I enjoyed my course at university but had realised during my final year project that a career in academia wasn’t for me. I wanted to do something that would allow me to use what I had learned during my time at university, but that also involved more social interaction and had a more commercial slant.
I was interested in a career in law and had considered doing a law conversion course, but then found out about becoming a patent attorney. The fact that you can specialise in a certain area so quickly appealed to me, as did the on-the-job training which meant that you start doing real work straight away. I also liked that you are working at the cutting edge of technology, so would still be using your scientific background, but would also be involved in the broader aspects of working with clients that were developing inventions in a commercial setting.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I really enjoy the direct contact with clients that I have had throughout my training and in my current role. My company aims to function effectively as an in-house IP team for its major clients, which means that I am always closely engaged with R&D directors, general counsel and inventors and have to be ready to advise them across a varied commercial landscape. Talking through an invention with the inventor is definitely the best way to fully understand the concepts involved and it is motivating to see the passion that a lot of inventors have for their work.
This kind of close relationship with clients allows me to understand the commercial context in which inventions sit within the company. It is important to remember that patents don’t exist in a vacuum and so you have to keep an eye both on what your client is doing now and what they may want to do in the future – not to mention what their competitors are up to! This strategic side of the job fits interestingly with the more technical scientific aspects and means that you come up against new challenges all the time.
The job is very varied, both in terms of the type of work and the subject matter involved. I work with clients of differing sizes in various technical fields, who can have very different IP issues. I do everything from attending the initial inventor meetings and drafting the patent applications, through to preparing freedom to operate opinions and commercial licensing agreements. Working in IP is intellectually challenging and I have found that there is always something new to learn.
TL Brand & Co was founded four years ago and I had just completed my training at another firm when it was initially set up. The prospect of being part of a new company with the opportunity to have a role in how it grew and developed was exciting and so I made the move soon after it was founded. Being involved in a new, growing company provides a different aspect to the job and really makes you feel like you are part of the team.
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into the industry?
It is important to be aware of how difficult the qualification exams are, as they can take over your life for a while. However, I don’t think that the exams should put anyone off entering the profession as it really is worth the pain! Many firms have very good training schemes, often involving tutorials by associates that have just sat the exams themselves, and there are also external courses that you can go on to ensure that you are sufficiently prepared.
Some firms, though not all by any means, run open days, formal internships or offer ad hoc work experience placements. These are good opportunities, as they can give you a feel for what the job entails but are definitely not a requirement.
There is no particular period during which patent firms recruit new graduates but instead, firms tend to recruit as and when they need someone new to join their team. This means that you should send out a CV to all of the firms that appeal to you as soon as possible, so that they have it on file for when they start their recruitment process. However, the job is very detail-oriented so make sure there are no mistakes or typos in your CV and covering letter!
Would you recommend it as a career?
I think IP is a great industry to be in, as it straddles science and law, as well as requiring good interpersonal skills and commercial understanding. It can be very rewarding watching an invention be developed from an initial idea through to a commercial product and it is interesting dealing with the unexpected challenges that this process can involve!
While it is intellectually demanding and an attention to detail is required, if you are someone who enjoys getting your head around new scientific concepts and communicating complicated ideas, a career in IP may suit you well.