00:22 Developing new products requires a huge investment of time and money,
00:29 and the theory is that companies won’t invest that time and money
00:35 if as soon as they launch a product somebody else is free to come along and copy it.
00:41 A patent is a document that gives the owner a monopoly for twenty years
00:49 for the thing that they have invented.
00:52 If I’m a pharmaceutical company and I come up with a new drug, a new pharmaceutical,
00:57 then a patent attorney like me will write a thing called a patent application,
01:03 which will describe the thing which has been invented,
01:06 so the new chemical compound and what its pharmaceutical effect is,
01:11 and then that gets filed as a patent application and then examined by patent officers all around the world,
01:18 and when each patent office is happy with it, then it gets granted as a patent
01:24 and that gives the holder of the patent
01:27 the right to stop other people from doing the thing that is defined in the patent for twenty years.
01:33 So a patent attorney is a kind of lawyer, but there are different kinds of lawyers in the UK.
01:39 Solicitors and barristers don’t have to be technically specialised,
01:45 whereas patent attorneys are specialised and we practice only in
01:51 the technical field which is related to the academic background that we have,
01:55 so my background is in chemistry, so I deal with things like pharmaceuticals, polymers,
02:01 batteries, food chemistry and that kind of thing.
02:05 I’ve been involved in the patent work for the product which is called Splenda,
02:10 which is a zero-calorie sweetener whose generic name is sucralose
02:15 and this was invented by Tate and Lyle,
02:21 and it was the first time that something that was intensely sweet
02:25 had been discovered that was actually a derivative of sugar itself.
02:36 The chemistry background’s absolutely essential to my daily work as a patent attorney,
02:42 it is absolutely critical to understand what it is that the inventors have done.
02:49 What I really enjoy about my job is the variety,
02:52 I’ll probably be doing something different in the morning from in the afternoon
02:57 and my practice covers a huge variety of different technical subjects.
03:03 Because patents are applied for nationally, all around the world, we have clients all around the world as well.
03:12 So as well as clients in the UK, I have clients in the USA, in Japan, in Australia
03:18 and so maybe not initially,
03:22 but when you become more senior,
03:24 most patent attorneys spend a significant amount of time travelling around the world visiting their clients.
03:35 For me and I think for most people,
03:38 becoming a patent attorney is a combination of two factors.
03:42 We’ve all started off studying a science subject and possibly doing research in it,
03:49 and most of us I think got fed up of that,
03:52 and I got to the stage where I thought if I ran another silica gel column I would probably go mad.
03:58 So I didn’t want to do research any more.
04:01 I think having some research experience is really valuable,
04:05 because I think it helps you to interact with researchers
04:10 who are the inventors that are fundamental to our work.
04:15 But I think it’s quite debateable whether the years spent doing research
04:20 are better spent having done that,
04:22 than having gained experience in the patent profession.
04:26 So I think if you haven’t done the research yet,
04:31 it might be better to try to enter the patent profession straight away.
04:35 But if you have done some research, then I think that research is very valuable.
04:40 When I joined the profession, it wasn’t actually very easy to find out about.
04:46 Not very many university careers departments knew a lot about it,
04:52 and patent firms didn’t have websites in those days either.
04:58 I happened to know about it because my mother had invented something
05:04 when I was a child and had consulted a patent attorney,
05:07 and also when I left university, a friend had become a patent attorney.
05:12 Nowadays I think it’s a lot easier, and I think university careers departments know about the patent profession,
05:18 will have information about it.
05:21 What we look for when we’re looking for potential trainee patent attorneys,
05:26 because it’s very difficult looking at a chemistry graduate and
05:29 deciding whether they’re going to be any good at this job,
05:32 is above all, very good English language skills,
05:37 and of course you have to be interested in the law.
05:40 You may not have done anything to show that before you enter the profession,
05:46 but I do think you need to think very carefully about whether the law is for you.