IP Certificate Attracts Students to UF Law
Interested in science and technology? Looking for a way to combine a chemistry and law degree? Thinking about law in the entertainment or publishing field?
IP — intellectual property law — is a growing legal field as borders disappear and technology advances in the 21st century.
Under direction of Professor Thomas F. Cotter (see page 7), the Levin College of Law offers an IP certificate program for students interested in specialized training in this area. IP encompasses a variety of legal specializations, from patents and trade secrets to copyrights and trademarks. IP certificate courses also cover fields such as media law, commercial law and cyberlaw.
To earn the IP certificate, students must complete a writing requirement and 96 credit hours, at least 15 of which must be earned from the IP core curriculum. The program encourages students to learn about this area of the law in-depth through specialized coursework and IP-related seminars. (Details online at www.law.ufl.edu/academics/ip/.)
Because the certificate requires students to take eight credit hours above minimum graduation requirements, many students — such as Tracey Owens, a sixth-semester student working on her IP certificate — stay at law school an extra semester.
“I decided IP was an excellent career choice for me to still utilize my bachelor’s degree in science,” said Owens, who will graduate in December 2004. “Also, IP is a field where you can actually help your clients in a positive way — by pursuing patent protection for their new inventions, for example.”
The IP Program’s popularity has grown since it was established in 1998 by Cotter and then-Dean Richard Matasar. About 10 students graduate with an IP certificate each year, and many more take classes in the field. Cotter estimated that about 60 students enroll in core courses such as copyrights and trademarks, and a specialized class will attract 15 to 20 students a semester. Students also participate in independent study opportunities, which can culminate in a publishable paper or large project.“To do patent litigation — or copyright law or trademark law or trade secret law — there is no requirement to have a technical background,” Cotter said. “All other things being equal, it’s easier to get the initial job if you have the technical background, but there are plenty of opportunities for those without it.”
According to Cotter, the program also has made the UF College of Law attractive to incoming students with science and technology backgrounds looking for a way to combine their undergraduate and law degrees in a career.
“I’ll get calls from students going through the admissions process or thinking of applying to law school who want to know more about our program, and who might come here as opposed to somewhere else because of our IP program,” said Cotter.
While students interested in patent prosecution need a science or engineering background, students with other undergraduate degrees also are encouraged to consider a career in intellectual property law. IP litigation does not require a hard science degree, and law graduates can carve out an IP specialization after practicing with a general firm.
“To do patent litigation — or copyright law or trademark law or trade secret law — there is no requirement to have a technical background,” Cotter said. “All other things being equal, it’s easier to get the initial job if you have the technical background, but there are plenty of opportunities for those without it.”
Florida’s IP program is supported in part by practicing attorneys who volunteer to teach specialized courses and the Gainesville law firm of Saliwanchik, Lloyd & Saliwanchik, which created an Intellectual Property Fund that has enabled Cotter and the law school to expand IP offerings and fund events such as the Third Annual Law and Technology Conference recently held in Orlando. More than 70 practitioners, faculty and law students participated, and the keynote speaker was James Rogan, former director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, who reviewed recent national reforms in patent law.
“We had speakers from a number of law firms speaking about different aspects of intellectual property and, more generally, law and technology,” Cotter said.