• Name: Richard Sulston
  • Job Title: Trainee Patent Attorney
  • Location: London
  • University: Edinburgh
  • Degree: BSc Biochemistry & PhD Cardiovasular Biology
  • Career Sectors: Patents
  • Areas Of Specialism: Biotechnology

Why I applied to train as a patent attorney

In the final year of my PhD I knew that I didn’t want to pursue a career in academic research, but I wasn’t sure what the alternatives were. I attended a careers event and one of the speakers gave a glowing review of their work as a patent attorney and I thought that it would be something that I would enjoy.

I have not been disappointed during my time working at Beck Greener. I have found the job to be stimulating, rewarding, and very enjoyable although very challenging at times. I really enjoy getting to work on inventions from a wide variety of scientific disciplines ensuring that topics never get stale. Deadlines are often tight leading to a fast-paced environment.

Typical day as a trainee

From my first day I was working on real patent applications. The most frequent tasks I do are:

  • Reporting key events during patent prosecution to clients. We work with a wide variety of clients ranging from multinational corporations applying for many patents a year to single inventors who might need extra guidance throughout the process.
  • Replying to examination reports which necessitates constructing arguments with clear and detailed lines of argument.
  • Preparing and filing patent applications for new inventions, requiring high attention to detail to ensure nothing important is omitted from an application.
  • Keeping in touch with my great team of colleagues on work-related matters. Beck Greener have also organised a number of virtual social events to help us stay in touch whilst we are working from home.

Given this, I believe that some of the essential skills for a patent attorney are a high attention to detail and the ability to pinpoint key pieces of information that may make the difference between a patent being granted or refused. Additionally, an appreciation of the bigger commercial picture, i.e. understanding where a patent fits into a client’s business, is essential if we want to be sure we can adapt our approach to suit the client’s needs.

Looking ahead

I received a PG Cert in IP from Bournemouth University in early 2020 giving exemption from the UK foundation exams. I am now preparing to take the upcoming UK final exams and European exams. A large amount of support is available from both Beck Greener and CIPA for exam preparation and I look forward to qualifying as both a chartered and European patent attorney.

Advice for applying

Have a persuasive and specific idea of why you want to start a career as a trainee patent attorney. It can also be useful to practice describing everyday objects in clear, concise ways or comparing objects and identifying key differences or improvements between them.

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