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Anyone considering a career as a patent attorney?

  1. May 29, 2012 #51

    berned_you

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    CE is preferred over CS (again, employers have some sort of obsession with engineers). EE is slightly better than CE and CS because there is simply a greater number of EE focused patent applications to be written. CE might be less and less desired in the future depending on how the In re Bilski case gets interpreted by the courts and Patent Office. It's complicated, but due to this court decision, it's harder to patent software and business methods. Do a little research on the case if you're curious. There's been a lot written about it because it's a big deal.
     
  2. May 30, 2012 #52
    I cant thank you enough for starting this great conversation.I do need some advice. I have a BS in Physics and Master in EE with 4 years of working in industry. I have been staying home for the past 3 years after I got laid off, but I enjoyed raising my kids. Now, I think it is time to go back to work. Since working as Engr in high tech, consumed alot of hours of my everyday life,I was thinking becoming teacher.... mostly because of summer vacation time ( to be honest ), but it is not going to be my favorite job. Then I was pointed toward becoming a patent law agent, and I am digging in to learn if it is doable. I enjoyed this conversation alot, but I need to ask you:
    How flexible can the work hours of an agent can be?
    Can one work hourly? or per patent?
    Also, do you recommend taking class to be prepared for the test or just reading books? if books, any preference?
    I appreciate your time, thanks
     
  3. May 30, 2012 #53

    berned_you

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    How flexible can the work hours of an agent can be? It depends entirely on where you work. Are you working for a firm or for yourself as a patent agent/consultant? There is no answer to this question because it's entirely situation specific and there are many potential work scenarios.
    Can one work hourly? or per patent? Same answer as the above question.
    Also, do you recommend taking class to be prepared for the test or just reading books? if books, any preference? There are many classes offered and they are quite expensive. I'm sure there are also many books. Perhaps go to a bookstore and check some out before purchasing. Practice questions are very important so make that part of your studying. Of course, the MPEP is free and available online. The MPEP is what the test is on so it makes sense to read that but it's incredibly long and not easy to study in itself (especially until you are more familiar with the statutes). It's hard for me to give advice on this question because I studied for the exam by taking patent law classes in school and I also helped create a patent bar review course for my school (which never got off the ground). Those activities were a great way for me to learn the material but it's hard to know what else might work well.
     
  4. May 30, 2012 #54
    Thank you for your reply :) the whole scenario looks pretty promising to me. I should start studying for the test and see what will happen after that.
    Once again, you are a great help. Thanks
     
  5. Jun 18, 2012 #55
    Hello all,

    this post is informative. I just started my job as patent analyst. Despite job is slightly difficult, the pay is quite is low here in India.
    Cheers,
    Rajini
     
  6. Jun 27, 2012 #56
    Hi! Like others have said, thank you for all your information you're sharing. I am currently a student about to finish my undergrad degree in a major that would not qualify to take the patent bar exam. My plan is to qualify under category B, where you can qualify by proving you have a technical background by having college credit in certain classes. My choice was to have 8 sequential hours in chemistry and an additional 24 in some form of biology. I also plan on taking organic chemistry because it was recommended by someone who is familiar with patent agent work.

    My question is that will not having a technical degree cause me to have a harder time with the work patent agents do?

    And will not having a technical degree also make me look less desirable to potential employers?

    Thanks for any advice you have to offer.
     
  7. Jun 27, 2012 #57

    berned_you

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    First of all, I'd like to reemphasize that for all career guidance that I give, I'm speaking in broad generalities. Having one specific major will not guarantee you a job, nor will not having a certain major deny you the opportunity to work (assuming it at least qualifies you to take the patent bar). That said, not having a category A degree can negatively affect how employers view your resume. Often times it may not make practical sense but it's my opinion that hiring partners and HR personell often stick to what they've been told to hire (a mechanical engineer, an electrical engineer, etc.). If you don't have the degree on the job posting, sometimes your resume will be discarded even though you have taken many overlapping classes. This reality is just an obstacle though and can be overcome with hard work, motivation, patience and networking.

    Please do read what I've said in prior posts regarding the life and chemical sciences and the typical requirement that a patent agent have an advanced degree and, preferably, industry experience.
     
  8. Jun 28, 2012 #58
    My major is graphic communications. It deals with a lot of the technical aspects of things in the printing industry, such as the composition of inks, paper, substrates, printing presses, ect. My plan was to become a patent agent with a special interest in these type things. I am currently on an internship at a printing industry in the research and development lab. I am getting to help some and watch with a new "thing" that the industry will patent once they perfect. Would this make me appear as a desirable employee?

