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Anyone considering a career as a patent attorney?

  1. Jun 15, 2016 #241
    Hi there, I would like to go into IP law, except I suck at science and math (I like physics however the call was full and I couldn't take it) so I did bio and that was kinda hell. I like Copy Right and Trademark law, but i'm concerned that there is not much demand for that specific area, and that patent lawyers would just do those, instead of having different lawyers work on them
  2. Jun 16, 2016 #242


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    " I like Copy Right and Trademark law, but i'm concerned that there is not much demand for that specific area, and that patent lawyers would just do those, instead of having different lawyers work on them"

    This is definitely not the situation. If you want to do TM or (c), go for it.
  3. Jun 20, 2016 #243
    Hi there, I read many post in this thread and the information you have provided so far is very informative and i would like to thank you for taking your time and providing all these valuable information.

    Here is my Question:

    I'm a third year law student and I'm interested in IP Law and also I'm interested in studying Chemistry. What education would you recommend for me to become a patent attorney?
    (Do you recommend studying a BS in Chem or can i go straight for an LLM in science related IP law? or is there any other option?)

    Thank You
  4. Jun 29, 2016 #244


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    Chem essentially requires and advanced degree (MS or phd). Law school is a JD and don't bother with a LLM.
  5. Jul 11, 2016 #245
    Thank you so much for taking your time to answer all of these questions and inquiries on patent law.

    I am a high school student who is looking into colleges, and have been doing research into possible majors and post-graduation jobs to give me more insight into which schools would best fit my particular interests. I am having trouble deciding whether to pursue biology, which is my favorite subject and one I am extremely interested in, and law- which I also find intriguing and seems to offer more job opportunities post-graduation. I stumbled upon patent law when researching the different paths one can take as a lawyer, and it seems like the perfect combination of my interests.

    I do not have a problem with getting an advanced degree in biology or microbiology, I am just uncertain as to what jobs will be available to me, and whether the salaries would make up for the large tuition expenses. I also am not particularly interested in lab work, so a technician in a research facility does not sound like my dream occupation. From what I have read on this forum and other sites, patent law is much better suited to my talents and interests.

    My biggest fear regarding pursuing this particular career is the amount of debt I will accumulate during schooling, and if it will make fiscal sense for me to dedicate so much time into earning a degree that will make it difficult to pay back student loans. I am a good student (high GPA, multiple AP classes, high SAT scores, seated first in my senior class) and have been recently looking into Columbia University, which, as an Ivy League, is very expensive. My parents would not be able to pay the tuition, so I will have to take out loans and rely on financial aid to pay for my schooling.

    What I really want to know is: what is the lowest advanced degree necessary to still have a chance of getting a good job as a patent attorney (do I need a PhD or will a masters suffice), and should I look into a different career if I want to make a relatively high salary without struggling financially after so many years of college? I want to pursue a career that interests me, and biology patent law is my first choice so far, but salary is also a big deal to me when making decisions that dictate my future. Would attending a prestigious yet expensive university make sense because it would make me look more attractive to potential employers, or should I look into going to a less expensive state school? Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, your insight will be invaluable to me in my search to find the college and career path that is right for me.
  6. Jul 12, 2016 #246


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    The debt is to be taken seriously. That said, if it's what you want to do, it can be worth it. You just don't want to go in blindly, not knowing the costs and how that'll affect your life once you graduate. There is the potential to make big bucks (and also even a nice salary) in patent law, it's just not guaranteed. You need to work hard (both in school and also to find a job afterwards with networking, informal interviews, smart personalized cover letters, etc.) and have a background for which there is demand for patent attorneys.

    If you go into biology, you will at least need a MS (it's just the way bio goes as you can read more about in prior posts in this thread). Have you considered biomedical engineering for your minor? A BS in BME is probably sufficient to land your first job and will give you some flexibility to work on the bio side and the mechanical engineering side, depending on where opportunities lie. Employers tend to like "engineers," even if a physicist, chemist and biologist took most of the same classes. Don't ask me why.

    Also, forgive me for assuming but if you are a woman, it may be easier to obtain scholarships if you are in an engineering program because there is a disproportionate number of women in the field.

