• Name: Jessica Chandler
  • Job Title: Trainee Patent Attorney
  • Location: London
  • University: -Other UK-
  • Degree: University of Bath – BSc (Hons) in Natural Sciences with a Year in Industry at GlaxoSmithKline
    Kings College London – MRes in Cardiovascular Sciences
    Kings College London – PhD in Cell and Molecular Biophysics
  • Areas of Specialism: Biotechnology
Jessica Chandler

A brief summary of your background

After completing my PhD in heart research at King’s College London, I joined Marks & Clerk as a Trainee Patent Attorney in the biotechnology team in October 2021. I am now 6 months into the role and I am very pleased with my decision to enter the patent profession.

Explain why you decided to pursue a career in this profession.

Although I enjoyed my PhD, I found laboratory research to be frustratingly slow and restrictive in the science it allowed me to appreciate. During this time, I therefore started to explore professions outside of academia which would offer me a more fast-paced career but still allow me to work at the forefront of the life sciences. The patent profession seemed to tick both of these boxes.

With this in mind, I attended an open day at an IP firm during the 2nd year of my PhD. This was an invaluable experience as it provided me with an understanding of the training required in the profession as well as an insight into the day to day work of a patent attorney. I was particularly attracted to the fundamental need for a patent attorney to properly understand new scientific technologies quickly and to work with multiple moving projects at one time.

Give a bit of background on your qualifications and the training that you have completed.

I undertook my BSc in Natural Sciences (predominantly pharmacology with organic chemistry) at the University of Bath. As part of this degree, I spent a year in industry working at GlaxoSmithKline where we characterised the distribution of compounds in tissues using mass spectrometry imaging in collaboration with pre-clinical to clinical drug development projects across the company.

I subsequently completed my MRes and PhD at Kings College London where my research was focussed on understanding protein-protein interactions in beating heart cells using förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) microscopy.

At Marks & Clerk, I am allocated a supervisor who provides on the job training and guidance to develop my skills as a patent attorney. Marks & Clerk also has a training academy which provides study support towards the UK and European exams. As part of this, I attend away days with other trainees, network with other peers, attend online and in-person lectures and have access to online learning modules.

Explain what your current role involves.

The variety of work is definitely one of my favourite things about the role. Not only does the type of patent work vary, but we work for a wide range of clients, from lone inventors to global pharmaceutical companies, and with inventions across the breath of the life sciences, from biologics to medical devices.

Primarily, the role of a patent attorney is to represent clients before the patent office to assist them in successfully obtaining a patent for their invention. As a trainee you are given responsibility from day one. A key part of the role, therefore, is responding to communications issued by the patent office as part of the process to progress a patent application to grant. This may involve amending the claims to overcome the Examiner’s objections or formulating arguments in support of the claims being allowable.

I have also had the opportunity to attend client meetings (both on Teams and in-person) and oral hearings before the EPO. These meetings have been particularly helpful in putting the work we do into perspective.

Future Plans

With the support of the in-house ‘Training Academy’ run by Marks & Clerk, I am preparing to sit the UK foundation exams in October of this year.

Any advice

Particularly in the life sciences, the application process for trainee roles can be extremely competitive. Firstly, do not be disheartened, you would be hard-pressed to find a trainee who did not send out quite a few applications. Secondly, the use of language is very important in the patent profession. Therefore, be sure to proofread of your CV and covering letter several times, and have someone else triple check, before applying. It can also be awkward to sell yourself in such applications, therefore, having someone else read your application may be invaluable in ensuring that you do yourself justice. Finally, when it gets to interview you are also not expected to have a much, if any, knowledge of patents. Therefore, do not worry about trying to get to grips with the intricate details of patent law – a basic understanding of what a patent is and why they exist is sufficient. Instead, interviewers are wanting to know if you can speak confidently and concisely about your scientific background; skills which mirror those required as a patent attorney.

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