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(Message started by: ldrothman on Jun 4th, 2006, 5:39pm)

Title: Patent Agent Employment
Post by ldrothman on Jun 4th, 2006, 5:39pm
I am currently considering taking the patent bar and becoming an agent. I have a BS in mechanical engineering from UC Berkeley with decent grades. I am trying to ascertain my ability to actually get a job after I pass the test. I am aware of the time and effort required to pass the test and am confideent that I can do so. I am NOT interested in going to law school. it seems like unless you graduate top 10% from a top tier school you wont get hired as an attorney anyways. I would like to hear from people speaking specifically about patent AGENTS. a few questions:

1. It seems as though the highest demand background for patent is EE...so am I at a disadvantage coming from a mechanical background? How easy (or dificult) is it to get a job with either a large firm, company, or USPTO after passing the patent bar?

2. I currently live in California and would like to remain here. How strong is the job market here compared to other parts of the country? (obviously I can't stay in CA if I want to work for the PTO)

3. How competitive is the job market in general for agents? it seems nearly impossible to get a good job as a patent attorney unless you're a superstar. Is this also  the case for agents?

thanks so much for your help

Title: Re: Patent Agent Employment
Post by patento on Jun 4th, 2006, 6:48pm
Patent professionals with EE and Software background are in good demand. But, there aren't too many jobs out there for agents with no or little experience in technology industry (unless you hold PhD. from a good school). If you have over a decade of experience in EE or software fields (preferably both), the chances of getting a job are better. Also, patent agents are more likely to find an employment with a tiny or small patent firm compared to a medium or big law firm.

With BS mechanical alone.... I would say you will have to be very lucky to find something. My 2 cents.

Title: Re: Patent Agent Employment
Post by guest47 on Jun 4th, 2006, 6:59pm

on 06/04/06 at 17:39:19, ldrothman wrote:
it seems like unless you graduate top 10% from a top tier school you wont get hired as an attorney anyways.

it seems nearly impossible to get a good job as a patent attorney unless you're a superstar.


I don't know where you're getting this information from, other than the rather pessimistic opinions of a few posters on this forum, but you don't need to be a superstar to get a job.  Just get yourself some networking contacts.  I do agree with patento's statement that it's easier to find a job at a tiny/small firm, and having an BSME is not going to be as appealing as a BSEE.

You may want to reconsider not going to law school, though.  For engineers, the payoff of choosing to do agent work instead of engineering is not really there like it is for science majors, since engineers already get paid a decent amount almost comparable to that of an agent.

Title: Re: Patent Agent Employment
Post by RMissimer on Jun 4th, 2006, 7:08pm
Hi Guest0,

PatentO is right.  I am just graduating from a good lawschool.  There are lots of IP Specialty Law grads that are not getting jobs.  There are even more Law grads with other specialties that are not getting jobs.

MOST postings are looking for 2-3-4 years experience.  I have seen a few in Texas, or Minn that are straight out of school.  In Milwaukee, there are maybe 3-4 positions that were filled by graduating students.  It is not a good percentage that you will be earning $100k when you graduate.

May suggestion to people from my undergrad school is 1) either let an employer pay for your education,  or 2) get out if after the first year you aren't in the top 10%.  It is just too expensive and hard to pay back.

Title: Re: Patent Agent Employment
Post by p@tent.guy on Jun 4th, 2006, 9:46pm
Typically, employers want to know what you can actually do. People are hired right out of the PTO without being agents because they know how to structure claims (fundamental task of an agent).

Passing the bar is a great first step, and definitely shows commitment to the field. But how do you best claim a recipe, when there are 100 ingredients, and the chef has no idea what the critical few were that makes the recipe work, no idea how varying the recipe will change the taste, and has measured the ingredients using his recently deported assistants fists?

All that aside - you are in one of the best places in the US for patent law (although it is primarily for EE/CS). There may be some opportunities for mechanical engineering do some spec drafting - I wouldn't give up looking close to San Jose just yet. Your education should open enough doors to see if you can fill in the gaps without moving back east and cutting your teeth at the PTO.

Good luck.


Title: Re: Patent Agent Employment
Post by Wolfcastle on Jun 6th, 2006, 4:22pm
I've also been looking for a patent agent position, but in the chemisry/biotech areas.


Quote:
I currently live in California and would like to remain here. How strong is the job market here compared to other parts of the country?


In my experience, the DC  and California areas seem to have the greatest number of job openings for patent agents. DC is a big spot because obviously the PTO office is there, and California because of silicon valley and biotech startups.


Quote:
3. How competitive is the job market in general for agents? it seems nearly impossible to get a good job as a patent attorney unless you're a superstar. Is this also  the case for agents?


