Practitioner Speaker Series LUNCH WITH AMY THOMAS: THE ‘ART’ OF IP WORKSHOP

Monday, Feb. 25, 2013 | 1-2:30 pm
University of Ottawa, Fauteux Hall Rm. 106

CLaw’s lunchtime practitioner speaker series is back!
Join us on Monday, February 25, 2013 as we welcome Amy Thomas from the Ottawa Intellectual Property firm, Macera & Jarzyna LLP/Moffat & Co. Amy will be presenting a workshop on the ‘Art’ of IP, highlighting interesting “art” aspects of intellectual property law.

To give you a taste of what to expect, CLaw caught up with Amy to ask her a few teaser questions about life as an IP lawyer.  

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CLaw: You come from a unique background, architecture. What made you decide to go into law from the arts field?

AT: Law is a great field for any background. I wasn’t ready after graduating from architecture school to go out into the world so law seemed like a good fit. Part of me thought that I would do construction law or maybe patents to help inventors and designers protect their work. I ended up doing trademarks!

CLaw: With an arts background, it can be said that you have been in your clients’ shoes – what do you think is one of the biggest legal pitfalls of being an artist and designer. What is one of the most common hidden legal entrapments that many artists are not aware of?

AT: Probably the biggest pitfall for an artist is to not pay attention to the business side of things. Getting the proper intellectual property protection in place for a business is vital. Big issues are protecting the name of the business with a trademark, getting copyright registrations for works that you plan to sell, and applying for a design registration for an industrial design within the one year statutory window for public disclosure (otherwise the rights are gone). One issue that is important for artists or designers, particularly as many artists and designers are sole proprietors, is to get incorporated. If the designer or artist is sued and they are not an incorporated business, the damages can come out of their personal property, i.e. house, car, etc.

CLaw: What does IP mean to you? What, in your words, does an IP lawyer do?

AT: Intellectual property is a growing field with many areas of specialization. An IP lawyer may choose from litigation, copyright, licensing, trademark prosecution, patents, industrial designs, teaching, managing international patent and trademark portfolios of large companies . . trade secret law and advertising and labeling laws, domain name dispute resolution are part of it too.

CLaw: Do you consciously try to intersect the arts with your legal career? Is the law able to satisfy your sense of creativity? Are you still active in the architecture community?

AT: No. Yes. No. The arts come and go in my work depending on the subject matter of the file. Sometimes it’s about licensing artwork for clothing, sometimes it’s about comparing logos or the substantial taking of an art piece or even computer software. The subject matter is the artistic part. The law does satisfy a sense of creativity in the literary sense, i.e. crafting a great affidavit or written argument, or finding the case that matches up just right, or coming up with an “outside the box” idea in order to win.

CLaw: What is it like working in a boutique firm environment? What advantages and disadvantages do you think this environment involves as compared to working in a large firm?

AT: In a smaller firm you get to know everyone. Being able to knock on a colleague’s door and get a quick answer or a new perspective on an issue is great. Bringing in business at a small firm is important too. This in turn creates the opportunity to develop the kind of practice and clients that you would like to have.

CLaw: Any advice for students looking to enter into the IP field, especially those without a science background?

AT: There are numerous lawyers without a science background who are doing IP. They’ve come to IP from the government, or having experience working for copyright collectives or in the music industry, going in-house at a corporation and ending up in the IP department there, or by developing clients who need IP protection. Joining a big firm that does a rotation in different areas will expose you to IP as one of the rotations – many non-science people get into IP this way. For patents and trademarks, there are qualifying exams. So one way to get in to the field is to pass these exams.

CLaw: “Balance” is the essence of IP law. How does this translate in everyday practice?

AT: True enough. The government gives a monopoly over the intellectual property for a limited time in exchange for disclosure of the invention, design, or art piece so that the public can benefit from its teachings and encourage progress and creativity at large. In terms of everyday practice, it is surprising which inventions take off, and which ones don’t, and how something that appears really novel and inventive has already been done, or a name is already taken or is too similar to someone else’s. Sometimes the Canadian Intellectual Property Office is not prepared to grant the requested protection and lawyers have to argue around the objections. This balance is what gives IP lawyers their daily living.

CLaw: Give us some teasers for the upcoming “Art” of IP workshop!

AT: What is the real value of a Coca Cola can? How do you get an original signature from a celebrity? Can music, smell, or colour be a trademark? Come on Monday and find out!
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Space for the workshop is limited.
RSVP now to: admin@creativelawsociety.com or on Facebook.
Your spot is not reserved until you receive a confirmation e-mail.

Amy Thomas

Amy Thomas comes to the field of law from a background in architecture. She has a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Carleton University and a law degree from the University of Western Ontario. Amy’s law practice encompasses trade-marks, industrial design, copyright, litigation and contract drafting.

Amy enjoys sharing her experience in intellectual property law and has given presentations at the National Franchise and Business Opportunities Show, Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, eWomen’s Network, Business Network International, Inventors Association (Ottawa), among others. Amy has also written several legal papers and articles published in the Intellectual Property Law Journal, The Lawyers Weekly, Canadian Architect and the International Trade-mark Association Special Reports.