The patent attorney profession combines law with a technical understanding of the basic science underlying new inventions. I work with a range of clients, from small start-ups to universities and large corporations, to secure patent protection in various jurisdictions worldwide for the inventions that they have created. I specialise in the chemistry and pharmaceutical fields, but the profession is open to anyone with an undergraduate degree in science, from mechanical engineering or electronics right through to biotechnology or plant science.
My job allows me to work in a business-orientated office environment whilst still having a strong connection to basic science. I particularly love the variety of work that the profession offers – no two days are the same! One day, I might be drafting a new patent application for a start-up biotech client, or formulating arguments to overcome objections raised by a Patent Examiner against an application relating to polymer chemistry, and on another I might be preparing for a contentious oral hearing before the European Patent Office relating to a dispute over the validity of a patent that protects a multi-million-dollar marketed drug product. Another huge positive for me is the potential to take ownership of certain aspects of very interesting projects from early on in my career.
If you are interested in becoming a patent attorney, my advice would be to find out as much about the profession as you can. Attend careers fairs, chat to current trainees in the profession, and sign up for one of our informative open days. Beyond that, however, just give it a go and apply! The biggest challenge to be aware of when joining the profession is that the qualifying exams are tough and require a lot of hard work; however, the rewards that the profession offers are worth it. I’ve been at J A Kemp for over 8 years now and I can’t imagine having chosen any other career.
The selection process for new graduate trainees usually involves a combination of submitting written work, one or more technical interviews and possibly an HR interview. The technical interviews are actually quite fun – I think you really know whether the profession will suit you or not after you’ve experienced one. A typical task might be to describe the key features of a simple object, or to briefly summarise a research project you’ve completed in terms someone with a basic undergraduate knowledge of your subject could understand.