills might students expect to learn in one of these collegiate programs? Programs of study are typically interdisciplinary since patents are required for designs in almost every niche imaginable.
From entertainment and transportation to healthcare and academia, there is no subject area that would not benefit from services in patent law. Students will gain expertise in patent law, copyright law, trade secrets, trademarks, and licensing.
A career in patent law promises novel experience and exciting collaborations with leaders in a range of niches. Here are the 10 best intellectual property law schools as selected by U.S. News at the time of this publication.
Stanford Law School (Stanford, CA)
A patent law degree is accessible through Stanford’s Program in Law, Science, & Technology (LST).
Joint degrees are additionally offered in areas like bioengineering and computer science. In 4010 Intellectual Property: Patents, students ground themselves in doctrine regarding patentability, infringement, and remedies and investigate the implications of patent doctrine on social innovation and inequality.
Advanced-level courses like 4011: The Business & Law of Technology & Patent Licensing compel students to apply their knowledge to a tech-related niche where they’re interested in potentially building a career (i.e., transactions, IP management, litigation).
Executives from major technology companies frequently provide guest lectures, and the course is structured on real-world hypothetical scenarios.
In opportunities like the Juelsgaard Intellectual Property and Innovation Clinic, students get the chance to advocate on behalf of real clients in the patent development stage.
Stakeholders may take the form of nonprofit organizations, entrepreneurs, legal academics, startups, and journalists, to name a few.
New York University School of Law (New York, NY)
NYU’s law curriculum is inclusive of niches connected to innovation policy, intellectual property, antitrust law, etc.
More than 30 intellectual property courses are offered annually, featuring independent research projects and interdisciplinary assignments in areas like art, biotechnology, and entertainment. Those hoping to pursue specific graduate study in patent law may be inspired to participate in the LLM in competition, innovation, and information law.
In the Patent and IP Licensing Seminar, students use their understanding of legal issues in patent licensing to analyze, negotiate, and draft mock license agreements.
The Patent Law and Life Sciences course is an exciting offering that immerses students in investigations of patent law as applied to developments in pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and biologics. Rarely will students have the opportunity to speak one-on-one with in-house counsel from some of the world’s leading biotech companies!
Summer associate positions are available at large and boutique law firms where students can specialize in a preferred interest area. Examples of sites include the ACLU, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Santa Clara University School of Law (Santa Clara, CA)
Santa Clara’s intellectual property and high-tech curriculum is one of the most extensive in the United States, offering students the flexibility to design a totally customized program of study. The Tech Edge JD combines law, business, and technology applications, along with one-on-one mentorship.
Newly created in 2018, the Tech Edge JD is founded upon career planning experiences with attorney mentors and SCU faculty advisors; 450+ hours of fieldwork at startups, law firms, and tech companies; and the progression of a career portfolio featuring milestones like transaction negotiations, cross-disciplinary projects, and financial statement analysis.
High Tech Tuesdays take place semi-monthly – these one-hour lunches feature judges, policymakers, and business leaders within the regional and national tech sphere. All students are encouraged to attend and engage.
George Washington University Law School (Washington, DC)
George Washington University created its MPL (master’s of patent law) in 1895 after its alumni had already written a host of patents for ground-breaking designs – Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone and George Eastman’s roll film camera being among them.
Future patents written by GW Law alumni enabled the success of nylon and nuclear reactors in the 1930s, the computer mouse and Prozac in the 1970s, and the CRISPR-CAS system for altering gene expression in the 2010s.
JD candidates can concentrate in intellectual property law upon successful completion of 12 credits. Within their sequence, they may elect to take Entertainment Law, which provides an overview of legal issues inherent to the television, publishing, music, and film industries.
In Patent Appellate Practice, alternatively, students learn litigation strategies for assisting a client through an appeals process via the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
Patent law students at George Washington University can choose to compete for a variety of scholarships. For example, the Marcus B. Finnegan Competition offers $5000 for the first-place essay on any topic connected to intellectual property.
The Dmitry Karshtedt Scholarship Fund awards up to $5,000 to a law student with demonstrated excellence in the pursuit of public service.
UC Berkeley School of Law (Berkeley, CA)
The Berkeley Center for Law & Technology was established in 1955 with a focus on intellectual property. Networking opportunities are available via events like the IP Scholars Conference, which unites nearly 200 intellectual property scholars from 70+ institutions to present their current investigations and findings.
Berkeley’s law and technology program houses cybercrime, telecommunications regulation, and wine law courses! Faculty reassess the curriculum annually to ensure it is up to speed with the demands of the modern business area.
