Patent Agents, also known as patent attorneys, work in the field of 'Intellectual Property' rights. These rights cover the protection of inventions, designs, ideas and related issues such as copyright, by means of a patent. A patent is a right granted by the Government Patent Office to individuals or companies to protect new innovations.
Patent agents work to establish the originality of an invention, idea or design by drafting detailed technical descriptions and definitions; legal drafts are then prepared to secure a patent. Searches are conducted to check the invention against existing patents and the patent attorney must answer challenges from patent examiners, working for the Patent Office.
Patent agents also advise the individual or company on legal and technical issues surrounding the patent.
Patents can protect new inventions for a fixed period of time up to a maximum of 20 years. Protection prohibits the use by others, of a particular invention or process; if this is infringed, patent agents work with the inventor on the legal avenues to enforce their rights.
Patent attorneys can now obtain litigators’ rights, which give them the power to represent clients in High Court, either along with or instead of a barrister.
Almost all patent agents belong to the Register of Patent Agents and can work within patent departments of large firms, industrial bodies and the Government.
Most patent agents now also work in the European patent field as European patent attorneys. Many are also qualified trademark attorneys working in trademark law.
Patent agents usually work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday; hours may vary depending on workload. Work is mainly office based but some travel may be involved, especially overseas.
To be a patent agent, you should:
There are around 1,500 registered patent agents in the UK; the majority work in private practice offering consultancy advice to individuals and companies; the remainder work for large commercial organisations and the Government.
Some patent agents move into executive and senior management positions, others take up opportunities to work overseas, especially with multinational companies.
Vacancies for trainee positions are very competitive. The CIPA provide a list of patent agencies and departments who can be contacted about technical assistant opportunities.
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