Patent attorneys assess whether inventions or designs are innovative or new, and therefore eligible to be patented.
What does a Patent Attorney do?
Patent attorneys assess whether inventions or designs are innovative or new, and therefore eligible to be patented. Patent attorneys carry out similar roles to trade mark lawyers, although patent attorneys do not always have legal qualifications. Trade mark lawyers provide representation and advice in relation to trade marks and other forms of intellectual property such as copyright, designs, and domain names,
As a patent attorney, you would:
- find out details of the invention, innovation or design
- search existing patents to check the invention or design is original
- advise about the chances of being granted a patent for the invention or design
- write a patent draft - a detailed legal description of the invention or design
- preparing, drafting and filing your patent in Australia and overseas
- lodge official documents with IP Australia
- answer questions from patent examiners
- advise clients whose patent rights may have been broken
- represent clients if a case comes to court
- advise on other intellectual property issues such as design rights, industrial design, copyright and trade marks
- keep up to date with intellectual property law.
Many patent attorneys are also qualified trade mark lawyers. In-house trade mark lawyers help preserve or enhance a company's trademarks, including use, registration and protection issues.
Key skills and interests
To become a patent attorney, you would need:
- an understanding of intellectual property law
- scientific or technical expertise
- excellent verbal and written communication skills
- the ability to explain complex technical information clearly
- an eye for detail and an inquisitive mind
- good research skills
- the ability to structure a precise, coherent argument.
Working hours and conditions
Patent attorneys typically work standard office hours, Monday to Friday, possibly with occasional overtime to meet deadlines.
You would be based in an office, but may also travel to meet clients or attend court. It is possible to become a self-employed patent attorney, either by taking on freelance work or by setting up your own patent agency.
How to become an Patent Attorney?
Entry Level Education
In order to become a registered patent attorney in Australia, you must first have a bachelor's degree in a scientific or engineering discipline. You do not have to be a qualified lawyer. You must then pass an accredited course of study that satisfies the requirements of registration, be an ordinary resident of Australia, and have worked with a registered patent attorney or been employed practising patent matters on behalf of a company, or been an examiner of patents for at least one year.
The most common method of qualification is to work with a firm of patent attorneys as a Technical Assistant (or TA) while studying to pass the examinations set by the Professional Standards Board for Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys.
Trade mark lawyers must be qualified in law. To become a lawyer you usually have to complete a degree in law at university. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your senior secondary school certificate or equivalent with English. You can also undertake a combined degree in law and another discipline. The prerequisite subjects required for entry into these combined courses also depend on the chosen non-law component..
In order to be eligible for admission to practice law, it is necessary to complete an accredited program of practical legal training (PLT) on completion of your degree. On completion of the required academic and practical legal training you may apply to the Supreme Court in your State for admission as a lawyer.
In some States, you can also become a lawyer by completing an accredited Diploma in Law, followed by a period of practical legal training.
Employment of patent attorneys is projected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Companies and individuals are increasingly wanting to protect their trademarks and apply for patents, which will create employment opportunities for patent attorneys. Patent attorneys who are also qualified trademark lawyers are likely to be able to find employment more easily, especially if they are self-employed.