From my experience, and from what I've learned from talking to a few chemical patent lawyers, getting your foot in the door is the biggest challenge. For the first two years, you really won't be profitable to the firm as it takes a while how to write a worthwhile patent.

Title: Re: Patent Agent Employment
Post by Jonathan on Jun 6th, 2006, 5:17pm

on 06/06/06 at 16:22:32, Wolfcastle wrote:
For the first two years, you really won't be profitable to the firm as it takes a while how to write a worthwhile patent.


My first mentor said you start to get the hang of writing patent applications once you have 40 or so under your belt.

Title: Re: Patent Agent Employment
Post by p@tent.guy on Jun 6th, 2006, 6:19pm
I don't know if 40 is quite right, but I have heard that number as well. Many places ask for 3+ years experience and I know that I draft and/or edit about 17 per year.
PTO examiners usually review at least 3-5 new cases per week, so that tends to accelerate your learning curve if you go that route.

Title: Re: Patent Agent Employment
Post by Jonathan on Jun 6th, 2006, 7:34pm

It's just an anecdotal number. Of course it will vary, perhaps widely, from person to person.

Title: Re: Patent Agent Employment
Post by Willy Scott on Jun 6th, 2006, 8:54pm
I think it is pretty funny how people on this forum and other places, think that you need to be at some top tier school in the top % of your class to get a decent job and pay your loans back.   That is incredibly short sighted.   So if we dont go to harvard, yale and stanford we are out of luck? It is what you make it.   I know plenty of people that have gone to lower tier schools and are making decent money and paying back the loans.   There are some great patent attorneys that come from 2nd tier schools.   I also know those who are in the life sciences and had to learn semiconductor/electrical engineering while at a firm.


Network.  Network.  Network.  Its out there.   If you love the law of patents, then worrying about this detail shows you are not that serious about it other than making money.

Title: Re: Patent Agent Employment
Post by Isaac on Jun 7th, 2006, 6:17am

on 06/06/06 at 20:54:01, Willy Scott wrote:
I think it is pretty funny how people on this forum and other places, think that you need to be at some top tier school in the top % of your class to get a decent job and pay your loans back. That is incredibly short sighted. So if we dont go to harvard, yale and stanford we are out of luck? It is what you make it. I know plenty of people that have gone to lower tier schools and are making decent money and paying back the loans.


In defense of those nameless pessimists, it's not unheard of for people who go to law school right out of college to have credit card and school loan debt of six figures.    Paying those loans back while making even a decent salary can be quite a struggle.  

Quote:
There are some great patent attorneys that come from 2nd tier schools. I also know those who are in the life sciences and had to learn semiconductor/electrical engineering while at a firm.


Great attorneys can come out of law schools of any tier.   For that matter patent agents who have never been to law school at all can be great practitioners.



Title: Re: Patent Agent Employment
Post by guest on Jun 7th, 2006, 9:25am
<<  Great attorneys can come out of law schools of any tier.  >>


That goes without saying.  The real issue is that the legal job market (especially so for patent and IP) is especially tight so law firms have the upper hand and they know it.  Law firms are getting more and more selective and many of them will only consider graduates from what they consider to be "top schools" or otherwise those who are on law review or top 10%, etc.  In addition, many have a strong preferance for those with "advanced degrees."  The golden days for seeking work as a patent attorney are long gone.




Title: Re: Patent Agent Employment
Post by p@tent.guy on Jun 7th, 2006, 9:25pm
Did not mean to imply that drafting 40 was too low - just reiterating that when they ask for 3+ years experience, they are likely anticipating that you have written about 40 or so applications.

That also does not mean good jobs for those with no experience are not out there. Here's a link from something today.

http://jobs.lawinfo.com/jobdetails.cfm?jid=9548

Good luck.

Title: Re: Patent Agent Employment
Post by Jonathan on Jun 7th, 2006, 9:55pm

Duly noted.

Title: Re: Patent Agent Employment
Post by Isaac on Jun 8th, 2006, 5:58am

on 06/07/06 at 21:25:27, p@tent.guy wrote:
Did not mean to imply that drafting 40 was too low - just reiterating that when they ask for 3+ years experience, they are likely anticipating that you have written about 40 or so applications.


That number can vary widely depending on where you get your experience.   I drafted about that number of applications in around 7 months at my first job.


Title: Re: Patent Agent Employment
Post by Agent on Jun 13th, 2006, 6:39am
And above all, most of our work is getting outsourced to countries like India.  

My question is

1) How long outsourcing is gonna work?
2) Outsourcing of patent works has started only a few years ago, and its only going to increase as people from India (& other low cost countries) get more experience in patent drafting etc.  In that case, more and more patent agents in US are definitely going to loose much of their work. At least patent attorneys can escape this. But how about patent agents?.

Regards.

