Patent attorney

Protect

Career outlook for

Figures and forecasts for roles at the same level, which require similar skills and qualifications.

Average UK salary

Currently employed in Scotland

Jobs forecast

This information is supplied by LMI For All, where data is currently available for Scotland.

What's it like?

You would help people protect their rights when they invent a new product, design or process.

You’d ensure that an original idea is legally credited to the inventor – whether that’s an individual or a company – so other people can’t copy the invention for a set period of time.

You would:

  • Meet inventors or manufacturers to get the details of their invention, innovation or design
  • Search existing patents to check the invention or design is original
  • Advise about the chances of being granted a patent
  • Write a detailed legal description of the invention or design - known as a patent draft
  • Apply for patents to the UK Intellectual Property Office or European Patent Office
  • Answer questions from patent examiners
  • Advise clients whose patent rights may have been breached
  • Represent clients if a case comes to court

You would also advise on other intellectual property issues such as design rights, industrial design, copyright and trade marks. You’d need to keep up to date with intellectual property law.

A scientific or technical background would help you to understand the new products and processes that you would need to assess and advise upon.

Reading skills in French and German may also be an advantage for some roles.

Many patent attorneys are also qualified trade mark attorneys.

Working conditions

Hours

You’ll typically work standard office hours, Monday to Friday, possibly with occasional overtime to meet deadlines.

Environment

You’ll be mainly office-based, but also travel to meet clients, attend court and visit the UK Intellectual Property Office. There may also be overseas travel to the European Patent Office in Munich.

Travel

There may be overseas travel to the European Patent Office in Munich.

UK employment status

Full-time

Part-time

Self employed

Here are some of the skills that people in this job would be most likely to have:

  • Communicating with people
  • Explaining things
  • Working as part of a team
  • Using other languages
  • Communicating ideas through writing
  • Using computers
  • Researching and investigating
  • Planning and organising
  • Paying attention to detail

Build your skills

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you’ll need.

Qualifications

You'd need qualifications that help you understand technical products and processes. You'd also need knowledge of intellectual property law. 

An honours degree or postgraduate qualification (SCQF Level 10/11) in a scientific or engineering subject would be useful. 

Before becoming a fully qualified patent attorney you would need to complete a series of on the job professional qualifications in intellectual property law. The Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys has more information. 

Some employers also look for foreign language qualifications.

To enter a science or engineering degree usually requires four to five Highers, often in one sitting. You may be able to gain advanced entry into the second or third year of a degree with a relevant HNC/HND qualification (SCQF Level 7/8). 

Entry to a postgraduate qualification usually requires an honours degree (SCQF level 10), and some courses will require relevant experience.  

Useful subjects

Most courses require: 

  • Maths 
  • science subjects 
  • Technologies subjects such as engineering

To work on European patents you may also need modern languages, usually French and/or German.

Other useful subjects are: 

  • English
  • Business
  • Finance
  • ICT-based subjects

 

You will also need

Once in work you must pass Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA) and/or Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys (ITMA) exams in order to join the Register of Patent Agents and the Register of Trade Mark Agents.

If you wish to work on international patents you will need to pass the European qualifying exams. 

Helpful to have

Any qualifications that show understanding of law, language and science and the ability to gather organise and present information such as BTEC Diploma in Public Services.  

Relevant experience such as attending Law Society of Scotland events and activities for school students.