Is it necessary to study a STEM subject at university?
To enter the profession, a degree in a science, engineering, technology or a mathematics based subject from a recognised institution is strongly preferred. A science/engineering background is required to enable you to understand a client’s invention. This mix between science/engineering and law is one of the aspects that make the role of the patent attorney such an interesting career.
Do I need to have a PhD?
No, a PhD is not generally required to become a patent attorney.
How do you become a patent attorney?
The training to become a patent attorney occurs largely on-the-job. This generally involves working for one or more fully qualified patent attorneys, and preparing for and sitting a series of examinations.
The examinations include those set by the Patent Examination Board (PEB), which must be taken in order to become a registered (UK) patent attorney. This is a two-tier system involving Foundation Examinations and Final Examinations. Candidates must pass one of the Foundation Examinations before they are eligible to sit the Final Examinations. Examinations are also set by the European Patent Office (EPO). These must be taken in order to become a European patent attorney.
In addition, many patent attorneys also handle trade mark work, therefore they may benefit from becoming a registered trade mark, attorney (UK qualification) and a European trade mark attorney. For more information, see the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys (CITMA).
How long will it take me to qualify?
The examinations set by the PEB are held annually. Consequently, the minimum length of time to become a Chartered Patent Attorney is two years. In reality it typically takes 4-6 years to become a patent attorney. The examinations set by the EPO are held annually and require candidates to have worked for two years under the supervision of a European patent attorney before sitting the main examinations. For this reason, it is common for people to become registered patent attorneys before becoming European patent attorneys.