Why did you choose a career in the industry?
I’ve always enjoyed science but after I finished my chemistry degree and PhD and began to consider what career I might pursue, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to work in a lab. I considered a career in research or in scientific publishing but neither of these seemed quite right for me. I stumbled across the patent attorney profession by accident. However, when I looked into what it entailed, I soon realised that it enabled me to combine my enjoyment of writing and talking to people about science with an opportunity to use my science qualifications outside of a research setting, as well as the challenge of learning about intellectual property law.
How did you progress to the position you are in now?
I joined Carpmaels & Ransford in 1999 after completing my chemistry degree and my PhD at Imperial College, London. I spent a year at the firm as a technical assistant before I received further formal training in intellectual property law through Queen Mary University and also through various tutorials run by the firm. I qualified as a Chartered Patent Attorney and European patent attorney in 2003. Since passing my exams I have continued to develop my career through working on a wide variety of cases with a broad range of subject matter for clients ranging from individual inventors to multinational companies. There are always new things to learn, whether it be developments in technology or keeping up to date with changes in patent law and practice.
What is a typical day for you?
As a Senior Associate at the firm my day to day work is incredibly varied and I handle a broad range of chemical and light mechanical subject matter. I manage various client portfolios and I work closely with those clients to ensure the right strategies are in place to protect their inventions. On any given day, for example, I may be speaking or writing to inventors or attorneys working in-house for our clients, writing legal and technical arguments to counter objections raised by patent examiners and drafting a new patent specification. The focus of my work is to develop strategies which contribute to the commercial success of the businesses I work with.
As a senior member of the team I have additional responsibilities. One of these is to supervise and train some of my junior colleagues, which means I spend a substantial part of my day reading their work and talking to them about the technical and legal aspects of their cases and discussing the best approach to take when communicating these aspects to our client or to the patent offices. In addition, I am responsible for ensuring that we support and develop the client relationships of our sector groups. This means I have the opportunity to travel to meet clients and potential clients. I find that meeting clients face to face gives me a greater understanding of their businesses and the goals they have, which means I am better placed to work with them to optimise their patent strategy.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
One of my favourite parts of my job is meeting inventors when they are at the initial stages of developing their ideas and inventions. This is the stage when there is the opportunity for me to work out what it is that they have invented and to use that information to get the best patent protection for them. I find it really interesting to see the practical application of the inventions I am involved in protecting.
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into the industry?
I think the most important thing is to talk to people in the industry; this is a niche profession and a demanding one so it is important to understand what you might be getting into. Some firms offer open days or internships and these can provide a great opportunity to get an understanding of the profession and listen to the experiences of those involved.