This question concerns another Stack Exchange question: https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/195267/agreement-made-at-hire-is-unenforceable-due-to-a-technicality-employer-refuses

What type of attorney should I consult about my situation? I could see this question handled by an employment attorney, an IP attorney, or a contracts attorney. Would it matter that much which type of attorney I spoke with?

I'm in the US, but I don't want to name the state to help preserve anonymity. I doubt the type of lawyer to consult depends on the state.

If you have an opinion on my situation, I'd be happy to hear that too. I received a wide variety of advice elsewhere.

1 Answer 1


In the United States, a person licensed as a lawyer is allowed to practice any kind of law (from death penalty cases to car accidents to public offerings of securities to wills to employment contracts), except for patent law, which has its own separate federal licensure system.

If the intellectual property in question is a patent, go to a patent lawyer. For what it is worth, patent lawyers are more expensive than your average lawyer.

If the intellectual property in question is a copyright, trademark, or trade secret, all lawyers are licensed to handle it.

Of course, different lawyers market themselves and select cases differently. "Employment law" or "business law" would be common ways for lawyers dealing with these kinds of issues to market themselves.

Also, as an individual potentially in a lawsuit with an employer, you should look for a sole practitioner or small or medium sized law firm. Most large law firms (about 20 lawyers or more in small population, rural states like Wyoming or Idaho or South Dakota, about 50 lawyers or more in most parts of the country, and about 100 lawyers or more in very large cities like NYC or Chicago or Los Angeles) have a business development policy of not taking on clients who are employees in disputes with employers, unless the employees are C-level executives (e.g. CEO, CFO, COO) of a medium or large sized business.

  • 3
    What is the purpose of the policy that you describe large law firms having? Is it because most employees just won't pay enough, or is there some other reason?
    – Someone
    Feb 4 at 3:04
  • 6
    @Someone The purpose of the policy is to avoid taking on small one time cases that lead to conflicts of interest that prevent the firm from representing repeat customer big businesses with big cases when the opportunity presents itself (or short of a true conflict of interest, causes potential clients and current clients to see the firm taking positions in cases that could become binding precedents at some point that are contrary to their interests and reduces their trust in the firm as counsel or potential counsel).
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 4 at 4:20
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    To represent someone before the USPTO requires being a registered practitioner. That would be for applying for a patent of for appearing before the board (PTAB) in an administrative law proceeding regarding appealing a rejection or involving invalidation proceedings. Actual Article 3 cases are outside the sphere of the USPTO and do not require a registered practitioner - but do, of course, require a licensed attorney. Feb 4 at 16:25
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    @GeorgeWhite My reasoning is that someone concerned about ownership of an invention that was a patent in these circumstance would often need to be contemplating at USPTO filing themselves, an issue that someone who is not a registered practitioner might not be able to spot.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 4 at 23:17
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    @ohwilleke - I agree 100%. A patent attorney (both a registered USPTO practitioner and a state licensed attorney) is the type of person you would want. Feb 5 at 22:32

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