What is a trademark attorney? As the name suggests, this is a licensed attorney who specializes in trademark law. First and foremost, this requires a specialized knowledge of federal, state and frequently foreign and international treaty law relating to trademarks. This is an extremely specialized area of law that a relatively small number of practitioners specialize in. While this is a specific area of law, there are some distinctions that can be made of the attorneys practicing in this area.
For example, some trademark attorneys handle only transactions (meaning they will only do work relating to pre-application advice, the filing of an application and provide licensing advice). Other trademark attorneys handle only litigation (meaning they will only do work relating to trademark infringement, enforcement actions and other adversarial proceedings).
Years ago, when I first started practicing law, intellectual property or IP as it is regularly referred, was not my only practice area. I commonly handled business transactions for clients (giving me a good sense of the true needs of a business). However, I also regularly litigated cases, to the conclusion of a jury trial if necessary.
Many years ago when I transitioned my practice to focus exclusively on trademark and copyright, I became happier than I had ever been in my working life. Part of my happiness was as a result of working in an area that I truly loved but it was also as a result of being able to work with clients I admired (and often in a proactive manner), smart but reasonable opposing attorneys and a superior federal court system of clerks and judges.
Everyone is certainly different and some would find would I do terribly boring while others would find it vastly interesting. For me, being able to call myself a trademark attorney is a joy. I regularly work with companies who are seeking to protect their intellectual property in a proactive manner rather than the reactionary work that is a regular part of the typical adversarial litigation practice, additionally, I have the opportunities to work with both domestic and international companies. I also regularly work with creative people, whether it be in the film or music industry, authors, songwriters, musicians, composers, graphic designers, illustrators, and many, many more.
I am able to help my clients build something greater than any one of us could ever achieve alone and it is simply a joy (whether they are a vineyard trying to set themselves apart from their competition by use of a trade name or logo on their label or an independent film maker who is seeking to license music for a film) to watch them grow and achieve their goals.
I care deeply for my clients and I have always felt that this work takes a certain temperament and commitment to the client. It requires a certain flexibility in working with clients while clearly educating them on the options, which are available to them, including the relative risk of each option. Even in litigation, I have found that there is nothing gained by launching out of the gate with German Shepard aggressiveness. The only person who benefits from this type of conduct is the attorney, because these responses often inflame a dispute into being much more expensive than necessary.
However, I do not mean to suggest that we simply roll over when confronted with litigation. Far from, as I am sure any of our past opponents would tell you. We zealously represent the interests of our clients, however, we always seek to do so in the most cost effective manner available.
Additionally, unlike most other areas in the practice of law, it is exciting to be working on the cutting edge of technology and in many ways I consider us pioneers for the entire legal industry in such issues as paperless offices (earning us a Green Office Certification), electronic filing and communication, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and international legal issues.