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Careers in Patent Law

WANTED: Team players with an impeccable science background and a flair for analysis. Excellent written and verbal communication skills are a must, as are flexibility and the facility to handle many varied tasks simultaneously and on tight deadlines. Benefits include exposure to the very latest scientific breakthroughs and a generous salary.

If this fictitious ad has piqued your interest, then a career in patent law may be for you!

As you may remember from our first feature on Scientists as Patent Professionals, patent law is a fast-paced field, and opportunities abound for scientists from all disciplines. But it has been 5 years since Science's Next Wave brought you that feature, and in that time, the landscape has changed considerably for would-be patent attorneys, agents, and technical specialists. Not only has the science changed (who would have thought 5 years ago that we'd have a sequenced human genome?), but so have some of the hiring practices (it is becoming commonplace in biotech patent law for employers to hire Ph.D.s).

In addition to exploring some familiar terrain, we have also expanded our coverage this go-around, providing stories on hiring trends and jobs that don't require a law degree, as well as essays from patent professionals around the world.

So, sit back and enjoy our offerings on the career where you can be involved in cutting-edge research without having to run the experiments yourself!

Sarah Thompson has just joined a patent firm in the UK as a trainee patent agent. In her essay, Thompson describes how she prepared herself for a patent law career and offers advice to other job seekers.

Deborah Katz went to law school after completing a postdoc in cell biology. Katz discusses the ups and downs of her transition to patent law, admitting that although it wasn't easy, it was well worth the effort.

Gordon Stark, a technical assistant on his way to becoming a full-fledged patent agent, tells us all about the 11 dreaded qualification exams that must be passed before becoming "UK qualified."

Patent attorney Ian Hiscock answers the oft-asked question, "So what do you do?" In his essay, Hiscock explains what he does as a patent attorney, as well as what it is like to work at a company instead of a firm.

Shonagh McVean's essay hammers home the importance of networking--a "chance conversation" with an acquaintance led her away from research and toward a career in patent law. Now an intellectual property lawyer in Canada, McVean describes the profession she loves and how she got there.

For a partner's perspective, check out Kristina Cornish's essay. Cornish gives us the inside scoop on what employers are looking for in applicants.

Kathleen Marsman tells us about "A Well-Kept Secret"--being a patent agent in Canada.

But what if you want to make the big decision as to what gets patented? Mark Weaver tells us what it's like to be a patent agent at the European Patent Office.

Uwe Ausfelder left a job in nuclear power to wield patent-granting power at the German Patent and Trademark Office (GPTO). Ausfelder explains how an invention gets patent protection in Germany and describes the skills necessary to be a patent examiner at the GPTO.

And whether you are a CEO or a PI, you'll want to take a look at what former attorney Alex Thian has to say about intellectual property rights and why they are important.

From chemical transformations to a career transformation: Read James Austin's story about Paul Dietze, a chemistry professor turned patent attorney.

Deciding on a new career is not a simple matter. Johnalyn Lyles tells us about her plans to pursue a career in patent law after she finishes her Ph.D. in pharmacology.

What is a "patent analyst?" Geeho Liu explains her duties as a patent analyst at Derwent Information.

Not exactly champing at the bit to go back to school? That's ok. As Vid Mohan-Ram tells it, you don't have to go to law school to work in patent law! Mohan-Ram describes satisfying alternatives to becoming a lawyer in the U.S. and also fills us in on the situation in Europe.

Although patent law is quickly becoming a very popular "alternative" career for scientists, there are still opportunities to be had--if you know where (and how) to look for them. Katie Cottingham reports on hiring trends in patent law in the U.S., with additional reporting on the situation in Europe from UK editor Kirstie Urquhart and German editor Eick von Ruschkowski.

Charles Boulakia has seen the future and it is full of maps! Boulakia gives us a peek at a brand new area of patent law-- patent mapping--which requires a blend of scientific, legal, and business acumen.

Attention: Scientists! Be careful what you tell your colleagues if you want to patent your brand-new discovery. As Vid Mohan-Ram writes, you may ruin your chances of obtaining a patent if you spill the beans too early.

So, you've decided to explore your options in patent law. But where do you turn? Check out our extensive resources page, compiled and edited by Ric Weibl, for additional stories on patent law careers, as well as links to international patent law Web sites.