Developing a Career in Intellectual Property & IT Law

Guest post by Lucy Wyndham

As the global digital sphere expands, so too do intellectual property infractions. Brand power is more accentuated than ever, leading to greater levels of trademark appropriation. What’s more, new research by Wharton shows that strong intellectual property protection benefits the ‘small guy’. Essentially, protecting new trademarks brings growth for small businesses.

As a result, intellectual property and information technology (IT) legal professionals are in great demand and can expect generous remuneration; Payscale suggests that the potential pay ceiling can reach USD $198,000. Furthermore, as small businesses develop their own systems, having legal assurance embedded will be key to maintaining growth. For a graduate, there is a clear path into the discipline.

Developing and displaying the necessary skills

Communication, problem-solving, determination and natural assertiveness are the core skills that all legal professionals need to possess. For an IP/IT lawyer, it is to your benefit to lay claim to a few other key areas. Firstly, while all lawyers need to stay up to date with law, IP/IT areas are a particularly fast-moving space; accordingly, legal professionals specializing in the field should have a comprehensive knowledge of online resources, and a talent for preempting what big changes will impact a company.  The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, which came into force in May this year is set to have impacts across Africa and the wider world. According to Thomson Reuters, compliance is high on the agenda; both consultant and in-house lawyers will be busy. When constructing an application, or formalizing your resume, ensure the relevant skills are clearly highlighted.

Understanding the job market

The good news about the IP/IT job market is that it is wide open. As Daily Nation outlined in a report concerning business best practices, there aren’t many intellectual property focused lawyers operating in Kenya, let alone digitally native ones. However, the Kenyan digital startup industry is absolutely booming: startups scooped half of all of Africa’s startup funding in the first 6 months of 2018, totaling nearly USD $50m, according to Business Today. With such a huge expansion in digital businesses, there is a clear market for expert legal advice that will also help to protect the industry, guaranteeing its onward profitability and the reputation of legal experts in the field.

The potential future

IP/IT is a fascinating and rapidly growing area of law. The nature of intellectual property laws are not necessarily set in stone when it comes to digital applications – take, for example, Apistry v Amazon, 2013, in which the case was dismissed in favor of Amazon, with the court finding that the patents involved were ‘abstract ideas’ given their internet-based application. As the world becomes more and more globalized and internet usage continues apace, it’s likely that definitions will shift and previously dismissed claims will become more relevant. The role of the legal professional in the field will only become more valuable and more important.

Moving into intellectual property and information management law is an exciting way to further your career. In Kenya, with businesses booming into the digital age, there are countless opportunities. Seizing is a case of determination and honing the right skills.

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