World of Law: Intellectual Property

BYU Law Professor Clark Asay presented this month's World of Law lecture where he introduced prospective law students to the growing realm of intellectual property law. Before teaching law, Professor Asay worked at Amazon's Lab126 and with the law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati where he practiced in technology transactions and intellectual property licensing.

Professor Asay began his remarks by dispelling the concept that only those with science backgrounds can work in the intellectual property world. “When we think about IP, lots of people will think of one type of IP needing a technical, scientific background. But IP is much broader than that,” Professor Asay said. “In today's economy, regardless of what area of law you go into, you're going to run into intellectual property law issues.”

Illustrating this point, Professor Asay related the results of a recent study. “There was a survey given to partners in New York law firms,” he said. “They do mergers and acquisitions, they don't do IP. They were asked what should law students study. Number two on the list was patents, which is a type of IP. The reason is that in today's economy intellectual property is really important. It's the value proposition for most companies.”

Professor Asay identified four areas of intellectual property law: trade secrets, patents, copyrights, and trademarks. “Every company has their secrets,” he said. “You will deal with them, if you haven't already.” Trade secrets often rely on confidentiality agreements to remain in effect, while patents require the open publications of methods or recipes but are protected for 20 years. Trademarks and copyrights are similar to patents, Professor Asay taught, though trademarks are aimed at avoiding customer confusion while copyrights protect the expression of an idea.