“Lawyer” is a general term referring to an individual who provides legal advice. Within the legal profession there are a number of different types of qualified lawyers.

A “Patent Attorney” or “Patent Agent” and “Registered Trade Mark Attorney” or “Registered Trade Mark Agent” is a lawyer specifically qualified to advise on intellectual property law and they are subject to regulation by IPReg. Firms or individuals who use titles such as “patent consultant” or “patent advisor” and “trade mark consultant” etc. are unlikely to have any form of professional qualification. You can check the online register to see who is regulated by IPReg.

Not all attorneys that specialise in intellectual property law have to be regulated by IPReg or another approved legal services regulator.  There are benefits to choosing a registered attorney though, including that all registered attorneys have to hold professional indemnity insurance, your communications with them are protected by professional privilege and you are entitled to make a claim on IPReg's compensation fund in certain scenarios. 

Intellectual property law deals with the ownership and protection of ideas; key areas are patents (such as the “formula” for a new medicine or the blueprint for a new industrial process), trade marks (such as the Nike name or the McDonalds Golden Arch logo) and designs (such as the distinctive shape of a container).

The field of intellectual property law has many international aspects and clients can typically range from individual inventors to major multi-national corporations.

Practitioners may be employed in-house by industry such as pharmaceutical or energy companies, or provide intellectual property services directly to the public through a firm or as a sole trader.