Nothing explains intellectual property law better than a Coke bottle, says Jeremiah Cottle ’00. The shape of the bottle can be patented. The writing on the label can be copyrighted. The brand name can be trademarked. And the formula of the soda is a trade secret.
With one product, each of the four fields of intellectual property is represented. Because of its widespread nature, intellectual property, or IP, is one of the most important areas of law, says Cottle. In fact, he sees it as the present and future of the American economy.
“There’s been this dynamic shift over the last century,” says Cottle.
“This country is about selling ideas nowadays. A hundred years ago, America was based on selling tangible capital. In the current century, we now sell ideas and collect royalties on them. It happens in all the fields.”
Cottle and fellow Saint Joseph’s grad Bryan Repetto ’07 have each pursued the field of IP law since graduating. Their interests in the field vary, though their passions for IP law are equally strong. Repetto is focused on the area of patents. Cottle, on the other hand, is interested in trademarks.
Intellectual property law has deep roots in American history. The first patent was granted in 1641 by the Massachusetts General Court for a method of making salt. On the other hand, trade secret law is far newer, having first officially been defined in 1939. Despite its long history, IP law changes more frequently than other areas of law because it is heavily technology-based. As new technologies get developed, new laws and statutes are constantly passed and amended.
For Cottle and Repetto – who both have master’s degrees in IP from the University of New Hampshire School of Law Franklin Pierce Center for Intellectual Property – the omnipresent and ever-changing nature of IP law are just a few of the traits that make it so fascinating.
“You can have something like a character in a movie,” says Cottle. “And this one character can cause all of these different licenses. From a lunchbox to a video game. There are so many different rights involved. It’s quite interesting.”
Right now, Cottle works for the U.S. Secret Service as a human resources specialist. He remains active in IP law as a member of the American Inns of Court, an organization composed of judges, lawyers, law professors and law students that hold programs and discussions on legal ethics, skills and professionalism. Once a month, he meets with others from his chapter to discuss issues in the IP world. According to Cottle, a graduate of Quinnipiac Law School, it’s a way to stay involved in the field and keep his skills sharp.
This past spring, Repetto finished his studies at Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis. Armed with a background in the life sciences and health administration, the California native aims to work in patent prosecution, litigation and licensing. Before law school, Repetto had already gotten his feet wet in the field, having spent a summer as a patent law intern with Wyeth, a pharmaceutical company that is now part of Pfizer. During law school, Repetto gained extensive experience in patent licensing while working with a large patent-holding company in Washington.
“I love the idea of helping a client work toward something when you have nothing to begin with except an idea,” says Repetto of why he was drawn to the field.
“You’re working toward helping this client protect an idea they have. In the business world, there is this great importance that IP has. With no protection, there is really no way to make your product succeed commercially. And that means there’s no incentive to create.”