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  • Role: Patent Assistant
  • Location: London
  • University: UCL
  • Degree: PhD Organic Chemistry
  • Organisation: Potter Clarkson

Jenna Ahern

I started as a trainee patent attorney at Potter Clarkson in November 2010. I decided after completing a PhD in organic chemistry that lab research was not for me, and having researched the patent profession in some detail, I decided that training as a patent attorney sounded like an exciting and challenging profession to work in.

The thought of having to pass exams again was a bit daunting. However, working in a firm with a large number of other trainees at different stages of their careers helps when there are things you do not understand. After all, there is no better person to ask than someone who has already passed the exams that you are about to sit.

Here at Potter Clarkson I have weekly in house tutorials providing me with the legal knowledge that I will need to pass the Foundation exams that I will be sitting this year. Leading up to the exams, I will also attend revision courses that run over a few days to further assist me in preparing for them. However, for me, there is no better training than learning through the real cases that you are given to deal with on a day to day basis.

At Potter Clarkson, I have been involved with lots of different cases from my very first day. I work under the supervision of a Partner and a Senior Associate who both provide me with work to complete. Even though I have a chemistry background, the subject matter of the patent applications I deal with is very varied and is not limited to my own technical area.

One thing that I particularly like about working here is the amount of help and guidance that is available; everybody’s door is always open and there is always someone to ask if you are unsure about anything. Having everyone working together at one office in Nottingham means that all areas of technical expertise are in one place and I often find myself going to ask people in other specialist groups for assistance.

After a patent is granted, a third party (perhaps a competitor) is able to file for revocation or limitation of the granted patent, which is known as an opposition.

The Partner that I work for is involved in a lot of oppositions before the European Patent Office (EPO) and often has to attend hearings at the EPO, which is how they are resolved.

I am already able to get involved in some of this work, which for me is one of the most interesting parts of the job. For example, it may be defending a patent that is commercially important to one of our clients, or it may be filing an opposition against the granted patent of a third party.

Some of the other trainees that have been at the firm slightly longer than me are now involved in answering queries from potential new clients about drafting, or filing patent applications for new inventions and providing advice about the requirements involved in obtaining a patent.

Life as a trainee patent attorney is never boring; there is always something new to work on and it is exciting to see how the cases that you have contributed to progress through their prosecution. The stand out point for me about the job is the varied nature of the work that I do; I am able to learn new ideas and expand my legal knowledge every day and there are always new cases on my desk presenting something different and challenging.

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