My Pop Culture Obsession
I must confess that I love pop culture. When there is a new sitcom or meme everyone is talking about, I have to see it. I love to be “in the know” and for me, Twitter (now known as “X”) has been my go-to platform for keeping up with trends. Little did I know that social media would be my first exposure to the world of intellectual property (“IP”).
In 2017, there was a viral incident where many Twitter users accused Kylie Jenner,of using aspects of PluggedNYC’s designs in her clothing launch. As a pop culture enthusiast, I read multiple Twitter threads where users suggested the business should sue Kylie Jenner for copyright infringement, a type of IP lawsuit.
To be honest, I was a bit confused and remained confused for years – how could this small business possibly sue over a clothing design? After my first year at Loyola University Chicago School of Law (“Loyola”), I now understand where those Twitter users got that idea.
But, before I explain what I’ve learned, let me backtrack to what sparked my interest in IP, since that is what led to me finding the answer during my first year of law school.
“Woman Painting Photo” by Charlota Blunarova, licensed under Unsplash.
My Initial Interest in IP Law
In addition to Twitter threads, I also encountered IP during my experience as a clinical social work intern at a Chicago legal aid clinic prior to law school. A legal aid clinic provides free legal representation or advice to populations who are otherwise unlikely to have access to legal services. One of the clients discussed their love for making music and inquired about how to protect their work. Although this was outside the scope of the clinic’s focus on juvenile justice, I became curious about the protection of forms of art, which led to me to IP.
I was fascinated by the far-reaching impact of IP and how it affects various aspects of daily life, from the logos we see to the top-secret formulas of our favorite drinks.
Before starting at Loyola, I received an email about a specialized IP legal writing section and applied. As someone who was still unsure of what I wanted my legal career to look like, being able to delve into a subsection of the law that interested me early on was enticing. Despite not knowing much about IP, I was excited to be selected and learn more!
Wait, You Guys Didn’t Major in Political Science?
I knew that the specialized legal writing class would allow me to gain foundational knowledge on IP. But before we got into the specifics of IP, I learned many of my classmates in IP legal writing had a background in STEM. Some classmates had engineering degrees. One even
represented inventors before the US Patent Office as a patent agent by writing patent applications and communicating with the patent office to try to obtain a patent. I became nervous about what I got myself into.
I was convinced not having a STEM-background meant that I was doomed.
As a political science major, my undergraduate education was learning about the legislative process. This background was not relevant to our first assignment of the semester which was evaluating whether a non-profit organization’s use of a patented wall-mounted kaleidoscope was deemed experimental use. I learned that someone accused of violating a patent can avoid liability if they can establish that their use was experimental, which means that the activities are done for amusement, to satisfy idle curiosity, or for strictly philosophical inquiry. At the time I felt like I was in over my head, but I later learned that even STEM majors did not necessarily have background in this law. And, although I was intimidated, I did well on the assignment and in the class overall!
“Three Clear Beakers” by Hans Reniers, licensed under Unsplash.
IP Community at Loyola
My nerves vanished as I connected with people in the IP community at Loyola.
I was lucky to be in Professor Cynthia Ho’s Civil Procedure class, who also is the director of Loyola’s IP program. Professor Ho was always available to discuss how other aspects of the law I was interested in intersect with IP. Additionally, she reassured me not having a STEM background did not mean the end of my interest in IP. Through Professor Ho’s guest lectures for our legal writing course, I learned about the aspects of IP beyond patents such as trademarks, and copyrights.
In fact, the knowledge I learned from one of these lectures helped me understand the Kylie Jenner and PluggedNYC situation. I learned how the situation related to copyright law as it focused on original works. PluggedNYC, whose clothing designs were copyrighted, had exclusive rights to create derivative works based on their work (the clothing version of a sequel to a book). PluggedNYC argued Jenner had access to their copyrighted design and created substantially similar products with the same color scheme and pattern based on the PluggedNYC’s collection. Despite no legal action from PluggedNYC for Jenner’s alleged infringement, those Twitter users were likely onto something.
Outside helping me understand Twitter feuds, Loyola’s Intellectual Property Law Society’s advertisement of networking events such as a panel held by Chicago Women in Intellectual Property allowed me to connect with successful attorneys and students without STEM backgrounds. From them I understood that a robust career in IP is still possible. For example, not being so-called “patent bar eligible” only meant that I could not pursue patent prosecution, but I could in theory practice patent litigation, which involves suing another party for violation of patent rights and something any licensed attorney can do.
My Future with IP
Now, I find myself fully aboard the IP train and confident with my future in the field. I look forward to a variety of IP-related courses this year and exploring more through IP Bytes. I am thankful to have gained some foundational knowledge in the world of IP and continuing to learn more. With the immense support of others in the Loyola community, I am optimistic about having a successful career in IP, even without a STEM background.
Loyola University Chicago School of Law, J.D. 2025