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Overview of patent and intellectual property law

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Replies to: Overview of patent and intellectual property law

  • dadofsamdadofsam Registered User Posts: 1,635 Senior Member
    LaBarrister: My understanding is that, in general, all ABET accredited engineering schools are considered roughly equivalent in terms of the quality of their education. I don't understand, therefore, your comment that you school might not be in the "top 100".

    But you do need to get really good undergraduate grades, both for having a good basis for future employment (either as an engineer or as a patent attorney) and to have the requisites for law school admission.

    As for the law schools you mentioned, Gorgetown and UCLA have national reputations and GW and Davis have excellent local reputations and are also known outside their localities. Consequently they aren't that easy to get into.
  • GoodNightNellGoodNightNell Registered User Posts: 32 Junior Member
    Some questions I hope someone can answer

    1. (EE student here) How important is industry experience?

    2. Is it true that software patents are easy enough for EE's to handle?

    3. Do firms hire students straight out of undergrad to work as patent agent/technical specialists?
  • dadofsamdadofsam Registered User Posts: 1,635 Senior Member
    GoodnightNell:

    It's difficult to answer your qustions exactly because they are not specific enough. Nevertheless:

    In becoming a patent attorney, industry experience can be very helpful, especially in distinguishing oneself from other job applicants who might not have it. In today's economy, that's what you have to do to get a good position, especially if you have little or no experience in IP law. In fact, that's often what one has to do to get ANY position nowadays.

    Law firms do hire some people to become technical advisors but I suspect they would prefer to hire people with advanced degrees, if they can get such people. However, again, if you have some special industry experience, that could make the difference between them hiring you or someone else.

    Both EEs and CS graduates can work on software patents. It really depends on one's particular background - courses taken or industry experience. In some firms an EE wil be expected to work on software patents whether they prefer to or not, if that's what the workload is.
  • SmoatsSmoats Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
    Wow, this thread is amazingly helpful, and is such a change from the doom-and-gloom attitude about employment. Thank you for that.

    I have a quick question for you. I seriously toyed with the idea of becoming a patent attorney in high school, but I really REALLY liked physics. So I got a BS in physics, and loved astronomy so much that I went into grad school. Well, lo and behold, I HATED the drudgery of research at grad school. I decided to get the MS in astronomy, and am now enrolled at UNH Law School (Franklin Pierce).

    So my problem is this: many companies/firms look more favorably on people with engineering backgrounds. I feel like I need to prove that my physics background is an asset for the breadth of knowledge I have - so even though I didn't do engineering, I can understand technologies related to EE, Mech E, and especially optics.

    In addition, my MS is in astronomy, which is actually heavily physics based (but is generally thought of as just learning constellations - not simulating the physics of black holes). How can I convince people that there is value in my background?
  • dadofsamdadofsam Registered User Posts: 1,635 Senior Member
    Dear Smoats: I'm not in the employment/recruiting business but some people on this thread are, and should be able to give you better advice than I can. Hopefully by the time you graduate law school the employment picture for new attorneys will be better than it is right now.

    My experience has been that B.S. physics majors are generally considered to be equivalent to BSEEs as far as technical competence is concerned, but it really depends on the technologies of the company or the law firm's clients (on the other had, some years back I was asked to review patent applications written by a Ph.D. physicist on some new semiconductor materials and they had serious problems in describing the chemistry involved. But that might have been due to individual skills of the person who wrote them and not due to his having had a Ph.D.).

    I would suggest that, as least, your resume state clearly what physics courses were involved in your astronomy degree. I don't guarantee that anyone will read that section, but you could at least mention them.
  • phillylawyerphillylawyer Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
    I may or may not end up being a college student again, but this thread seems to have the best collection of IP job search advice, so it's worth a try.

    During undergrad, I majored in political science purely because I enjoy it; although I originally planned to become a defense attorney, by the time I graduated, I had fallen in love with copyright law as a hobby. After finishing my BA, I went to a T1 law school and took a bunch of IP classes (specifically geared toward copyright and trademark--in my IP general overview class, I ended up enjoying trademark almost as much as copyright), intending to become a copyright lawyer. It was a rude awakening to graduate in the 2008 legal job environment and discover that every law firm advertising a copyright- or trademark-specific position required patent-bar eligibility (I assume "just in case?"). Had I known that during undergrad, I would have changed my major just to improve my chances of practicing copyright law.