    I also know someone who is a patent lawyer and what he does makes me want to be a patent lawyer. He started with an undergrad degree in econ, went to law school, and practiced medical malpractice law. He was unhappy with this and went back to school for 30 credit hours in chemistry to take the patent bar. He owns his own firm now and does international patents. Does this sound like an "unusual" situation based on your experience and would be unlikely to work out for me?

    I know these are very broad questions and you may not be able to answer them, but I am very grateful for any advice. I'm trying to decide if this is what I want to pursue and only have a little bit to make my decision.
     
  9. Jun 28, 2012 #59

    berned_you

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    @Kohleigh You would not be a typical patent lawyer or have taken a typical path. This should only dissuade you, however, if you are not completely committed to working in patent law. Backgrounds such as yours can make finding a job more difficult because you specialize in a niche market and will have to focus your job search in that niche market where there are, perhaps, fewer opportunities. You may find yourself having to work at the patent office for awhile or having to move for a job or, perhaps, not make as much of a salary as you would have hoped. You will likely find it more difficult to find a job but I'm a strong believer in the power of a "whatever it takes, I will make it happen" mentality.
     
  10. Jun 28, 2012 #60
    I cannot thank you enough for your advice. You have helped me know that I will be able to pursue this path and do so with more confidence. I realize it will take me more work and might be more difficult, but patent law is what I know I want to do now. So what ever it takes, I will make it happen.
     
  11. Jun 28, 2012 #61
    As someone considering a career change from EE to patent agent -> patent attorney, this thread has been very informative and helpful. My sincere thanks.

    After more than 21 yrs. in semiconductor industry as an EE (have masters in EE), I am considering very seriously (and have started to prepare for patent bar exam) changing career to be a patent attorney. Steps I am planning: clear patent bar and go get a patent agent job. I can than enter law school to get the law degree.

    Questions I have:

    1. How much of an advantage (or disadvantage?) would I have with this large experience? Does age matter?
    2. Can you comment on income levels as an independent practice? Any statistics as to what fraction of patent attorneys have independent practice?
    3. Can you comment on working for a company vs a law firm/own practice financially and job satisfaction wise?

    Thanks.
     
  12. Jul 24, 2012 #62
    Hi. I appreciate all your help and the information has been extremely useful. I have 2 questions for you...

    1) How does a Applied Science Engineering degree look? (I've already checked, I can still take the Patent Bar). It's more of a business engineering. 2 years of broad engineering (ME, CSE, CHE, MSE, CE) and 2 years of business classes (Econ, Marketing, Management, Supply Chain). Does this effect the jobs available compared to strict ME or EE grads?

    2) Also, I assumed I would take the Patent Bar exam after law school like a friend of mine, but I was just recently told that it's wise to take it the summer after you 1L. This way you have something to show and you can land a patent internship the next summer. What's the proper course of action? If I took the patent exam the first summer, I most likely wouldn't have time for an internship also. Thoughts?

    Thank you so much, I'm excited to hear your response.
    -Matthew
     
  13. Aug 2, 2012 #63
    Hi I don't know if you're still answering questions but I recently heard about the patent agent/attorney career and it was something that really interested me.

    I am currently finishing up my BS in Biology at UW and I was planning on taking the patent bar exam after I graduate.

    What are the chances of me getting a job? From what I've been reading the odds seem low unless I have an advanced degree. What would be the best path to getting a job as a patent agent?

    Should I go get a MS or PhD? Start off as a patent examiner? Law school?
     
  14. Aug 2, 2012 #64

    berned_you

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    joshuadcho,

    I am currently finishing up my BS in Biology at UW and I was planning on taking the patent bar exam after I graduate.
    I hope when you say UW, you mean Wisconsin. GO BADGERS! As a side note, don't take the patent bar if you do plan to immediately work as a patent examiner after graduation. The USPTO will train you and you'll earn your patent bar registration through work versus having to take the painful test.

    What are the chances of me getting a job? From what I've been reading the odds seem low unless I have an advanced degree. What would be the best path to getting a job as a patent agent?
    My advice would be to get an advanced degree or work as a patent examiner for awhile and then get an advanced degree. Take a look at job postings on the web and see what employers are looking for and the number of positions available. If there aren't many positions open now, you know you're best scenario may be working for the USPTO for awhile as an examiner.

