How did you get your job at EIP?
After finishing my PhD in February 2014 I began applying for jobs to become a trainee patent attorney through online job advertisements. I received a phone call from EIP’s recruitment manager for an informal chat about my degree, PhD and the job. I was invited to attend an interview in their London office in May and after making it through that first interview I attended a second interview in the Leeds office where I would be based if successful. The interviews were relatively informal and friendly. I was pleased to learn that I had been successful and began working in August 2014.
What was the application process like?
The application process involved me preparing a CV and covering letter explaining why I thought I was suitable for the job and why I wanted to become a patent attorney. It is said that the profession is particularly difficult to get into, with a large number of people applying for a relatively small number of vacancies. Therefore my advice is not to give up; write to lots of different companies to enquire about vacancies and don’t be disheartened when you do not hear back! Sometimes the reason you don’t receive a reply is because your area of expertise is not what the company are looking for at that time.
Why did you choose a job in this profession?
It was during my PhD that I decided I wanted to leave academia. The uncertainty of a career as a postdoc researcher did not appeal to me. Many of my friends who were postdocs were finding that after their funding period lapsed they would have to relocate with their families to other cities where funding placements were available. I preferred a career where the future was more certain. Furthermore, increasingly the work I was doing during my PhD seemed more and more abstract; I wanted to work in an area that was more applicable to the real word. As a self-confessed gadget enthusiast the idea of working with cutting edge technology piqued my interest.
What are your main duties?
At this stage in my career I can summarise my job into three main areas: writing patent applications, prosecuting patent applications and admin. Writing a patent application firstly involves liaising with inventors to discuss their idea in detail to determine what the invention is and how it works. The next step involves describing the invention so that it can be easily understood, describing all of the features of the invention and claiming the invention to provide the best protection for the inventor. Of all the work I do, this is certainly the most interesting and satisfying. I get to learn about new technologies in all areas of physics while enabling the inventor to obtain protection for their invention.
Once a patent has been filed, it is examined by the patent office. The next steps then involve prosecuting the patent. An examiner will search in patent databases to determine whether the invention is new or whether it may be deemed obvious from what has been done before. My job is therefore to argue that the invention is not known and is not obvious over the documents cited by the examiner. Sometimes the documents do appear to disclose what your patent application broadly claimed; therefore you may need to amend the application to differentiate over these documents. After several rounds of discussions with the examiners the patent may be granted.
The final part of the job involves discussing the patent procedure with clients, preparing invoices, organising my workload, preparing emails and forms and keeping up to date with patent law. While this may be seen by some as less interesting, it is an essential part of the job for every patent attorney.
What are the most stressful parts of the job?
The most stressful part of my job is consistently having to perform at the highest level. In this profession every word counts. An entire patent application may be granted or denied because of one sentence, or even one word. Attention to detail is therefore imperative and a high level of concentration is always required. Sometimes this can be tiring if you are particularly busy for a long period of time; but the level of work ebbs and flows so there is time to catch your breath. At EIP there is a network of friendly and helpful people who are more than willing to help out if things start to seem overwhelming.
What skills are useful in this profession?
Attention to detail, ability to absorb new information and good time management. Often the fast paced nature of the job requires you to review a patent application, five related documents and prepare a response to an examiner all within a short time frame. Being able to review these documents and determine how they differ from your patent application in this time is particularly challenging.
Is it a 9-5 job?
I usually leave the office at or around my normal time, however patents are deadline driven. Missing a deadline may incur considerable expense or even lose the ability to obtain a granted patent at all. This means that sometimes the work can’t wait until tomorrow, therefore extra time and effort is needed to complete the task. Careful planning of your workload can certainly help remedy this.
What would you like to achieve in future?
The goal for every trainee patent attorney is to pass your exams. I hope to sit at least some of my UK finals exams this year and complete them next year. EIP are very flexible about when you choose to sit your exams; they recognise that everyone works differently and there is no pressure to sit exams straight away.