Title: Re: Patent Agent Employment
Post by guest on Jun 13th, 2006, 11:31am

on 06/13/06 at 06:39:41, Agent wrote:
And above all, most of our work is getting outsourced to countries like India.

My question is

1) How long outsourcing is gonna work?
2) Outsourcing of patent works has started only a few years ago, and its only going to increase as people from India (& other low cost countries) get more experience in patent drafting etc. In that case, more and more patent agents in US are definitely going to loose much of their work. At least patent attorneys can escape this. But how about patent agents?.

Regards.



Unless the people in India are the inventors or US patent agents/attorneys living in India, all paperwork filed with the USPTO must be done by the inventor or a registered agent/attorney.  Even if someone in India is writing the application, all prosecution must go through an agent/attorney.  Agents/Attorneys may spend a week drafting an application, but will spend the next three to five years haggling with the examiner over the claims.  I do not think patent people are in danger of having their jobs outsourced unless the USPTO removes the citizenship restrictions.

Title: Re: Patent Agent Employment
Post by Agent on Jun 13th, 2006, 1:05pm
A friend of mine said me that their firm outsources even most of their work involved during prosecutions to india -  E.g Drafting of office action responses, and claim amendements during office actions (more particularly involving applications that are also drafted in india for US filing).




Title: Re: Patent Agent Employment
Post by patag2001 on Jun 16th, 2006, 9:45am
Patent agents are preferred in working for a company that developes technologies.  The agent can work along side the engineers and convert new structures and methods into patents.  This is substantially more efficient than using a law firm.  When the patent workload diminishes, the patent agent can morph back into an engineer.  In contrast, the opposite is likely true at a law firm.  A patent attorney can do other functions when the patent workload decreases.

Title: Re: Patent Agent Employment
Post by RMissimer on Jun 16th, 2006, 8:15pm
Places like GE are outsourcing cause they can.  They do so by letting anyone draft the majority of the specification,  and then send it to patent counsel to review, modify, and write the claims.  This decreases their costs about 2/3.  Further, these individuals that draft interface with the engineers and do all the gathering hoping to relieve the engineers of the contact with the attorneys.

When it really comes down to it,  any tech writer can do the portions that are not done by the attorney.  AND it can be done anywhere in the world.

So, there is not and will not be job security in IP.  It is unfortunate.

Title: Re: Patent Agent Employment
Post by Jonathan on Jun 16th, 2006, 10:05pm
Just my opinion, I don't think it is that gloomy of a picture in the near term - 5-10 years. Sure, those larger corporations will probably opt to outsource. There are plenty of medium to smaller businesses that will not do so, however.

Once you get several years of experience, as an agent or attorney, you will be fairly marketable in certain areas of the US - even with outsourcing.

And, for some clients, being local is an advantage that outsourcing won't get past for quite awhile. Yeah, sure, there is videoconferencing, etc.  Until we have a ST:TNG holodeck, it just won't be the same as being able to meet inventors/clients in person.

Title: Re: Patent Agent Employment
Post by ron stier on Jun 25th, 2006, 8:07pm
40 is nothing.  I did that in 4 months at my first firm.   10-12 hr days.  It was perfect.   If you do that many in more months, you are too slow.

Title: Re: Patent Agent Employment
Post by p@tent.guy on Jun 25th, 2006, 10:30pm
I agree that patent applications can be produced rapidly if the situation demands, however, patent agents in large companies are often integrated into the invention process - multitasking several projects at a time and taking weeks to guide data collection to support the claims and the business needs.

The more mechanical process of actually writing the case once the critical portions have been researched and technical language crafted is fairly straightforward and can usually be done in a matter of days. This is the kind of work that I have seen typically outsourced to both lawfirms and overseas technical writers.

Once the draft is produced, syndicating the drafts among the technical experts and coordinating edits is also a key aspect of the internal agent job that takes time and great attention to detail.

I would not attempt to generalize what the right number of cases per year would be across all technologies and in all situations, however I know that, all else being equal, the more connected and integrated to the technology you are - 1) the more valuable you are, 2) the longer it will take to generate each application and 3) the better your application will be.

Title: Re: Patent Agent Employment
Post by Isaac on Jun 26th, 2006, 5:54am

on 06/25/06 at 20:07:01, ron stier wrote:
40 is nothing. I did that in 4 months at my first firm. 10-12 hr days. It was perfect. If you do that many in more months, you are too slow.


Isn't it a bit presumptious to assess the number of applications someone has written without considering what types of applications in question, and work the person might have been assigned other than application writing?

That said, I agree with you that some people write 40 applications in a relatively short time.  If you are doing strictly application writing and no prosecution work (and in 4 months, the PTO won't have gotten to many of your applications) you may still be relatively wet behind the ears after 40 applications.



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