    I ended up practicing in an area of law which, for various reasons, is not my cup of tea. Obviously, my first choice for a new job is copyright and/or trademark law, but I'm still running into the patent-bar eligibility problem, even with over three years of litigation and arbitration experience. I am now to the point of considering going back to school to get a BS in...something (I'm thinking electrical engineering), but I don't know if it's worth it when 1. I already have over $200K in school loan debt that we can barely afford to pay and 2. law firms are looking for MAs and PhDs.

    Is there some way I can position myself to practice copyright and/or trademark law without getting the science degree? It looks like a BS may suffice for an engineering degree, but since I will have zero experience actually using the engineering knowledge, will getting the BS even mean anything? I don't want to spend the money on a degree if it won't even be what firms are looking for.

    Thank you for any help you can offer.
  • dadofsamdadofsam Registered User Posts: 1,635 Senior Member
    Phillylawyer: This is the first time I have heard that patent-bar eligibility is required everywhere for a trademark or copyright attorney's position. I know that some law firms have preferred that, for flexibility. Perhaps Sallyawp or Cartera45 can comment; they're in the recruiting function.

    However, I don't recommend going back to college for a scientific degree. That's too drastic and too expensive.

    I would say two things, however.

    1. There are never many positions for new trademark or copyright attorneys, usually only a small number. And if people are not leaving law firms due to the economy, then there will be fewer openings.

    2. If you are looking in the Philadelphia area you probably are looking too narrowly. New York (the music business) or Calfornia (software, entertainment) would be more likely places (but of course you'll need to take another bar exam). Alternatively perhaps you don't have enough litigation experience yet to move into a law firm on that basis. See whether you can find a trademark or copyright partner in a local law firm and ask for an interview to gather information (emphasize that you are not looking for a job) and take him/her to lunch to ask for advice.
  • vandicevandice Registered User Posts: 42 Junior Member
    So I have some questions. I plan on going to UGA and doing a 3-1 type to get my bachelors and masters in computer science. I then was thinking about IP law. Would it be worth it to go to law school, financially wise? Or would the job market/debt doom me? And even more specifically, would I be doomed if I went to Duke, Emory or UGA law school? Obv duke and emory are better but would like to know on all of them. I'd like to stay in the Se
  • dadofsamdadofsam Registered User Posts: 1,635 Senior Member
    Vandice:

    My crystal ball isn't good enough to predict what the job market will be in 7 or 8 years, after you will have finished college and law school (if you carry out that plan).

    As I have advised many others on this thread, you should choose your college major based only on what subject you like and would do well in, and not on whether or not it would be a good basis for IP law.
  • dadofsamdadofsam Registered User Posts: 1,635 Senior Member
    We've been receiving the same question (phrased in various ways) from students in hig school or just beginning college, so I thought it was timely to re-post my comments on that question (original post # 53).

    For high school students

    Having seen repeated questions about preparing for a career in patent law written by students still in high school, and having given the same answer to all, I thought it would be useful to post it here on this thread, to make it easier to find.

    Again, this is my opinion.

    Since you are only in high school it's way too soon to be thinking in that vein. You're putting the cart before the horse. Instead you should be focusing on college admissions, including what you want to study. If you feel you want to study engineering or one of the sciences to see whether it's something you can do and like to study enough to put four years of work into getting that degree, then try that out. But don't decide on it as a path to becoming a patent attorney. Since you'll be spending a great deal of time over the next four years taking classes in that subject or related ones, first decide whether you like it well enough to spend the next four years learning about it. If not, then don't look to major in it; otherwise you'll be setting yourself up for the possibility of having four somewhat miserable years.

    At this time you have the opportunity of setting yourself up for a good or even great college experience, so look at things from that perspective. Then you might (or might not) be able to decide whether you would rather be an engineer/scientist or write about inventions (and by the way, there is plenty of science involved in that). You might even (eventually) decide to forget about law school entirely, or major in something else entirely.
  • EEJDInsDefEEJDInsDef Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
    I obtained a B.S. in electrical engineering from an average school with average grades. I was not really into it at the time, and used my ability to grasp the math to get through and get a degree. I graduated three months after 9/11 and the job market was not great, so I decided to go to law school, as many people did at that time. I went to a below average law school because it gave me a good scholarship, but did very well and graduated magna cum laude. For the last 7 years, I have been a practicing attorney doing insurance defense (civil) litigation. I have been relatively successful, but hate it. I am now trying to decide what it is I want to do, and am considering all my options. I am wondering if patent law is one of them. If so, I will study for the patent bar.

