This article aims to give a brief overview of the main Intellectual Property (IP) Law Programmes and modules relevant to trainees or those considering entering the profession as a qualified Patent Attorney.

The programmes discussed below will not only allow you to develop your academic and practical skills in the field of IP but will also give you the opportunity to qualify as a registered Patent Attorney with the Intellectual Property Regulation Board (IPReg) – the independent regulatory body for the Patent Attorney and Trade Mark Attorney professions. There are a wide range of IPReg accredited programmes offered by several institutions that are mostly taken by UK based trainees and attorneys. This article will give you some insight into these programmes and their relevance to your career prospects.

Qualifying as a Patent Attorney

To qualify as a Patent Attorney, all candidates must successfully complete the IPReg-accredited Foundation Certificate examinations provided by the Patent Examination Board (PEB), as well as the Final Diploma examinations provided by the PEB. However, Queen Mary University of London, Bournemouth University and Brunel all run IPReg accredited courses that lead to a Postgraduate Certificate in Intellectual Property which exempts a trainee from the Foundation Certificate Exams.

The above-mentioned programmes offer a foundational overview of the UK and European Law and its structures, as well as a detailed explanation of the main types of IP rights, the theory underpinning them and law regulating rights such as Patents; Trade Marks; Copyright as well as Designs. The structure of these courses, their duration and the mode of their delivery differ from one institution to another so specific questions about these issues must be raised with the relevant university.

In addition to the above programmes, Queen Mary University of London also runs a year-long MSc in the Management of Intellectual Property which confers an exemption from the Foundation Diploma certificate. The MSc is designed for those wishing to specialise in Intellectual Property Law, most specifically for those wishing to become a Patent or Trade Mark attorney. Students on this programme receive a profound education covering the core IP disciplines with a focus on UK law (but including a strong European and international perspective). Unlike the courses described above, which are usually taken by trainees once they are employed, this MSc programme is usually taken by students of their own initiative and tends to attract candidates with a wider variety of interests than the Certificate courses.

There are some other courses that may confer an exemption from one or more of the Foundation Certificate Exams. For example, a law degree may confer an exemption from the foundational law exam. A list of the various exemptions is available from the PEB website. There are currently no courses that confer an exemption from all the UK Final Diploma Exams, or the European Qualifying Exams.

Finally, it is worth noting that to qualify as a Patent Attorney you are required to have undertaken at least two years full-time practice in IP, with substantial experience of patent attorney work in the United Kingdom or elsewhere, supervised by a UK Patent Attorney or a solicitor or barrister who is engaged in or has substantial experience of patent attorney work. Alternatively, you must have completed not less than four years unsupervised full-time practice in IP, including substantial experience of patent. More information on the work experience needed is available from the IPReg website.

Preparation for Examinations

In addition to CIPA’s Informals group which provides lectures and tutorials designed to help prepare for the various UK and European examinations, most firms provide in-house training directed at exam preparation and techniques. There are also several education providers that run specific exam preparation courses. The courses most attended by UK trainees include the courses run by JDD consultants, CEIPI and DeltaPatents. The JDD courses cover both the UK and European exams and typically last a day and a half or two days per exam. The CEIPI seminars, vary in length between a day and a half (papers A and B), two days (paper C) and a week (Paper D). DeltaPatents runs a range of courses at various locations throughout Europe (including in London). Further information about the courses and enrolment is available on CIPA website.

Litigation Courses

Candidates who apply to be entered onto the IPReg Register of Patent Attorneys on or after 1st January 2013 are required to attend and pass an IPReg-approved Basic Litigation Skills Course (BLSC), either before or upon entry to the register, or within 3 years of the end of the year upon which they were registered. CPD Training and Nottingham University offer the BLSC. The format of these courses varies between different providers. Upon successful completion of this course and application to IPReg, Patent Attorneys will be awarded the Intellectual Property Litigation Certificate (ILPC). This allows you to exercise rights to conduct litigation and rights of audience.

There are two higher certificates that can be obtained either pre or post registration which will allow you to undertake litigation and/or advocacy in the higher courts. These certificates are not mandatory. Finally, it must be noted that new entrants to the profession will need to undertake an accredited course to obtain rights of audience before the Unified Patent Court (UPC). More information about these certificates can be found on the IPReg and CIPA websites.

Taking an IP course before joining the profession

Enrolling on one of the programmes discussed in this article prior to joining a firm at your own expense does not necessarily increase your chances of obtaining a trainee position. Whilst having taken one of the above courses may carry some weight, it is rarely likely to be the decisive factor in obtaining employment. Therefore, it is common practice for trainees to join these programmes once they have started work with a firm. More importantly, it is highly recommended for any prospective trainee to ask before joining their chosen firm about the courses on which the firm sends its trainees on, and the type of support offered by the firm in terms of course fees and accommodation costs. View the latest graduate vacancies here.

Finally, only programmes and courses currently accredited by IPReg will be considered as providing elements of the attorney qualification pathways. Therefore, IP Diplomas, Masters, and other similar degrees which have been obtained from non-accredited institutions are not accepted for IPReg qualification purposes.

About the Author

Dr Jasem Tarawneh is a Senior Lecturer in Commercial & Intellectual Property Law at CCLS, Queen Mary University of London. Jasem worked for several years as a corporate lawyer in Europe and Middle East before joining academia and completing his PhD on the legal and economic justifications for Trade Marks protection under European Law. He is currently the Programme Director for the Specialist Intellectual Property Programmes at CCLS where he teaches Trade Mark Law. His main areas of research are Law and Economics, branding and Globalization as well as Alternative Dispute Settlement Mechanisms with an emphasis on International Arbitration. Jasem has a number of publications in those areas of the law and his latest project is a book that primarily focuses on brands and their impact on market access, regulation and innovation. Dr Tarawneh worked and continues to work with several distinguished international organisations including the WTO and WIPO.

Jasem Tarawneh
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