One of the newest courses – the Berkeley IP Lab – places students in the room with Bay Area startup engineers to design patents for various innovations.
Students have ample extracurricular opportunities at their disposal. The Moot Court program prepares participants for intellectual property, technology, and entertainment law competitions.
Over at the student-led Berkeley Technology Law Journal, more than 150 students collaborate to publish three issues of scholarly findings. The BLTJ additionally co-hosts an annual symposium attended by researchers, industry leaders, and academics from all over the nation.
University of Houston Law Center (Houston, TX)
The University of Houston’s Institute for Intellectual Property & Information Law (IPIL) offers an LLM and JD program for students interested in patent law.
The JD can be obtained via part-time or full-time pathways in which students complete 90 credit hours within their chosen niche. Courses range from Crime in the Information Age and Genetic and the Law to Patent Prosecution and Trademark and Unfair Competition.
Only a few students are admitted annually to the LLM, reserved for U.S. applicants who possess a JD and are accredited by the American Bar Association.
You may not have known that Houston is among the top five U.S. IP and information law markets. The university additionally hosts global corporations like ExxonMobil, the Texas Medical Center, and NASA, which are constantly innovating new patents. Proximity to these companies provides ample real-world field experience opportunities for UH patent law students.
Texas A&M University School of Law (Fort Worth, TX)
Students attending Texas A&M for patent, trademark, and copyright law can anticipate some of the lowest student-to-faculty ratios in the country. The school offers 20 introductory courses in intellectual property, as well as advanced-level seminars and three law clinics.
The Entrepreneurship Law Clinic connects students to startups in various industries, where they navigate challenges like contracts and entity formation.
The Patent Clinic pairs students with inventors in pursuit of securing patent protection via the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Finally, in the Trademark & Copyright Clinic, students focus on supporting new businesses in protecting their brands.
Students have two degree choices: the LLM in intellectual property or the MLS in intellectual property.
The former degree is geared toward those already in possession of a JD, while the latter – the first of its kind in Texas – is designed for those who do not wish to practice IP law but would benefit from continuing education in intellectual property.
Students in this degree program range from government officials and business leaders to policymakers and artists.
American University Washington College of Law (Washington, DC)
American University’s Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property (PIJIP) actualizes its motto of Champion What Matters by hosting vast research and public impact projects such as Creative Commons U.S., the Supreme Court Series (post-argument reflections), and www.infojustice.org.
Its year-long Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic engages students in actual client representation, where students work with artists, nonprofits, inventors, and scholars to carry out intellectual property law reform.
Students gain proficiency in filing amicus briefs, reporting on current patent issues, and conducting advocacy within the legislative arena.
Intellectual property and technology summer sessions offer exciting new classes each summer. For example, in Video Game & Immersive Entertainment Law, participants work with video game developers to overcome free speech and censorship obstacles.
The Music Licensing course connects students to music engineers, producers, performers, and songwriters as they establish agreements with music streaming services like Spotify, download services like iTunes, and upload sites like YouTube.
University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law (Concord, NH)
Graduates of UNH’s Franklin Pierce School of Law proceed to hold top IP positions at various Fortunate 500 companies and globally recognized organizations like General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Residencies take place at exciting locations such as the Dallas Cowboys, Sony Music Entertainment, and Under Armour.
The on-campus Sports and Entertainment Law Institute attracts guest lecturers like former NCAA basketball athlete Ed O’Bannon, who served as a lead plaintiff on a lawsuit versus the NCAA, alleging antitrust and publicity law violations.
The Warren B. Rudman Center for Justice, Leadership & Public Service awards scholarships to patent law students interested in focusing their careers in public service.
One of the neatest opportunities on campus is offered via the Intellectual Property Summer Institute, which convenes students, lawyers, faculty, researchers, and top business executives in envisioning the future of intellectual property law. Students can choose from course offerings in two tracks: Broad Topics and Deep Dives.
Yeshiva University Cardozo School of Law (New York, NY)
A selection of Yeshiva’s most exciting offerings includes practicums in the Gardozo-Google Patent Diversity Project and the Filmmakers Legal Clinic.
The former aims to help underrepresented groups, including women, secure patents for their creations, while the latter assists independent filmmakers via legal support.
Yeshiva may be best known for its Fame, Arts, Media & Entertainment (FAME) Center, which challenges students to assist real clients like the Brooklyn Nets, Prada, and Lincoln Center in trademark, copyright, and patent law.
Students can pursue an LLM in intellectual property or MSL in data and privacy law. Regular competitions like the Boston Patent Law Association Competition award monetary prizes to students who submit essays on a topic of their choice within the IP realm.