    Here is the hindering factor as I see it. I graduated from undergrad 12 years ago, and have not used my engineering education once in that time. My schooling is completely forgotten, and I'd be lucky if I could solve even the most basic calculus, physics, or intro to electronics problem. My degree shows I am capable, and qualifies me to sit for the patent bar, but other than that it is a worthless piece of paper.

    So, my questions are:

    1) do I need to actually have that engineering knowledge I probably once had, but now do not, to work as a patent attorney?

    2) Will employers test me on that knowledge before even hiring me, leaving me with no shot at employment even after I pass the patent bar?

    3) Finally, would I find it difficult to break into an entry level position with my background?

    Thank you in advance for any guidance.
  • dadofsamdadofsam Registered User Posts: 1,635 Senior Member
    I have not practiced patent law in the electrical engineering or computer fields, so I'm not sure I'm the best person qualified to answer your questions, which are basically the same question.

    To write and prosecute patent applications you might not have to solve any math or engineering problems, but you would have to be able to understand inventions in electrical enginnering and computer science so as to be able to describe and claim them properly, as well as to understand literature and patents cited by the examiner so as to be able to differentiate over them. You're in a better position than I to decide whether or not your 12-year-old education would enable you to understand current technology well enough to do that. And you would have to be able to convince prospective employers of that.

    If you like litigation but don't like insurance defense work specifically, you might try to switch to IP litigation. Your engineering degree, even twelve years old, might enable you to understand technology involved in litigation without having to write patent applications. In that case you should try to contact one or more IP litigation partners in your city to see what they might think of your qualifications as an IP litigator.

    In case you decide to sit for the patent bar, I strongly recommend that you take one of the review courses offered for that examination - don't try to learn it all on your own.
  • MadefixMadefix Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
    I'm sure this has been answered in some form, but I need advice as I'm really unsure. I got my bachelors and masters in chemistry in five years and worked two industry jobs ( although not research based). I'm starting my first year of my phd in chemistry, but I am having some doubts. I'm doing my phd with the intention of ultimately doing patent law. If took my lsats, applied and got in to law school for the following academic year, would I be able to find a job with just an ms and a jd? Should I try to get another masters in Chem or even chemical engineering, or go through with the phd? If I can get into law school and have job prospects with an ms when I get out, I may prefer that.
  • dadofsamdadofsam Registered User Posts: 1,635 Senior Member
    Dear Madefix: As you surmised, questions like these have already been answered in this thread, so plase read through it.
  • CanisNebulaCanisNebula Registered User Posts: 23 New Member
    Hi dadofsam,

    Quite the impressive thread here. Thanks for taking so much time to answer questions.

    I'm just about to finish a PhD in Chemical Engineering, with research focusing on biotech/diagnostics, but also using some techniques shared by the semiconductor industry. While in school I also took courses in public policy and law to earn a graduate certificate in science, technology, and public policy. I've been interested in law for a long time as well, so IP seems like a good way to bring the two together.

    I'm looking at firms in the Bay Area, and many do have technical adviser positions or programs. I plan on applying to these, but have a couple of concerns.
    • I've never worked in the field of law, and I'm a bit daunted by the working hours that seem to be standard. Work-life balance is a big concern of mine. You've previously mentioned getting experience and then working as in-house counsel. How much experience is usually needed to get a job like that? If I like the work, but want more reasonable hours, are going in-house or trying to hang out my own shingle pretty much the only options?
    • As someone interested but inexperienced in law, I've been pointed towards these technical adviser positions as a way of trying out the field without committing to years of law school. If I don't like the work, what do you think are my options? Do you know anyone who's tried such a position and moved on to something else? I guess I'm afraid that time away from a lab would make it harder to go back and get an R&D job, even though by this point I'm fairly certain pure R&D is not what I want to do.

    Thanks again for the years(!) you've put into this thread. I really appreciate all the information you've shared.
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