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  • Name: Victoria Barker
  • Job Title: Technical Assistant
  • Location: Brighton
  • University: Oxford
  • Degree: DPhil Organic Chemistry

Following my DPhil, I embarked upon a postdoctoral role but I quickly realised that life as a researcher was not for me. I sought a more varied role which would encompass broader scientific areas. I also realised that I enjoyed the communication aspects of my role as a postdoc, such as writing articles and explaining ideas to more junior members of the lab. I was keen to use these skills more.

I therefore settled on a career as a patent attorney and started working at Dehns three years ago. My work is certainly varied and I handle applications covering diverse subject areas including pharmaceuticals, paints, glass compositions, pesticides and OLEDs – sometimes all in one day! I also use my communication skills every day, for example, writing letters and e-mails to clients and patent examiners. It is important that you get your message across clearly and concisely; endless pages of jargon won’t be appreciated and will likely lead to confusion.

Clients can be established multinational corporations, lone inventors, or anything in between. Client handling is a very important part of the job. It is essential to consider not only the legal and technical side of a patent application but also the commercial interests of your client.

As well as single applications, I also work on a number of international ‘patent families’ where the same application is filed in multiple countries around the world. This involves preparing a coordinated global response strategy and liaising with local patent attorneys. It is interesting work as patent offices around the world have very different requirements and what is allowed by, say, a US examiner will not necessarily be allowed by a European one.

When you start as a trainee patent attorney at Dehns, you work on real cases from day one, although obviously your work is always appropriately supervised. The level of supervision is adjusted over subsequent years until you are fully qualified and able to work independently. All new starters at Dehns share an office with a more experienced trainee, and will attend a basic course on intellectual property law. Qualification generally takes at least four years, and the exams are notoriously difficult. However, the firm helps out by organising internal seminars and tutorials. I have also found that all the qualified people at Dehns really understand being in your shoes, and they are easy to approach with any questions that crop up during your revision. Exams aside, I really enjoy training to be a patent attorney. The work is very varied and there is always something new to learn.

Dehns is a friendly workplace. Each year we meet up twice a year for firm-wide social events. Throughout the year we’ll meet colleagues, both internal and those from other firms, at CIPA events or softball matches.

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