Job as a Patent agent

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Simon Church is a trainee patent agent at a firm of European patent and trade mark attorneys. His clients are inventors in a wide variety of technological fields who want to protect their inventions by taking out patents.

What does your job as a patent agent involve?

My primary focus is on inventions in electronic, physics and software-related technology fields. I give advice on how patents can be used to stop competitors stealing my clients' inventions, and about how my clients can make money from their inventions through licensing deals. I prepare clients' applications and follow them through until the patents are granted. I also give advice relating to trade marks, copyright and design rights.

Can you describe a typical day?

In the morning I might visit a client's premises to discuss a new invention. On return to the office, I would draft a letter to the Patent Office to explain to a patent examiner why my client's invention is worthwhile. I may then contact an agent abroad to check on the progress of a foreign patent application.

In the afternoon, a client may want advice on whether they can sue somebody for selling counterfeit goods. I would then explain the options and agree to look at a sample of the product, so that we could write a letter to the infringer.

Why did you choose this job as a patent agent?

I was interested in working with new technology, and in the use of language for drafting a patent to cover an invention in a general way, so that people can't easily get around the patent.

What training have you received?

My training was mostly provided through in-house tutorials, with attendance at some external courses. Training has been focused towards gaining the appropriate professional qualifications of Chartered Patent Agent and Registered Trade Mark Attorney in the UK, and European Patent Attorney for dealing with European patents.

What hours do you work?

I am contracted to work from 9.00am to 5.00pm. In practice, I may work a further five to ten hours a week.

What do you like best about your job as a patent agent?

I enjoy the variety in my work, and the fact that it covers three different areas – law, technology and business. Our advice is often important to the future of clients' businesses, and I like to learn about their commercial needs and provide solutions that meet those needs.

Are there any disadvantages?

The job is centred around deadlines and clients often provide instructions or change them at the last minute. As a result, the work can sometimes be pressured and extra work may be required. However, there is also great satisfaction in handling these situations. Clients appreciate an attorney who can turn things around quickly and efficiently.

What are the skills needed for a job as a patent agent?

You need to have language skills, as well as an understanding of technology and business.

What are your long-term career goals?

There are a number of career paths to choose from, including continuing in private practice, working in industry, or working in technology transfer to commercialise inventions. However, my immediate priority is to pass the professional exams.

Simon's route to his job as a patent agent

  • A levels
  • Degree in Mathematical Physics
  • Current trainee post

Simon's patent agent job tips

  • Training is a key issue – be prepared for a lengthy path to qualification.
  • Ask at interview what provisions the firm makes for training to gain your professional qualifications.
  • You should enjoy working with language or at least not be intimidated by it – some of the documents in the patent or trade mark profession can be technical and precise.

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Salary of a patent agent

  • The starting salary for new entrants ranges from £12,000 to £15,000.
  • However, most firms provide a rapid progression in pay which can soon reach £50,000.
  • Experienced patent agents may earn up to £100,000.

How to become a patent agent

  • A science degree is needed to work as a patent agent, whilst a law degree or a science degree can be used to get a job as a trade mark agent.
  • A degree in science, mathematics, engineering or technology is preferred.
  • A knowledge of French and/or German is desirable, in addition to an interest in law.
  • Training to become a chartered patent agent lasts from four to six years.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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