    Hope that helps!
  7. Jul 12, 2016 #247
    Hi, I have a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering and I am interested in becoming a patent agent. Can you recommend the best online course or a book to help me prepare for the Patent bar exam?
  8. Jul 13, 2016 #248


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    Sorry, I can't help you there as I took the patent bar a decade ago. All I know is is the extensive undergrad-esque programs are unnecessarily time intensive and expensive.
  9. Jul 20, 2016 #249
    Thank you for your insight and advice. I will definitely look into BME, especially if it increases my chances of finding a job out of college. I am a woman, so it is encouraging to know that there will be scholarships available to me if I choose this career path. This forum really helped me a lot!
  10. Aug 8, 2016 #250
    Hello. I'm currently practicing as an attorney with a firm and I do not have a science background. I am considering taking classes in the listed categories to become eligible to sit for the patent bar, for example the 24 hours in physics. What is your opinion on this route, and do you know others who also have taken this path? This is strictly for lateraling or opening new doors. Thank you for your time.
  11. Aug 12, 2016 #251
    I have a thesis Masters in Pharmacology (4 publications) with 2 years of industry experience ( Pfizer ). I am planning to get a JD degree. I read everywhere that a phd is needed for practicing as patent attorney in biolofy field. Would I be marketable without a phd, considering my background?
  12. Oct 21, 2016 #252
    What is the outlook as a science advisor or patent agent for a physics masters degree graduate with several years professional experience? Is it grim?
    How do you recommend I go about getting my foot in the door in patent law?
    Are billable hours counted as a science advisor?

    Thank you!
  13. Oct 21, 2016 #253


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    1) Probably not very high in demand but check your local job boards and postings. Scientific advisers are most common in super high tech areas (advanced EE, advanced chemistry, pharma), not sure if general physics would fall into that territory but it depends on your area of expertise. It's not that common of a position to be honest but does exist in places where there is a need. It's a hard career to directly pursue because the need is so specialized. I think most scientific advisers that work in the patent field "fell into" their job based on scenarios difficult to replicate.
    2) Apply for a job as an Examiner with the USPTO
    3) If you work at a law firm, yes. If you work at a company, no.
  14. Oct 22, 2016 #254

    I’m a PhD physicist who first worked in industrial R&D for 20+ yrs and then worked as a patent agent in a law firm for 8+ yrs.

    (a) If you are looking for a position in a law firm, the term “scientific advisor” is not commonly used. If you are doing a keyword search for job posts, “technical specialist” is most common; alternatively, “technical advisor”, “technology specialist”, or “technology advisor”. I’ll use the term “technical specialist”.

    (b) An “MS Physics with several years professional experience” does not by itself place you in a strong position for an entry-level technical specialist position in a law firm. A PhD Physics, better yet a PhD Physics with 5+ yrs industry experience, places you in a much stronger position.

    (c) With niche exceptions (discussed below), a physics degree is somewhat borderline for law firms. Strongest demand right now is for EE, CS, and CE (life sciences have different requirements that I won’t address here). Most posts will be adamant that a degree in EE, CS, or CE is required (and HR will screen your resume for one of these degrees; if they don’t see it listed, they will simply chuck your resume). A few will say that a degree in physics with a strong background in EE or computers will also be considered.

    (d) Again, with exceptions, technical specialists primarily have PhDs. In order to become a patent agent or patent attorney, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree in a science or engineering major recognized by the USPTO (or equivalent training). A master’s degree doesn’t give you much distinction over what the run-of-the-mill patent agent or patent attorney can tackle from a technical perspective. But, if the inventor is a PhD doing complex R&D, the run-of-the-mill patent agent or patent attorney can be totally befuddled by the technology; hence the need for PhD technical specialists. Especially if a firm has as clients R&D labs led by PhD scientists and engineers, having PhD technical specialists on roll can be a big plus.

    (e) There are niches for physicists. For example, if you’re a geophysicist, and the firm has clients in oil exploration or earthquake detection, you’ve a shot. If you’re a radiation physicist, and the firm has clients in medical imaging, you’ve a shot. If you’re a semiconductor physicist, and the firm has clients in semiconductor devices or fabrication, you’ve a shot.

