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  • Name: Harriet Boswell
  • Job Title: Trainee Patent Attorney
  • Location: Reddie & Grose LLP, Cambridge
  • University: Imperial
  • Degree: BEng, MPhil and PhD (Cambridge)

What’s your typical day like?

The day to day tasks of a trainee patent attorney are corresponding with clients, Patent Offices and overseas patent attorneys as well as drafting and analysing patent specifications.

Much of the work I carry out involves corresponding with clients. How we communicate with a client depends on who the client is. Clients vary from overseas attorneys, multinational companies to lone inventors. My job involves providing each client with appropriate information and advice at every stage of the patent process.

Responding to examination reports is one of the most important aspects of the job. An examiner in a patent office examines the patentability of an invention and usually provides a list of reasons why they cannot grant a patent based on the application in its current state. We can argue the examiner’s objections if we consider that the examiner is wrong or we can suggest the client amends the application to overcome the examiner’s objections.

How much support do you get?

When I first joined Reddie & Grose all the new trainees took part in a two week training programme to introduce us to IP law and important aspects of the job. Trainees in my intake partake in regular training sessions, usually in the London office, so we can develop our skills at a similar rate. As a trainee in the Cambridge office, these training sessions are even more useful for me to integrate with people in the London office.

The learning curve is steep; there is a whole new area of law to understand and learn, and there are other areas that require a lot of practice, like drafting patent claims. In the office, the partners will often give me work they think will be a good learning opportunity for me. I usually draft a letter and the partner gives me corrections to make before being sent.

There is constant support from partners, qualified attorneys and trainees, which ensures I produce good quality work, but also helps greatly with learning.

What other skills do you learn?

Being a trainee forces you to improve your time management and organisational skills owing to the large number of varied and sometimes urgent tasks. Having come straight from finishing a PhD where there were few time pressures, I have had to learn to work with multiple deadlines.

I have been learning how to correspond with the UK and European Patent Offices with different clients. Communication skills are crucial for the job. While every trainee must have strong technical skills in a certain area of science or engineering, the role involves the constant absorption of knowledge from the cutting edge of research and development in order to keep up to date with current developments and understand new inventions.

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