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Patent Lawyers

  1. May 25, 2010 #1
    What exactly do patent lawyers do. I heard you need a strong science background so I was wondering. I know they give patents but why the science background. What are some good majors before law school are good for this and how much education in science is good before becoming a patent lawyer? Also is astronomy or physics good for this?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 25, 2010 #2
    Good job on encumbering technology for all- go for your monetary dreams.
  4. May 27, 2010 #3
    what? (bump)
  5. May 27, 2010 #4
    I have no idea what luma meant. However, I have heard that a science background is important because one must be able to understand the technology involved in order to patent it well. I am still looking for more information on it myself. From what I understand, it doesn't really matter what science degree you get (engineering, physics, etc.), just that it is a science degree.

    From my research so far, it appears that with a Bachelor's in the sciences, one can make pretty good money (about $70-90k/year) as a patent agent. To become a patent lawyer, one must then go to law school and get the law degree. They make significantly more money per year because they are actually able to represent their clients in court, which the agents are not allowed to do.

    I would like to understand more about what the day-to-day workings for a patent agent and attorney. All I know is that they help inventors or companies to protect their intellectual property with patents.
  6. May 27, 2010 #5
    Thank you so much! Your extremely useful! I wish you lots of success. Could you tell me what degree you would get for this?
  7. May 27, 2010 #6
    Oh I'm not so sure either. But I believe patent lawyers or agents help get patents for peoples inventions and I think ideas ( I know that's obvious) but in this law you need to understand the science behind things to help your clients. Also I think what area of science you have your background is more helpful for certain clients than others. I hope this helps.
  8. May 27, 2010 #7
    Well, I am going for a Physics degree and stumbled across it as a possible career path. The nice thing with Physics for this (IMHO as a Physics Geek :blushing:) is that Physics gives a very broad base of scientific knowledge as well as honing one's logical thinking/problem-solving skills. I think that it probably provides an ideal education, though I can certainly see where an engineering degree would also be very useful for this career. My advice to you would be to follow your interests.

    My next step is going to be meeting with a patent agent or attorney and talking to them about what their job is like and start making connections for job prospects. I have heard that it is a high demand field and I want to make sure that reality jives with that. :cool:

    Good luck! I'm glad I could help.
  9. May 27, 2010 #8


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    They need the science to understand the inventions they are writing patents for.
  10. May 27, 2010 #9
    As has been noted patent agents and patent lawyers perform very different functions.

    Patent agents have a scientific degree and have passed the appropriate test (patent bar in the US). Most patent agents work for the US government. These patent agents are paid well, but descriptions of their quality of life at work vary dramatically. Most say that the work is long, not always interesting, and heavily favors pushing paperwork across your desk as quickly as possible At one point turnover for new hires was extremely high and they began implementing changes to improve this; I’m not sure it helped. I have talked to just a couple of people who enjoyed their work there, so do your own research and see what you think.

    As for those agents working outside the gov’t, most are working for companies applying for patents, and a few are working for law firms that deal with IP. The corp jobs always sounded reasonably good, but wherever you go in the private sector as an agent, you’re always overshadowed by patent lawyers that have much more power and much higher wages than you do, and I’ve read complaints where patent agents always felt like administrative staff - they were the secretaries that did the ugly work, not the interesting work.

    Once a patent is filed, it is the responsibility of the patent holder to make sure it is enforced, and they do so by filing legal suits in which patent lawyers seek damages or injunctions against other companies. While a patent lawyer needs a science background and must also pass the patent bar, their career track is otherwise very similar to other lawyers, and their work life is similar to other lawyers working for companies or law firms. A great deal has been written on that elsewhere.

    The most important suggestion I can give to anyone considering these lines of work is to understand what the US patent system is and is not.

    The US patent system is not a system where inventors come up with great ideas and profit off them. I’m not saying it never happens, but as a percentage of filed patents and filed lawsuits, it is terrifically small.

    The US patent system is a confusing, poorly designed, poorly maintained legal system in which a few players desperately try to acquire enough patent rights to either extort money from companies currently in a similar line of work or shut out entries into their marketplace. There’s a tremendous body of evidence that suggests current patent law may actually slow the pace of innovation, rather than foster it.

    You can tell I’m not a fan of US IP law or its current application, but as strange as it sounds I actually think it could still be a lot of fun to work in. My personal opinion is to only go the patent agent route if you’re going to then go law and become a patent lawyer, and then only if you know what you’re getting into. Once you’ve done your research, if you are still excited about it, I think patent law can be a very rewarding career.
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