First, these are the big annual IP-focused academic conferences in the US, which give most people a chance to present. They are great for getting an overview of what everyone is doing and for getting your own name out there, but the size can also be overwhelming, and you shouldn't expect useful feedback on your work.
- IP Scholars Conference (IPSC) is the largest annual gathering of US IP academics. It rotates among Stanford, Cardozo, Berkeley, and DePaul. The 2015 conference will be Aug. 6-7 at DePaul; the submission deadline is May 1.
- Works-in-Progress Intellectual Property (WIPIP) is the other major general IP conference. It is held at a different location each February; the 2016 conference will be at the University of Washington.
- PatCon is a patent-specific academic conference. It rotates among BC, Chicago-Kent, San Diego, and Kansas, and is typically held in April. PatCon V will be April 10-11 at Kansas.
Here are some other large academic conferences that often have IP-specific panels or significant overlap with folks interested in IP. Some of these are fairly selective.
- IP scholars often write at the intersection of IP and another field; there are many IP scholars at Internet Law Works-in-Progress (next at Santa Clara in March) and Privacy Law Scholars Conference (PLSC) (next at Berkeley in June). I had a great time at the last Federal Courts Workshop along with some other IP scholars, and I think our papers really benefited from feedback from non-IP-specialists.
- For economists and empirical scholars, good conferences that typically include multiple sessions on IP include the Conference on Empirical Legal Studies (CELS) (next in Oct. at Wash U), American Law and Economics Association (ALEA) (next in May at Columbia), and the NBER Summer Institute (in Cambridge each July).
- Other large conferences with IP-specific panels include Law & Society Association (LSA), Association for Law, Property & Society (ALPS), and SEALS.
There are also many smaller conferences focused on IP that have open calls for papers, which are often quite selective.
- Junior Scholars in IP (JSIP) is held at Michigan State and typically accepts about 10 junior scholars who are paired with senior discussants. This is a terrific venue for actually getting feedback. The Junior IP Scholars' Association (JIPSA) had its first conference at Washburn last summer and is preparing for a second one at FIU.
- Other schools have regular open calls for papers for IP events, often on specific topics. The Northwestern Searle Center holds some great IP-related roundtables; the Yale Beyond IP Conference has had open calls for papers the past two years; UNH will solicit contributions for its 5th IP Scholars Roundtable next fall; IP/Gender at American is entering its 11th year.
- Peter Yu holds the Drake IP Roundtable each year. It is invitation-only, but you can talk with him about whether it might be possible to get an invitation. I've heard that a plus of this event is that it doesn't have parallel sessions.
- Various geographic regions have their own IP works-in-progress events. NYU's Tri-State Region IP Workshop is great; DC has a works-in-progress event at American; and I just heard that a Bay Area event is in the works.
This is of course an incomplete list, and this just focuses on US academic conferences. Conferences focused more on practitioners sometimes have heavy academic involvement—for example, I've enjoyed the Fordham IP Conference, and I've heard that INTA Annual Meeting "Academic Day" has paper workshops and a lunch and happy hour that are a great way to get to know other trademark people. There are also many events outside the US, such as European Policy for Intellectual Property (EPIP) and International Society for the History and Theory of Intellectual Property (ISHTIP) (typically in Europe, but next at Penn).
If the choices seem overwhelming, ask your friends and mentors for advice on which events might be best for you. Also, while this list focuses on conferences with open calls for papers at which it is easiest for new scholars to get their foot in the door, don't be afraid to ask about attending invitation-only events. Feel free to add additional thoughts about great IP conferences in the comments!