Patent attorneys advise clients on how to apply for patents on new inventions, designs or processes.
Salary range: £23,000 to £100,000
How to become a patent attorney
You can get into this job through:
- a university course
- working towards this role
- applying directly
You’ll usually need a degree in a scientific, engineering, mathematical or technical subject. A postgraduate qualification in science or engineering may give you an extra advantage.
Once you finish your course, you can apply to work as a trainee in a patent office and study for professional exams while you work. It usually takes a minimum of 2 years to qualify.
You may be able to take a postgraduate award in law or intellectual property law, which can count towards qualification as a patent attorney. Many patent attorney trainees are sent on one of these courses by their employers.
If you do a course that covers intellectual property or patent law, it may exempt you from some of the professional training.
You’ll usually need:
- 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
- a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study
- equivalent entry requirements
- student finance for fees and living costs
- university courses and entry requirements
You could start your career by finding work as a technical assistant or trainee patent attorney. This may be in a firm of attorneys, or in an industrial patent department. Once working, you would take further training to qualify. This route can take between 4 and 6 years.
You may be able to find work without a scientific or engineering degree if you’ve got high-level technical experience in industry. This may also apply if you’re a qualified solicitor with experience of working in intellectual property rights.
- you can register with the Intellectual Property Regulation Board
It may help in some jobs if you can read French and German to a reasonable level, as clients often want advice about European patents, which can be prepared in English, French or German.
You can find more details about working in intellectual property rights from The Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys.
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- legal knowledge including court procedures and government regulations
- knowledge of English language
- excellent verbal communication skills
- active listening skills
- analytical thinking skills
- the ability to read English
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- the ability to think clearly using logic and reasoning
- to be able to use a computer and the main software packages confidently
What you’ll do
Your day-to-day duties may include:
- meeting inventors or manufacturers
- searching existing patents to check the invention or design is original
- advising about the chances of being granted a patent
- writing a detailed legal description of the invention or design – known as a patent draft
- applying for patents to the UK Intellectual Property Office or European Patent Office
- answering questions from patent examiners
- advising clients whose patent rights may have been broken
- representing clients if a case comes to court
- advising on other issues like design rights and copyright
- keeping up-to-date with intellectual property law
- coaching new trainees
You could work in a court, in an office or at a client’s business.
Career path and progression
With experience, you could become an associate or partner in a private practice firm.
In industry, you could move into management or research and development. You could also choose to become a patent examiner with the UK Intellectual Property Office or European Patent Office.
You could become a European patent attorney and work internationally.