Patent Attorney Job Description

  • Thomas Cserep
  • Jun 17 2022

Pursuing a career in law may not seem the most conventional career pathway for physics students. However, the legal industry needs graduates who have a background in the sciences.


Patent attorneys – who are they?

Patent attorneys are legal professionals who guide companies through the procedure of obtaining a patent for their products. 

This means that once patented, the products in question could only be manufactured by or on behalf of that particular business. The production of the commodity by anyone else would be considered an infringement of intellectual property.

But why should physicists get involved in this area of the legal industry?

Patent attorneys actually need to have a background in the sciences. This is because they need to have a thorough comprehension of the technical aspects of the product they are working with.  

From understanding the manufacturing process to being able to recount every part of the commodity, patent attorneys need to know the product like the back of their hand.

How to become a patent attorney?

To start your career as a patent attorney, you need to study a technical subject such as computer science, engineering or one of the sciences. 

A physics degree will allow you to specialise in products that use technology linked to the discipline; for example, commodities that utilise the latest technology in electronics and photonics.

Once you have completed your undergraduate degree, you need to qualify as a patent attorney before you can practice independently. In order to do this, you need to work as a trainee patent attorney for 2 years. It involves both studying and on-the-job training. 

Before being approved by the UK Register of Patent Attorneys, you must pass a series of examinations to complete your qualification. 

Many candidates opt to do a master’s degree that specialises in the area of patent law or intellectual property law as well. This not only speeds up the qualification process, but also enables you to gain a better understanding of the discipline and be more attractive to employers.

It’s also possible to enter the field by working towards the role. For example, you could find a job as a patent attorney assistant or trainee, and then complete additional training to qualify. It’s also possible to secure a job if you’re a qualified solicitor with experience of working in intellectual property. 

The day-to-day responsibilities of patent attorneys

As we have stated earlier, patent attorneys support companies in patenting their products. Businesses often would like to patent numerous commodities. However, the process is expensive and may take up to two or three years. 

Patent attorneys help clients evaluate whether it is worth patenting a particular commodity and draw up a timeline for the procedure. 

Once the product has been selected, the patent attorney drafts an application on behalf of the company. 

They conduct research on whether there are any similar products out there on the market and provide a description of the commodity in question that is both technical and includes all the legal terminology necessary.

Throughout the process, the patent attorney responds to any queries by examiners and may even represent the client at court if a controversy arises over the patenting of the product.

What skills should patent attorneys have?

Patent attorneys who specialise in products that are built upon the principles of physics not only need to have a good knowledge of the subject, but also have to understand how the product works in a short period of time. 

They need to develop sound communication skills, both for arguing why a product should be patented and for drafting the legal documents that are required to get the approval from the patent examiners. 

Physicists and lawyers need to be able to consider arguments and theories from different perspectives, meaning the skills you develop on your undergraduate degree are transferable to a career as a patent attorney.

Whilst they may appear as completely different disciplines on the surface, a career as a patent attorney promises physicists a lucrative and exciting role in the legal industry.