A patent attorney is a techno- legal professional who represents clients in obtaining patents and in filing a lawsuit in case of an infringement by some competitor.
The term is used differently in different countries. Ideally, it’s a legal professional who has to have expertise in atleast one scientific field: be it biotechnology or pharmaceuticals or electronics, among others.
What do they do?
A degree in biotechnology and law seemed to be a strange combination for Rajeshwari H, and not once during her studies did she imagine that it would reap great returns for her in the field of patenting. After practising civil law for a couple of years in Mumbai and Pune, Rajeshwari envisaged a better career for herself as a patent attorney and made the move.
Now a partner at K&S Partners, she finds, “There is always a new challenge with a new assignment. An invention doesn’t end the moment it’s made. The final shape to it is given by patent attorneys.”
A patent is the legal protection given by any government to an inventor or a corporation for research undertaken or a new product developed. The rights are protected in the territorial jurisdiction where the patent granting agency works. When a person invents something, s/he hires a lawyer who has to first understand the invention and then do an online search of related items already patented. This search is aimed at avoiding any duplication of invention. In case there is some similarity between two products, the attorney identifies the unique, novel features in the newly created item.
The second stage involves applying for a patent in the patent office. Then the lawyer coordinates with the patent officer, on behalf of the client. This process is known as the prosecution. The person making the invention meets the officials and explains to them the unique features of his/her invention. In case the patent officer raises an objection, the attorney is expected to respond and defend his client’s invention. His coordination continues until the invention gets patented. An attorney must have a science background because if it is a pharmaceutical and biotech invention, then he has to understand what it’s about.
“There are times (normally 10 per cent) when the invention is challenged by a fellow inventor. The attorney has to then defend his client in the court of law,” says Chetan Chadha, managing partner at Chadha & Chadha Advocates, Gurgaon.
The profession is very demanding. “One has to undertake a detailed study of the subject to fathom the technicalities of the invention. It gets very demanding as you might have to draft the patent proposal in just two weeks’ time,” says Chadha
Patent rights are protected globally but one has to file different patents for the respective jurisdictions. A lawyer thus has to have a good grasp on international law.
“When a newly developed product is exhibited at an international trade fair, the inventor/company has to get it patented in that country too, as your country’s laws will not be applicable there,” says Rajeshwari.
. Ability to absorb all kinds of information
. Good oratory skills which come handy in litigation
. Analytical skills to make inferences and conclusions after studying the invention
. Creative abilities to make valuable contributions to the invention, design or software because some lawyers may end up as co-inventors as has happened in the west
How do I get there?
Gain expertise in one area — mechanics or pharmaceutical, chemistry or software or even mathematical sciences. You can pursue a Bachelor’s or preferably a Master’s in engineering or science. After this, go for a diploma in intellectual patent rights from a known institute or do LLB from IIT (Kharagpur) where intellectual property rights is the prime focus.
Join some law firm or company as a trainee in the patent department and after gaining a year’s experience appear for patent agent’s exam. Once you qualify that, you can join a law firm, a corporate or an outsourcing firm with a job profile, which you find the best — drafting, prosecution or litigation.