Selecting an Attorney to Protect Your Innovation

Make sure your attorney understands your innovation.

A number of situations may lead you to seek an attorney’s advice: a complex license negotiation, a dispute over your invention, or a simple need for guidance. Attorneys have various specialties, and you will need to select a lawyer who is qualified to provide the advice you need.

Intellectual Property Attorneys

Don’t make the mistake of hiring a lawyer whom you trust but who works in a different field—such as the lawyer who masterfully handled your friend’s personal injury case. Intellectual property law should be handled by a specialist. Second, you should find an attorney who has expertise in the particular type of intellectual property that applies to your invention. Some intellectual property attorneys specialize in one type of intellectual property, either copyrights, trademarks, or patents. If, for example, you are concerned about ownership or licensing of a patented invention, you should seek an intellectual property attorney who specializes in patents.

You can find an intellectual property lawyer in Nolo's Lawyer Directory. The American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) may also be able to assist you in locating attorneys in your area.

Other Legal Specialties

For certain tasks, you will need an attorney who specializes in a particular area other than intellectual property. If you have concerns about taxes or an IRS dispute, you will need a tax attorney; if you are overwhelmed by debt, you will need a bankruptcy attorney; if you are sorting out your business form (for example, forming a corporation), you will need a business attorney. In addition to all these specialties, some lawyers focus on litigation. Not all intellectual property attorneys are litigators. If you have a license dispute and want to sue someone (or someone has threatened to sue you), you will need an intellectual property attorney who specializes in litigation. Litigators usually bill on an hourly basis, though sometimes they may take a case on contingency. Under this arrangement, if you win, the attorney receives a percentage—usually oneâ

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