Patents and Related Work
Patent work is intellectually demanding and varied. It can offer the opportunity to work directly with inventors acting as an interface between science and the law. The patent profession often appeals to those who wish to remain involved with cutting-edge science, but who are not attracted to a research role.
Patent work is intellectually demanding and varied. It can offer the opportunity to work directly with inventors acting as an interface between science and the law
A patent (pronounced ‘pat-tent’ not ‘pay-tent’) gives legal protection to a technical invention (product or process) for 20 years. The invention has to be novel and clearly defined. The inventor or, more commonly, his patent attorney describes the invention in the form of a patent application, which is examined for clarity and originality by the appropriate patent office before being granted a licence or patent.
There are two main areas in which to practise as a patent attorney. First, as part of the licensing bodies (the UK Intellectual Property Office, which is in effect part of the UK Civil Service, and the European Patent Office) and secondly, as an intermediary (patent attorneys in industrial practice or private practice, who come between the ‘inventors’ and the licensing bodies).
- The UK Intellectual Property Office, which is based in Newport, South Wales, usually recruits a few trainees each year; the posts are advertised on their website.
- The European Patent Office is based in Munich with branches in The Hague and Berlin. The European Patent Office will most likely be recruiting a few Assistant Examiners in 2012/13. Vacancies are usually advertised on their website.
- Firms of patent attorneys. These are often described as the ‘private practice’ section of the patent agents’ profession and about 80% of the 1,500 UK-registered patent attorneys work in this area. Most years there are around 30-40 vacancies for trainee patent attorneys, who are sometimes called ‘technical assistants’.
- Patent departments in industrial companies. These are usually fairly small departments within large companies that have a substantial investment in research. The ‘in-house’ patent attorney deals with the patent work arising from that company only. In such departments there are only a small number of vacancies a year and these are more likely to be for qualified patent attorneys rather than for trainees. In the Civil Service and its agencies these ‘in-house’ patent agents are called Patent Officers.
- A fascination for ‘how things work’. If you are the type of person who takes things to pieces just to find out how they work, then this could be the profession for you.
- Communication skills, particularly in writing, are of key importance. Many firms include a written exercise as part of their selection process.
Typically trainee patent attorneys sit two sets of exams: the first to become a Registered Patent Attorney in the UK and the second to become a European Patent Attorney. Training for these is usually a combination of in-house preparation and a series of centralised lectures. Many firms encourage their trainees to spend several months in full-time study on relevant university courses. Training typically takes four to five years.
Biochemistry, Chemistry, Engineering and Physics are particularly relevant for a career in patent work.
Other subjects which are sometimes sought after include: Biological Sciences (especially molecular biology/genetic engineering) – a higher degree is advantageous, Computer Science and Materials Science. There are no recommended preparatory postgraduate courses.
In the case of the European Patent Office the language requirement puts many people off applying. Ask yourself how difficult it would really be to get your languages up to the necessary standard, if, in other respects, you are keen. For private practice, languages can be useful (particularly German) but are not a pre-requisite.
It is very difficult to obtain work experience in this field, but talking to one or two patent attorneys or examiners and visiting a firm of patent attorneys before applying for jobs will greatly increase your chances. During Michaelmas Term a number of patent firms attend the Science and Engineering Fair and some also organise open days which give an excellent insight into what the work is really like.
Competition for these jobs is not as fierce as the small number of vacancies might suggest. Oxbridge graduates make up about 65% of successful applicants. Many of the large firms tell us about their vacancies. However, some firms advertise in the graduate directories or in New Scientist. Application is usually by way of a CV and cover letter.
Speculative applications are a good idea after the end of Michaelmas term, if you have not, by that time, found sufficient advertised vacancies to apply for. Use the Inside Careers Guide to Chartered Patent Attorneys (which is available to take away from the Careers Service or online) for a comprehensive list of both private firms and in-house departments.
You may find it helpful to go to the Patent Library and look at some patents. You can also view patents on the UK Intellectual Property Office website.
EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS AND EQUALITY
The law protects you from discrimination due to your age, gender, race, religion or beliefs, disability or sexual orientation. Find out where and how you are protected, and what to do if you feel have been discriminated against by visiting:
Your personal circumstances regarding career choices and whether you should or need to tell a potential employer about your circumstances (e.g. time out from studies owing to depression or health needs) is highly individual. Although there is legislation, you may find it helpful to see a Careers Adviser to talk through your particular circumstances and to decide whether to tell someone about xxx, if yes, when and how to disclose. To arrange to see a Careers Advisor regarding this, please contact our Reception team on firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01865 274646.
There is often confusion about whether you should be paid to do an internship or work experience. It will depend on your arrangement with the employer and also the status of the employer. To find out if you are entitled to be paid the National Minimum Wage (NMW) when undertaking work experience or an internship visit: https://www.gov.uk/your-right-to-minimum-wage/who-gets-the-minimum-wage
There are frequent changes to the rules affecting international students and recent graduates wishing to work in the UK. Non-EU graduates are most likely to gain permission to work under Tier 2 of the Point Based System which will require a job offer, support from an employer, a minimum salary and you will usually need to apply from within the UK. There are also more limited opportunities in other immigration categories. It is recommended that, for the most complete and up-to-date information, you check the UKCISA: UK Council for International Student Affairs website which offers independent information and advice about immigration, finance and working in the UK, and also the UK Border Agency website. Please refer to our Diversity files at the Careers Service for more information, or consult the University’s Student Information and Advisory Service which can provide specialist immigration advice.
Events in Michaelmas Term include:
- Careers Talk: Patent Work and Intellectual Property, Wednesday 31 October (at the Science, Engineering and Technical Fair)
- Science, Engineering and Technical Fair, 31 October and 1 November – there will be a number of patent firms attending this event
Employer visits: Mewburn Ellis (Bristol office), Carpmaels & Ransford (London office)
OXFORD CAREERS NETWORK (OCN)
The OCN is a database of Oxford alumni who are willing to be contacted about their career. Read their case studies for behind-the-scenes insights into an organisation or occupation, and contact volunteers for more advice and information via CareerConnect. Search under job function ‘W2’ for contacts in patent work.
ONLINE INTERVIEW FEEDBACK
The careers website includes access to online interview feedback forms completed by Oxford students; please see the link below to access.
The Careers Service also has an extensive resource centre at 56 Banbury Road, Oxford, where you can drop in to browse during opening hours.
- Occupational File: W2 Patent and Related Work
- Employer File: Patent Agents
TO TAKE AWAY
- Inside Careers Guide: Chartered Patent Attorneys
The Careers Service has recorded a series of podcasts. Subscribe in iTunes or find a full list here: http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/#career-unit
In addition to the websites listed below, all companies and organisations mentioned throughout this Briefing can be found via a web search.
- www.ipo.gov.uk The UK Intellectual Property Office
- www.epo.org The European Patent Organisation
- www.cipa.org.uk The Chartered Institute of Patented Agents
Twitter is a quick way to develop your knowledge about the sector and find opportunities. You can read and search it without an account. We’ve made 20 handy lists, so that you can see at a glance information tailored to your interests.
If you’d like to join Twitter, remember to ‘follow’ us (www.twitter.com/OxfordCareers) as well as your chosen lists to keep receiving useful information to help your career.
See our Legal and Patent list at http://twitter.com/#!/OxfordCareers/legal-and-patent
30th Nov 2012
There are still spaces available to attend the Mewburn Ellis Open Day in Bristol which is for scientists and engineers. Pre-booking essential; please log on to CareerConnect for further information. Continue reading →
24th Oct 2012
If you are, then you might like to come along to our talk on "Patent Work and Intellectual Property" which will be on Wednesday 31st October at 4.15pm, at Oxford Town Hall (during the Science, Engineering and Technology Fair). You will be able to hear about the real work involved from a practising solicitor, from… Continue reading →
Source: The Guardian
- Malcolm Harper obituary
- Hairy stockings are not the answer to rape culture | Homa Khaleeli
- If your name is Ahmed or Fatima, you are a person of interest to the NSA | Anna Lekas Miller
- Robot wars: after drones, a line we must not cross | Christof Heyns
- The supreme court's ruling will be greeted with dismay at the MoD | Joshua Rozenberg
Source: The Guardian