    Should I go get a MS or PhD? Start off as a patent examiner? Law school?
    I don't want to sound like I know everything and that my word is the end all but I have many friends with bio degrees that went to law school for patent law and then found out that the vast majority of employers are looking for candidates in that field with advanced degrees. The ones I knew either got their masters while in law school (hellish proposal) or are not working in the patent law field but moved to other areas of law. The order in which you do things is up to you and will depend on many factors such as personal desires, shorter MS term if schooling is done right after BS, the job market, the need for money and benefits, location of various options, etc. I would not go to law school first, however. Also, note that you do not need a law degree to work as a "patent agent" or examiner but only to be a "patent attorney." See prior posts for discussion on these different careers.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 2, 2012
  15. Aug 18, 2012 #65
    Hello,
    Thank you for creating such an awesome thread, for I am also interested in a career in IP.

    I am interested in the work environment as a patent attorney. Can you describe your slow, hectic, and most average days in the office? How does your typical work day start and end? After a days work is complete, do you have energy for activities outside of work?

    Do you work a total of 35 hours, or is that billable time and you actually spend more hours at the office?

    Are your coworkers your real life friends? Do you compete against them in your office? Do you encounter office politics that prevent you from success?

    Thanks,
     
  16. Aug 18, 2012 #66

    berned_you

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    This is just my scenario, things will vary widely from firm to firm.

    I am interested in the work environment as a patent attorney. Can you describe your slow, hectic, and most average days in the office? How does your typical work day start and end? After a days work is complete, do you have energy for activities outside of work? My days are not frequently hectic and are slower than I'd actually like. I work for a firm that values balance and wants me to have a life. I do not have a work cell phone and rarely check my email outside of work. I did write a reply to this thread about a typical day for me, so see that regarding the rest of your question.

    Do you work a total of 35 hours, or is that billable time and you actually spend more hours at the office? Total hours. I work a 9-5 typically and to be honest, I usually take a full hour lunch and also spend my first half hour at work catching up on news. I have worked 12 hour days and I have worked 2 hour days, it depends on what needs to be done and if there are any fires to put out. Typically, I can control my work flow though and spread things out.

    Are your coworkers your real life friends? Do you compete against them in your office? Do you encounter office politics that prevent you from success?
    I do not work in a competitive environment and I think that's partially due to the fact that we are all engineers. There's just something about engineers that is more collaborative (I found this to be true in law school as well). My boss treats me like family. I only work with a handful of other attorneys though so I'm sure that has something to do with it.
     
  17. Aug 18, 2012 #67

    berned_you

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    @ajayo

    1. How much of an advantage (or disadvantage?) would I have with this large experience? Does age matter? Age would probably be more respected than youth IMO (everyone has their bias and a "good" lawyer has a bit of a belly, a few wrinkles and gray hair, no?); extensive experience is often a huge factor in the hiring of patent agents and attorneys

    2. Can you comment on income levels as an independent practice? Any statistics as to what fraction of patent attorneys have independent practice? I can't comment but independent patent attorneys are not uncommon. How much you can earn will also depend on how business savvy you are.

    3. Can you comment on working for a company vs a law firm/own practice financially and job satisfaction wise? I worked for a summer at a company and enjoyed it very much. It's nice to focus simply on one company's objectives. It's also fun because it's more management of IP versus doing the legwork yourself. I also enjoy working at a small firm because there is less office politics and you know all your coworkers and their families. I worked briefly at a very large firm and felt like I was just a number who brought in X amount of dollars. There's much more ego and office politic BS when you add many more attorneys to the mix (especially litigators who are often drama queens).
     
  18. Aug 30, 2012 #68
    Hi, I registered just to ask you this question:

    I qualify for the patent bar under one of the alternative options in that I do satisfy the 40 hours of undergraduate technical coursework but do not have a degree in one of the approved fields (political science).

    I am highly interested in studying/practicing patent law and am targeting GW and Berkeley law. That said, does my lack of science degree serve as a disadvantage, or does my breadth of coursework (spread across upper level undergraduate physics, biology and chemistry courses) improve my chances somehow?

    I plan to study for and take the patent bar before I begin law school next fall.

    Thank you so much for taking the time do answer all these questions; I've learned so much reading through this thread and hope it continues on!
     
