The Florida Supreme Court has approved the nation’s first legal specialty in intellectual property law, one of 22 board certification areas available in Florida.
Intellectual property lawyers practice primarily in the areas of patent application prosecution, patent infringement litigation, trademark law and copyright law.
In July, The Florida Supreme Court amended Florida Bar rules to add intellectual property law to the existing certification program. The opinion states that standards “identify those lawyers who practice intellectual property law and have the special knowledge, skills, and proficiency, as well as the character, ethics, and reputation for professionalism, to be properly identified to the public as certified intellectual property lawyers.”
Florida Bar President Hank Coxe appointed a nine-member certification committee to review credentials for the first class of applicants, develop policy to implement standards approved by the Florida Supreme Court and draft and administer the first examination.
Attorney James A. Gale of Feldman Gale P.A. in Miami chairs the intellectual property certification committee.
“Protecting intellectual property rights in an increasing number of areas — including the Internet — is an extremely complex area of the law,” said Gale. “As the practice area has grown, so has the public’s need to identify legal experts in the field.”
A lawyer who is a member in good standing of The Florida Bar and who meets the standards prescribed by the state’s Supreme Court may be issued an appropriate certificate identifying the lawyer as a “Board Certified Intellectual Property Lawyer.”
In Florida, only board certified lawyers are permitted to identify themselves as “specialists” or “experts.”
Minimum requirements for intellectual property law board certification include:
• At least five years of law practice immediately preceding application. Practicing patent application prosecution before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office qualifies if the lawyer is a registered patent attorney or registered patent agent.
• At least 30 percent of practice in matters related to intellectual property law during the three years immediately preceding application.
• Experience requirements during the five years immediately preceding application for at least one of the following categories: patent application prosecution, patent infringement litigation, trademark law and copyright law.
• Satisfactory peer review assessment of competence in the intellectual property law field as well as character, ethics and professionalism in the practice of law.
• At least 45 hours of continuing legal education within the three years preceding application; and
• Passage of a written examination demonstrating knowledge, skills and proficiency in the field.
Board certification is valid for five years, during which time the attorney must continue to practice law and attend Florida Bar-approved continuing legal education courses. To be recertified, requirements similar to those for initial certification must be met. Not all qualified lawyers are certified, but those who are board certified have taken the extra step to have their competence and experience recognized.
Lawyers interested in intellectual property law board certification soon will be able to apply at The Florida Bar Web site at www.FloridaBar.org/certification. Application deadlines and more information on the 22 legal specialty areas also are available by contacting The Florida Bar’s Legal Specialization & Education Department at (850) 561-5842.