In today’s corporate world, Intellectual Property (IP) law is a central part for businesses. For Patent Attorneys, it’s a sector of law that offers huge amounts of variety, a good work/life balance and a career path with longevity.
What is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual Property is about the ownership and accessibility of inventions and ideas. The concepts can be tangible, or intangible and the protection is generally in the form of patents, trade marks, registered / unregistered designs, or copyright.
If you choose a career as a Patent Attorney, you will be primarily involved in giving legal advice on all aspects of ownership and usage rights for any product, idea or other matter that is covered by IP. This includes marketing and distribution mechanisms, any infringement or duplication issues, the commercial viability of ownership rights, and much more.
What qualifications do you need?
If you want to become a Patent Attorney, you must have a degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering or maths) subject. It’s important to have a thorough science/engineering background so that you can understand a client’s invention, idea or concept.
It’s this mix of law and science/engineering that makes IP law such an interesting career path.
How does the training work?
Training to become a patent attorney is mostly on the job, working for one or more qualified patent attorneys. At the same time, you will be preparing for and taking structured examinations.
These include exams administered by the Patent Examination Board (PEB), which are compulsory for those wanting to become a registered patent attorney in the UK. This two-tier system involves Foundation Exams and Final Exams. Before you can sit the Finals, you must pass the Foundation Examinations.
There are also exams set and administered by the European Patent Office (EPO), which must be taken in order to become a registered European Patent Attorney.
How long does it take to qualify?
The PEB exams are held once a year, and on average, it takes between four and six years to become a Chartered and European Patent Attorney. Before you can take the main EPO exams, you will need to have worked for two years supervised by a European Patent Attorney.
What makes a good Patent Attorney?
Patent Attorneys work with technically complex and fascinating cases. As well as a grounding in science and engineering and a good understanding on the relevant law, it’s important for attorneys to be on top of innovation trends and understand entrepreneurial creativity.
An aptitude for drafting agreements and contracts is essential. You will also most likely have to work on lots of different projects simultaneously, so flexibility is vital.
Excellent communication skills are necessary, as you will need to be able to discuss and present complex ideas and situations concisely and clearly.
Day to day duties
Day to day tasks for a patent attorney are extremely variable. They may be meeting inventors to discuss their new ideas, writing new patent applications, responding to examiners’ observations on clients’ patent applications, issuing notices regarding infringement issues on a client’s IP, or searching through patent registries regarding an innovation presented by a client.
During IP disputes, Patent Attorneys are expected to initiate talks between parties, challenge rulings and decisions that go against their client’s interests and work for the best outcome possible.
Variety of clients
The kinds of work you can expect to do is what makes IP law so interesting. Clients can range from large corporations to start ups with new products. It’s possible to have clients in a variety of different industries.