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Anyone considering a career as a patent attorney?

  1. 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.
     
  2. 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
     
  3. 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?
     
  4. 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
  5. 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,
     
  6. 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.
     
  7. 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).
     
  8. 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!
     
  9. 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.
     
  10. 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?
     
  11. 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)?
     
  12. 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?
     
  13. 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.
     
  14. 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?
     
  15. 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
  16. Oct 2, 2012 #76
    I am so glad to find this forum. I am currently a PHD candidate in environmental engineering and I absolutly do not want to be an engineer after all these years of school. But I do love doing the research work. I was talking to a professor about patent law/agent and I am wondering if being an agent with a PHD will give me good career options or is it better that I get the law degree? Also how long did it take to get a law degree after completing your engineering degree?
     
  17. Oct 2, 2012 #77

    berned_you

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    Environmental engineering is not a typical background for a patent attorney but it's not a bad one. I'm just not sure how much a pHD will be valued by employers. In any case, it wont hurt.

    Law school is three years minimum (took me three years and most full time programs are 3 years). You can't do school any faster because the ABA wont let you - it's BS.
     
  18. Oct 3, 2012 #78
    Hi, thanks for the wonderful forum.

    I am mechanical engineer and have 10+ automotive, manufatcuring experience. i am in mid 90's salary. i am thinking to change my career to patemt agent and eventually patent attorney. what are your thoughts? how should i pursue?
     
  19. Oct 4, 2012 #79

    berned_you

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    I would expect that you would take a salary cut as a patent agent. You may also not be thrilled with your salary as a patent attorney after spending $120K on school and losing three years of income and benefits. When you start off, you will either be making about what you are now with a 40 hour work week or you will be working 60-70/hrs a week and making a lot more but essentially working two jobs. That is...if you can find a job. The market stinks right now. If it's what you really want to do, it will all be worth it but certainly don't do it for the money because you may find yourself sorely disappointed.

    If you are really just looking for ways to move up the ladder because you feel you have reached the top with your current job, consider a MBA instead. Engineers with experience and an MBA can transition easily to the management side of companies and this can be very lucrative and provide you with a lot of flexibility with respect to what jobs you are qualified for. Employers are also often willing to pay tuition for their employee's MBAs and it's an easier program to do overall. It's also easier to go to school for part time while getting your MBA so you can continue enjoy an income while in school. Lastly, I have yet to meet a MBA graduate having a hard time finding a job within my circle of friends. The story for my law school grad friends is quite different.
     
  20. Oct 4, 2012 #80
    Thanks for your quick reply. Can I start as a part time agent (after taking bar exam) and that way gain some experience to switch to full time agent to keep my salary more or less the same? what are the prospects of part time patent agent?
     
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