  19. Aug 30, 2012 #69

    berned_you

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    It is a disadvantage not to have a "category A" science degree. You will see from scrolling through attorney bios online that there are few that are employed by firms that do not have a category A degree. As discussed above, it's my feeling that some employers get "stuck" on finding an applicant with a certain degree. In those situations, an industrial engineer may not even be considered for a mechanical engineering patent atty position even if the coursework is similar. Same situation in your case. You may have a good knowledge base for a certain type of science but employers will get hung up on finding a candidate that has a certain degree. When applying for jobs, you will need to clearly and strongly emphasize your science background. I would also take (and pass) the patent bar as soon as practically possible and make very clear and prominent in your job applications that you are registered to practice before the USPTO. If this is what you want to do, it can be done but you will need to set yourself up in the best way you can (great school, great grades, networking a ton, maybe working at the USPTO for awhile as an examiner and maybe even going to school a bit more to get a few more credits to obtain a category A degree if need be). Also read what I've said in prior responses regarding the biological sciences and a phD/masters requirement. You will likely want to target yourself as a mechanical engineer alternative versus a life sciences degree alternative.
     
  20. Sep 11, 2012 #70
    What's the best way to research current/pending patents?

    Is it realistic to file a patent without an attorney's help? Can loop holes easily by found/exploited?
     
  21. Sep 11, 2012 #71

    berned_you

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    "Google patents" is a nice tool for searching US patents and patent application publications. Public "PAIR" found at www.uspto.gov will allow you to view publicly available prosecution histories and maintenance fee payment statuses.

    Filing a patent application "pro se" without an attorney is similar to representing yourself in court without an attorney. It's likely not going to end well. The USPTO rules for patent prosecution are found in the MPEP, which is available online. Take a quick look at this monster of a book and you'll understand quickly how complicated it is. In addition, a patent attorney is familiar with recent and old case law that will greatly affect the way your patent is examined by the USPTO and a judge/jury during litigation. Preparing a patent application is an art and not a fill in the blanks activity. Every word I put in a patent application is considered and chosen for a specific reason - EVERY SINGLE WORD (even "a" versus "the" are chosen carefully and any patent attys reading this will quickly understand what I'm talking about). Even if you do manage to obtain a patent on your own, will it be valuable and/or enforceable? Obtaining a patent is not the whole objective. You need to get a patent that is effective in 1) protecting what you plan to manufacture; 2) prevent others from effective design arounds; and 3) encompassing any known competitive products if possible. Think of it this way, it if was straightforward to do yourself, why would companies and solo inventors pay $8-50K+ for a patent attorney to do it (and that's just the cost for filing a patent application, not the prosecution)?
     
  22. Sep 14, 2012 #72
    So is there a lot of traveling as a patent lawyer? I have a friend who is a patent lawyer and he is CONSTANTLY travelling to cases. But can patent lawyers do things other than patent litigation? I know you said it involved a lot of writing , but I would like to know if litigation is a must for patent lawyers? Reason I ask is because I am interested in patent law (I have an undergrad degree in Computer Engineering, Masters in Computer Engineering, and an MBA, all from a top engineering school), however, because I am disabled, I do not have the luxury of being able to travel a lot. If it were in-office work I would def go for it though. So, is there a lot of travelling nevessarily for patent law practice?
     
  23. Sep 14, 2012 #73

    berned_you

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    Generally, patent prosecutors don't travel too much as clients often send invention drawings and disclosure via email. Sometimes it's helpful to visit clients to develop your relationships with them, to see their manufacturing processes and oversize products in person and that might warrant a visit. Sometimes clients are local and they can come to you but there aren't many IP attorneys in smaller states or cities, which is why I have some clients from less metropolitan neighboring states. Occasionally, you may travel to meet with client who is not in your town. Patent litigators will travel a lot more. As you may appreciate, lawsuits can be filed all over the country and you don't always get to choose where you end up.
     
  24. Sep 23, 2012 #74
    hey, I'm in my final year of my undergraduate programme in the field of Biotechnology in India.
    I'm keen on pursuing a career in IP.

    1. Will it be better for me to do my masters in biotechnology before opting for a career in IP?
    2. I want to know whether there will be much of a difference in being a patent attorney and a patent agent (other than the qualifications). How does the work differ?
    3. Are there any courses available in USA, European countries to do masters in IP directly after my Bachelor's in biotechnology and then practice as a patent agent?
    4. As I’m from India, will I have to write LSAT other than GRE and TOEFL?
     
  25. Sep 23, 2012 #75

    berned_you

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    1. Yes, see prior discussion regarding biotech degrees
    2. There is a big difference. Patent agents will always do the leg work (hard work). Patent agents cannot give legal options (practice law) in the US so the work is much more limited in scope.
    3. Check out Pierce Law at the University of New Hampshire as they have a few IP LLM/Masters programs that are very popular with international students.
    4. To go to law school in the US you need to take the LSAT. To become a patent agent, you must pass the US Patent Bar Examination. You do not need to go to law school to be a patent agent.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2012
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