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Careers Centre

Patents and trademarks

About this sector

You can read information about role responsibilities, salary, working hours, what to expect, qualifications, skills, work experience, career prospects and related roles on the following Prospects Job Profiles:

You might also see other job profiles of interest in the Information, research and analysis profiles page (which gives links to the 26 profiles in the sector).

 

How to gain experience/internships

Finding practical work experience in patent departments and firms is rare given the variety of work and the issues surrounding client/invention confidentiality protocols, but there are a limited number of opportunities out there. Come into the Careers Centre and take away the Inside Careers guide which lists companies who may be willing to offer work experience. Talking to patent attorneys or examiners and visiting firms of patent attorneys before applying for jobs will greatly increase your chances.

The CIPA has an online directory where you can search for firms of patent attorneys by location. Use this facility to try and arrange visits or if possible work-shadowing with firms. Given the issues associated with providing work experience in the patent offices, employers in the sector look for breadth of scientific ability over prior experience within the world of patents.

Open Days

Also, see the websites of those listed in CIPA’s directory of companies to find out when companies will be hosting open events or when they will visit universities or fairs.

Some firms such as Mewburn Ellis, Marks & Clerk and Carpmaels & Ransford run open days where you can gain an insight into a career in patents.

Internships

Boult Wade Tennant, EIP, Dehns, World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), The Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market, the European Patent Office and Haseltine Lake offer internship schemes. Graduate placements can also be had from Marks & Clerk, Murgitroyd & Co, the World Intellectual Property Office and the European Patent Office.

Opportunities can sometimes be found through networking and speculative approaches and you can also check LinkedIn for possible contacts.

How to find a (graduate) job

One of the first things to think about when starting your job search is to consider whether you would prefer to work in an industrial patents office, in a private firm of patent attorneys, or whether you would like to work as a trade mark attorney. For help making this decision, see Inside Careers’ ‘Areas of Work: private and corporate practice’, an informative and slightly tongue-in-cheek look at the different departments. Once you have decided, you can begin to send speculative applications to prospective employers – see CIPA’s directory of employers listed below for companies to potentially apply to. It's also worth remembering that, based on the subjects you studied at university, there might be particular companies to which you would be especially suited to work for.

Patent firms tend to recruit on a largely ad hoc basis, and so it is best to register your interest and to look for vacancies as soon as you decide to follow it as a career path.

Recruitment in the sector can be unpredictable, with patent offices recruiting across a range of subjects and disciplines, with the type of graduate they look for varying year by year. Many firms (particularly the smaller ones) will recruit only when they lose staff or can afford to broaden their employee base. Many of the larger firms advertise vacancies on their own websites, but patent firms will normally advertise trainee positions through Inside Careers, whilst also utilising graduate directories or websites such as New Scientist.

Applications, interviews and assessment centres

As the annual number of vacancies in the sector can be small compared to other industries, those interested in a career in patents should apply speculatively – show an interest to employers by sending them your CV which clearly shows your interest and ability in the sector as well as a personal interest in their company and an explanation of why you are interested. A demonstrable interest in science and in law will be advantageous.

Many firms include a written exercise as part of their selection process and so good writing skills and skills in communication are required.

The structure, content and style of the interview can vary hugely between firms. Some will focus on technical questions whilst others will be more interested in learning what you know about the profession, or about their company in particular, and why you want to be part of it as well as what you feel you can offer the company. Many graduates who have had interviews for patent positions recall that they have been asked to explain how a piece of machinery functions to show they could correctly assess and understand new inventions that might be brought to them.

If you are offered a position at more than one firm, there are many factors you should bear in mind when deciding between them. These include consideration of how the companies provide for your training in the lead up to your exams.

When writing your CV and attending an interview or assessment centre, remember Inside Careers’ ‘Ten essential skills for patent attorneys’ and Inside Careers ‘How to apply to patent firms

Relevant Postgraduate Study

As has been stated above, a postgraduate qualification might help you stand out during application processes, but it is very rare for employers in the sector to request a postgraduate degree. If you would like to complete a postgraduate course with the intention of going into patent work afterwards, ensure that your degree is science or engineering-based, as the selection pool for the industry is almost exclusive to these disciplines.

A postgraduate qualification can be an advantage when it comes to searching for a job, but remember that the caseload of the patent attorney can vary widely between different subject areas, and so it is often unlikely that they are able to concentrate solely on applications in one particular field unless they work in-house. Regardless, having a PhD can help you stand out during the application stages.

Inside Careers recommends the following institutions for further study:

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