• Name: Holly Smith
  • Job Title: Trainee Patent Attorney
  • Location: York
  • University: Oxford
  • Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Biological Sciences and a Master of Science in Immunology
  • Areas of Specialism: Life Sciences

Why did you choose a job in this sector?

I wanted a role where I could use the scientific knowledge I picked up in my degrees and be involved with cutting-edge technologies across the life sciences field, but outside a laboratory environment. A role in intellectual property enables me to do this. Additionally, key aspects of the role are understanding and applying the law and taking into consideration the commercial aims of your clients, the variety of skills and constant learning process of the job also appealed to me.

How did you get your job at Secerna?

I saw Secerna’s advert for the position of trainee patent attorney on the IP Careers website. After researching Secerna I applied with my CV and a covering letter and was lucky enough to get an interview.

What was the application process like – any advice?

I would say it is imperative to understand what the job entails; the role has its own specific skill set. I found it useful to research the process of patent prosecution. Having basic background knowledge helped me better understand and answer interview questions.

It is also good to show an understanding of the firm you are applying to, for example its client type.

What are your main duties/roles?

I have only been at Secerna for 6 months, yet I have been able to get stuck in quickly. I have worked with the partners and senior attorneys on many areas of patent prosecution, including drafting patent specifications and structuring amendments and arguments in response to objections raised by patent Examiners. I have also been involved with the filing of designs. I’m constantly learning in this role and every day is different.

Is it a 9-5 job?

Predominantly it is a nine-to-five job. There are occasions where strict deadlines need to be met, this may require you to start slightly earlier or finish slightly later.

What skills are useful in this sector/profession?

It is useful to be able to apply your knowledge to pick up the core aspects of a technology quickly. This is important across the role from drafting a patent specification for a new technology to reviewing prior art cited in search and examination reports.

It is also key to have good attention to detail and time management skills as strict deadlines have to be met in this profession.

What would you like to achieve in the future?

In the short term I would like to qualify as a UK and European patent attorney. In the long term I would like to continue to develop my skills to become a competent patent attorney.

What innovations or industry trends are you most interested in?

The great thing about this role is that you see cutting edge innovations from across the biotech field. However, having studied immunology I am particularly interested in immunotherapies. For example, patient specific immunotherapy, such as for treatment of cancers, is a particularly exciting area of the biotech field. Additionally, the introduction of the Unified Patent Court has coincided with my joining of the profession, so it will be interesting to see how this new framework develops over the next few years.

How would you sell being an IP Attorney to somebody?

It is a rewarding career. There is a huge variety in what you do on a day-to-day basis. We also work with a wide range of clients; from start-ups to large corporations and everything in between. This keeps you on your toes and excited for each day.

Did you know about IP and being an IP Attorney all along or did you discover it later?

I discovered intellectual property during my academic journey. Whilst doing my masters at university I was involved in the development of vaccines. I heard about how the technology I was working with was patented, which had resulted in a spin out company. This gained my interest, so I researched the world of IP and spoke to professionals within the field to gain an insight.

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