George Hamlyn, perhaps the most enthusiastic exponent of intellectual property ever, spent much of the early 1990s working for the Patent Office preaching the intellectual property word up and down the country. He had one basic message, "Intellectual Property is all about money".

Never has this been more true. No more are IP practitioners esoteric specialists hidden in corners of law firms only to be wheeled out if a "technology" angle arises. Every company is now aware of its intangible assets and every transaction requires IP input.

While we are not yet as numerous as our "bricks and mortar" colleagues, most firms now have an IP function and the top Scots firms now have IP departments to rival the largest London firms. And - let's be honest - we're all trying to poach good lawyers from one another.

Comparison with commercial property is not entirely appropriate. While IP is as ubiquitous as office space, IP assets are often far more valuable than any physical building - with equivalent potential liabilities. IP is international, patents, trademarks or designs, if valuable in one country, they are valuable in many others.

To meet clients' needs and aspirations, top IP departments have grown in size and expertise. Often our numbers include lawyers with scientific degrees. The international dimension requires reliable overseas links and constant management.

Having developed the capability to compete in the UK and European markets the top Scottish firms are all significant players in London and beyond.

Once again, the legal profession has evolved to reflect the aspirations of its clients. Every company can get intellectual property advice from its legal firm. However, for high value transactions with critical, complex IP issues, the resource and expertise is available in the top Scottish firms.

It doesn't come cheap - but intellectual property is all about money.

Paul Carlyle a partner specialisng in intellectual property with UK law firm Shepherd and Wedderburn
0131-473 5782

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