    (f) At one time, many large corporations in the US had extensive in-house patent departments. The practice (which tends to oscillate) has been heavily towards downsizing in-house patent departments and outsourcing the work to law firms. Some of the in-house patent attorneys who were downsized started small firms of their own specializing in their previous specialties; often with their previous employers now as clients.

    (g) So, for you, a lot depends on how many years and in what specialty “several years of professional experience” refers to. As usual, it’s a matter of supply and demand. You’re competing against freshly minted PhDs who want to switch careers for whatever reason and also competing against experienced PhDs who have been downsized and are looking for a career alternative.

    (h) Did you work for a large company that had an internal patent department? If so, ask the patent attorneys there for referrals to potential openings among their buddies. Some personal connection is your best bet.

    (i) Passing the patent bar, and looking for a position as a patent agent, probably would not improve your opportunities much. Training a newbie from scratch costs a lot of time and money for a firm, so you need to have something special to offer (or a special personal connection to someone who's willing to give you a break).

    <<Edit to add>>

    (j) Are you fluent in a foreign language? There are US firms that focus on US applications for foreign clients. I know a PhD physicist who got his foot in the door as a patent agent because he's fluent in German; he got a job with a US firm that has a lot of German clients. Similarly, another guy who's fluent in Japanese got a job with a firm that has a lot of Japanese clients. Don't overlook this avenue.
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2016
  15. Nov 10, 2016 #255
    I graduated last spring with a bachelors in plastics engineering technology. I am taking the year off to work full time at a medical device manufacture, and to study for the LSAT. I am wondering if I will run into any issues trying to resister for the patent bar exam with an engineering technologies degree. Will I have to file under category B, option 4 when applying?
  16. Nov 10, 2016 #256
    Neither "plastics engineering technology" or "engineering technology" is listed as a Cat A degree in the OED GRB. If you qualify under Cat B, Option 4, then that would be the most expedient path.
  17. Nov 10, 2016 #257
    Have you ever heard of anyone having difficulties applying to the patent bar exam with an engineering technologies degree when compared to a straight engineering degree?
  18. Nov 10, 2016 #258

    I'm going to take a guess at what you are really asking: whether an engineering technologies degree instead of an engineering degree will qualify you under Cat A. If so, that is the wrong question. It's not a matter of engineering technology vs. engineering in general, it's a matter of the specific degree. If you check the Cat A listing, you will find several technology degrees listed (such as electronics technology and marine technology). "Plastics engineering technology" is not listed. But neither is "plastics engineering". So it's irrelevant whether your degree is in "plastics engineering technology" or "plastics engineering". Neither one is listed under Cat A.

    If you wish, you can call OED and ask whether you will qualify under Cat A. The first answer will probably be "no", because they will simply look up the Cat A listing and not find your degree there. If you ask for further consideration, be aware that nothing said over the phone is binding. The only way to be sure is to actually submit an application with a $240 fee ($40 application fee plus $200 exam fee). If you do not qualify, you're out the $40, but the $200 is refunded. If you do qualify, however, you have only 90 days in which to take the exam. If you haven't prepared, that 90 days will probably lapse, and you will need to reapply. But in the overall scheme of things $240 is not a huge amount to find out in advance whether you qualify under Cat A or need to submit the additional paperwork to qualify under Cat B. Alternatively, if you are confident that you qualify under Cat B, then apply under Cat B. I do realize that a lot more paperwork is involved, and I assume you're trying to avoid that.
  19. Nov 21, 2016 #259
    Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions!
    I'm a ChemE undergrad who will graduate in the upcoming year. I'm planning on taking the year off to get work experience, write the lsat and save up for law school. My question is: what kind of jobs should I aim for to improve my candidacy as a patent attorney at a large law firm? Also, how much experience (in number of years would you recommend)?
    I should note, in my undergrad experience, I've gotten work experience in oil/gas, electrical engineering, manufacturing, environmental policy and software project management. Based on your knowledge of the legal industry, where is the biggest demand, and where would a ChemE degree be best served?
  20. Jan 1, 2017 #260
    Apologies for not contributing to the topic, but is it bad that when I read the title of this thread, I thought a joke was being made about Albert Einstein?
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