On Monday September 23, 2013, the Law School's Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship Law Clinic hosted a talk by Jeffrey I.D. Lewis, president of the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA). Lewis spoke to students, staff, and faculty about his career in IP law, and about how American courts have treated patents and anti-trust laws over the last century.
Lewis, a partner in the area of patent litigation at Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP in New York, told students in the audience that now is a good time to get into intellectual property law. Court attitudes about patents have swung back and forth “like a pendulum” since the early 1900’s, said Lewis, and while most courts currently have “hostile” attitudes toward patent protection, he believes the pendulum is swinging back in favor of approving patent applications.
“We’re losing our innovative edge unless we start protecting patents,” Lewis said. “I’ve had the pleasure of litigating patents when they were both popular and unpopular. Popular is better. But I think there is a real opportunity here when it comes to intellectual property law.”
Lewis’ own career began as the result of an accident. He explained that on his first day of law school classes he got stuck on a broken elevator with a man who struck up a conversation about intellectual property law. That man turned out to be Donald Chisum, the author of the leading treatise on patent law. Lewis said that by the time the men were freed from the elevator, Chisum had convinced him to sign up for multiple courses in IP law, and thus his career path was set.
“I have never been so happy about an adverse event as for having gotten stuck in that elevator,” said Lewis. “I believe that going into patent law and going into intellectual property in its entirety has been only a positive event for me.”
Lewis offered encouragement to students who are considering similar careers, telling them opportunities are growing and that IP law opportunities are expanding in both the U.S. and in Europe. He also encouraged students to take advantage of the IP Clinic at UConn Law, where students work under the guidance of supervising attorneys to help Connecticut entrepreneurs obtain patents among other IP-related activities.