Digesting Patents: The Role of the Patent Analyst


Thousands of patents are filed every day, covering a wide range of products from new genetic sequences and the latest communications technology, to eccentric inventions such as concentrated beer tablets, nappies for pet birds, and Chinese herbal medicines for purging evil and curing death!

Patents are a valuable source of information for companies wishing to be at the forefront of their technology, but how do they keep up with the constant onslaught of new patents and sort the useful from the frankly wacky? This is where Derwent Information comes in.

Derwent provides value-added patent and scientific information to a wide customer base, including major pharmaceutical, chemical, engineering, and electronics companies, patent offices, research organisations, and the financial and legal sectors. Top companies use our products because patent, journal, and conference data from all over the world are summarised, classified, and indexed to produce high-quality, easily readable, and searchable abstracts available in one database--the Derwent World Patents Index--and on several platforms and formats. These data allow customers to keep up with technological advances and competitor activities to prevent patent infringement and to ensure that their own research is new.

If you had asked me a year ago, who or what Derwent was, I wouldn't have had a clue. So how did I end up working here? I graduated in 2000 from University College London with a physiology and pharmacology degree, and an overdraft facility pushed to the extreme! Whilst mulling over my options in the university careers library, I realised that I had no desire to be, or experiment on, a laboratory rat. What did interest me was patent law, a mixture of science, language, and law. So, I went to the London Graduate Fair to explore further career options and it was there that I found out about Derwent and its patent analysts.

The role of an analyst is to summarise the content of a patent to produce a clear and concise abstract, identifying key areas of interest, such as what is new and the use and advantages of the invention. The analyst must then classify, code, and index the patent according to the subject area, which enables customers to quickly find patents of interest.

When I first started, most of my time was spent training. This involved learning more about what patents were, how to understand the legal jargon used, and how to select and précis the key areas of information. Length of training varies according to technology area but is usually 6 to 9 months. I work in a team of 10 people, with scientists from chemical or biological backgrounds. Even though you work on your own daily stack of patents, the ability to work as part of a team is essential. I find sitting next to several people with chemistry training extremely helpful when I encounter strange chemical names or structures that mean nothing to me.

As an analyst, you can work on a variety of patents from all over the world. They vary in length, time to process, and subject, but typically in a day I will work on 10 to 20 patents. Some, especially those claiming genetic sequences, are huge documents, requiring superhuman strength to even lift!

Most of the patents I work on are similar in nature, so there is a large degree of repetition and routine. However, as a patent analyst, you work on cutting-edge science information constantly. You have the opportunity to read and find out about the next big thing before it reaches the masses. In fact, a project called Technology Trends was set up by Derwent analysts specifically to spot new trends, changes in technology, and also to find the stranger patents that are an endless source of amusement. The information compiled by the Technology Trends team helps all Derwent's staff keep up to date, and is used by the marketing department to provide customers with examples of emerging trends.

Projects like Technology Trends give analysts the opportunity to add variety to their routine and develop and improve skills other than their technical ones. There is scope to work on cross-departmental project teams, to voice ideas and opinions on how to solve specific problems, and find more efficient procedures. It is very satisfying to see an idea that you have contributed to develop and make a difference to the day-to-day running of the company.

In the time that I have been at Derwent, I have been involved in several projects. I am part of the New Starters Initiative, which was set up to address issues for new Derwent recruits, such as improving provision of information and training, as well as to provide social events for them. I helped out on the Derwent stand at this year's graduate fair, and it was strange to think that at the same time last year, I was one of the many students talking to Derwent staff and handing in my CV. I have also been involved in a project team, producing training manuals for other trainees ... and let's not forget writing this article for Next Wave!

In addition to providing variety and developing skills, these projects give analysts the possibility to meet people within other departments, such as sales, product development, and customer services. Career development opportunities are available and insight into these areas is invaluable when thinking about your own career and future in Derwent. As an analyst you can progress to many different roles, positions such as team leader, trainer, sales manager, or senior analyst.

So where do I see myself in the future? I have had a brilliant year at Derwent; I like working at the cutting edge of science, using my scientific skills outside the laboratory, and the fantastic people and easygoing and friendly work atmosphere. I haven't got a crystal ball, but I plan to see what the next year brings, hopefully branching out into another area such as training.

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