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  • Role: Technical Assistant
  • Career Sectors: Patents
  • Location: Oxford
  • University: Oxford
  • Degree: DPhil Inorganic Chemistry

Alex Robinson

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I realised that the patent profession offered the kind of scientific challenges that motivate and inspire when I was part-way through my DPhil, experimenting on proteins which weren’t giving up their secrets without a fight, and I decided that a research career no longer held the same allure for me that it once had. My project was very interdisciplinary, and what interested me most was learning about developments in unfamiliar areas, putting these in their wider context, and then communicating these to other scientists in language they would understand.

The patent profession offers me all this, minus the uncooperative experiments, within a dynamic commercial environment. On completion of my studies I was fortunate enough to secure a position here at Dehns, where I’ve been for three years now.

My work covers a wide variety of technologies: medical devices, pharmaceuticals, semiconductors, and even fish farming. Much of my time is spent drafting new patent applications and advising clients how to respond to any objections raised by the patent examiner. Does the prior art show what the examiner thinks, can we argue this point, or do we need to amend the application?

Often, complex legal issues will arise and it’s important to be able to explain what these mean in practical terms. Other work includes defending your client’s patent against attacks from others, or attacking patents belonging to a competitor. Deadlines often overlap, so it’s important to be able to prioritise workload.

Sensitivity to the nuances of English is essential, particularly when dealing with someone having a different first language. We often instruct (or are instructed by) attorneys in other countries, so it’s vital to appreciate the differences between different legal systems – what might work in the US might not be permissible in Europe, for example.

My clients range in size from small start-ups through to established multinational corporations. Each type of client will have their own objectives and constraints which it’s important to consider, and it’s very satisfying taking all of these into account to come up with an IP strategy that makes sense not only legally and scientifically, but also serves your client’s commercial interests.

I’m based in our Oxford office with my supervising partner, but I also work for some partners in our London office, which exposes me to a range of different specialisms and working styles. The learning curve is steep, but as a new starter at Dehns you will be sent on a foundation course in IP law and will share an office with a more experienced trainee. The firm also organises internal seminars and tutorials to assist in preparation for the (notoriously tough) qualifying exams.

People here are hard-working but friendly, and the various offices meet up twice a year for firm-wide social events, while we often encounter other firms at CIPA events or softball matches.

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