Intellectual property is thought of as a niche subject within the broad category of commercial laws. Yet an increasing number of people, both in the UK and internationally, make it their profession to advise and assist clients on IP matters.
To assist us to understand the make-up of the IP professions, IP Draughts has done some simple research using public registers, including those of the Law Society of England and Wales, IPReg (the regulator for patent attorneys and trade mark attorneys), the IP Bar Association, and the UK Intellectual Property Office’s register of IP business advisers. Some of the results are surprising.
By far the largest number of IP lawyers practising in the UK are within the solicitors’ profession. According to the Find a Solicitor website of the Law Society of England and Wales:
9,466 solicitors practise IP law, of whom 3,901 are in private practice (in 1,618 firms), and the rest work in industry, government and other settings. (A further 390 solicitors practise IP law in Scotland, according to the Law Society of Scotland’s Find a Solicitor search engine.)
The next highest number practise as patent or trade mark attorneys. According to the handy spreadsheet provided by IPReg, last updated in December 2014:
1,984 individual patent or trade mark attorneys offer services to the public. (A separate list from IPReg suggests that they work in approximate 220 firms.)
According to the IP Bar Association list, updated in January 2014:
128 barristers practise IP from 30 chambers. (Well, places of practice might be more accurate, as the latter list, although mostly sets of barristers’ chambers, includes a firm of patent attorneys, a firm of solicitors and a Japanese law firm.)
The UK Intellectual Property Office maintains a list of people who have “completed the accredited IP Master Class” for business advisers and are therefore considered competent to offer IP Health Checks to businesses. (Thankfully, the IPO seems to be no longer listing people who claim adherence to a misguided British Standard for IP advisers.) According to the current list:
56 individuals have completed the IP master class. The relevant part of the IPO website includes the following statement “Many business advisors understand the importance of IP within a business. Reach your potential with this CPD certified quality IP advisor training for business professionals.”
The last of these lists might be viewed as a list of unregulated, but IPO sponsored, IP business advisers, unless they are regulated by one of the other bodies mentioned above.
There is, inevitably, some overlap between the above lists. Nevertheless, they provide an interesting snapshot of who is practising in the field of intellectual property in the United Kingdom.