Writing Sample: Memo on International Property Law
M E M O R A N D U M
TO: KATHERINE A. GREENWOOD, JD, CPCC
FROM: CAROL BROCKMAN
SUBJECT: PARALEGAL SPECIALTY—INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW
Per your request, I have researched a specific area of law in which a paralegal might practice his or her
skills. The area I haven chosen is intellectual property (IP) law. In this memo, I will provide an explanation
of IP law followed by information on a paralegal’s assignments and skills, IP employers, and career
outlook. I will conclude with my final thoughts on being an IP paralegal and available resources.
Explanation of IP Law
The book Paralegal Career Starter presents what I found to be one of the better definitions of IP law:
“The practice area of intellectual property involves protecting the creations, ideas, and inventions of people
and businesses.”1 The gist of IP law is to establish who has the right to profit from a person’s intellectual
efforts. “All forms of intellectual property are assets that can be sold, licensed, exchanged, or given away
like real and personal property.”2 IP law works under “the assumption that an idea itself cannot be
protected…[For example in the case of a book, the] intellectual property is the organization, choice of
words, and detail that the author brings to a work.”3
In the IP arena, a paralegal may work specifically on cases or projects regarding copyrights, patents,
trademarks, trade secrets, and moral rights. Copyrights protect creative works (e.g., novels, drawings,
scores, and software). Patents protect inventions and discoveries. Securing patents is more complex than
filing for copyrights, and patent law has its own bar and court system. Trademarks protect brand names
(e.g., Kleenex and Rollerblades) and symbols associated with specific products and services. This
subdivision of IP law is about protecting product identity rather than the product idea itself. Laws
1 Southard and Starkey, p. 17.
2 Echaore-McDavid, p. 20.
surrounding trade secrets involve protecting the formulas, devices, and strategies that a company may
develop to make its business thrive among competitors. Laws regarding moral rights focus on protecting
“the integrity of artwork,” meaning preventing the ability of another to alter or destroy a work created by
the original artist.4 (Moral rights law is more prominent in the European legal systems, but it is gaining
ground in the United States.)
The tasks assigned to a paralegal when working on copyright and patent cases seem to take place in
three phases: (1) the application process, (2) marketing research, and (3) infringement defense. In phase 1,
the paralegal helps the client register for a copyright or apply for a patent by completing the necessary
paperwork, applications, and research. The paralegal must also gather together the proper data about and
samples of the work needing copyright protection or describe the invention needing a patent by collecting
any designs, diagrams, notes, or other items. Any applications for protection in foreign nations are also
completed by the paralegal as well as research into existing copyrights, patents, and applicable laws. Once
the approved registration for copyright or certification for patent arrives, the paralegal reviews it to ensure
it is accurate. In phase 2, the paralegal identifies potential users and licensees of the work or invention and
then helps to draw up appropriate contracts. In phase 3, the paralegal investigates works or products that
may violate the approved copyright or patent. When evidence of infringement arises, the paralegal helps the
attorney prepare for litigation.
For trademark cases, only phases 1 and 3 apply; there is no need to conduct research into who would
license a brand identity because such an asset would be used only by the individual applying for protection.
A paralegal in IP law needs the same skills as any paralegal. But it may benefit an IP paralegal to
develop strong research skills and a strong knowledge of litigation. Litigation is quite common in IP law.
3 Munneke, p. 117.
4 Munneke, p. 121.
And like IP lawyers, it may be helpful if an IP paralegal has knowledge beyond the law in areas such as the
sciences, publishing, art, or music.
Although IP law often brings to mind copyrights, authors, and the publishing industry, the emergence
and fast-paced growth of the computer, software, and technology industries now serve as the primary forces
fueling IP law’s growth. But IP law plays a part in a number of other industries: film, television, music,
mining, biochemistry, biotechnics, medicine, pharmaceuticals, chemical, and healthcare technology.
Businesses within each of these industries could be potential employers of IP paralegals who would assist
in-house or outsourced legal counsel. Of course, IP paralegals might also find work within a law firm, a
government agency such as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or an educational institution. Some IP
paralegals have found success as independent contractors doing the research needed for the application
process and infringement investigations.
Because of the complex work related to IP law and the strong growth in this area of law, IP law
appears to be one of the better paying areas for a paralegal. In the late 1990s, 14 percent of unspecialized
paralegals spent more than 40 percent of their time working on IP issues.5 A 1998-1999 salary survey,
conducted by Legal Assistant Today, showed IP paralegals to be the highest paid specialty area averaging
Because of my experience in publishing, I have a strong interest in pursuing a position in IP law. I
believe my love of research, publishing knowledge, and interest in marketing would make me a good IP
paralegal candidate. Thanks to this assignment, I am now aware of the role that litigation plays in IP law
and I can adjust my paralegal education accordingly to include as much study as possible in litigation. My
5 Schneeman, p. 77.
6 Schneeman, p. 121.
only concern is that employers of IP paralegals may be more inclined to consider candidates with a
computer or science background before those of us with a liberal arts background. A good bet for me may
be seeking employment within a publishing house or marketing agency.
American Bar Association Section of Intellectual Property Law. www.abanet.org/intelprop.
Echaore-McDavid, Susan. Career Opportunities in Law and the Legal Industry. New York, NY: Ferguson,
Estrin, Chere B. Paralegal Career Guide. 3rd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002.
Fins, Alice. Opportunities in Paralegal Careers. Chicago, IL: McGraw-Hill, 2005.
“Intellectual Property.” National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. Available at www.paralegals
.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=286. Accessed: January 23, 2007.
Intellectual Property Law Server. www.intelproplaw.com.
Jeffryes, Patricia and West, Peggy. “Intellectual Property Paralegals.” Colorado Bar Association. Available
at www.cobar.org/group/display.cfm?GenID=136. Accessed: January 23, 2007.
Munneke, Gary A. Careers in Law. 3rd ed. Chicago, IL: McGraw-Hill, 2004.
Sadewasser, David. Transcript of Sadewasser presentation at Biology Career Day. Careers in Biology.
Available at www.mcb.arizona.edu/careers/sadewasser.html. Accessed: January 23, 2007.
Schneeman, Angela. Paralegal Careers. Albany, NY: West Legal Studies, 2000.
Southard, Jo Lynn and Starkey, Lauren B. Paralegal Career Starter. 2nd ed. New York, NY:
LearningExpress, LLC, 2002.
Statsky, William P. Introduction to Paralegalism: Perspectives, Problems, and Skills. 6th ed. Clifton Park,
NY: Delmar Learning, 2003.
U.S. Copyright Office. www.loc.gov/copyright.
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. www.uspto.gov.
Volkert, Charles A. “Hiring, Compensation Outlook Promising for Paralegals.” National Federation of
Paralegal Associations, Inc. October 2005. Available at www.paralegals.org/displaycommon.cfm?an
=1&subarticlenbr=707. Accessed: January 23, 2007.