Re: Prospects as Patent Agent for Young Retired En
« Reply #5 on: Oct 29th, 2006, 6:55am »
Well, skaatz, here’s an eerie similarity.
I turned 54 the first week of Oct and have 23 yrs of engineering experience. I got layed off last year, but I met the age and service requirements for “retirement.” But I can’t afford to be semi-retired because I have a mortgage and a daughter in college. I passed the patent bar exam in Aug and got my registration 2 wks ago. I like to write, both technical and non-technical. So far, so good. I’ve been looking for a job since Aug, not so good. If you scan other threads, you will note that people in my (and your) situation <strong technical background, no IP experience, no intention of going to law school> are having **great** difficulty getting a job as a patent agent. I’ve spoken to 7 or so patent agents (3 from this forum), and here’s a summary of what I’ve found. By the way, I live in NJ, within commuting distance to major law firms in NY. They don’t care for patent agents because the overhead for a patent agent is almost the same as for a patent attorney. I talked to a law firm in DC and another in Boston who told me the same thing.
There’s no straightforward path to getting a career as a patent agent (unlike an attorney or engineer). Once you get your foot in the door, you can get a reasonable career if you have a broad enough background to cover multiple fields (semiconductor AND mechanical AND telcom, for example ...I fit this category). The key phrase is “once you get your foot in the door”. So far, here are the stories of how people have gotten their foot in the door.
1/Work in a corporate IP dept (tech counsel or specialist, not patent agent), become buds with the people in the outside law firms, jump ship to the other side.
2/Work for a firm that does a lot of international work. IP firms overseas (Europe in particular) recognize the position of “patent agent” as significant to their business and expect their US counterparts to do the same. Be fluent in a foreign language. One guy was from Germany and worked on cases with German firms. Another guy was from Taiwan and worked on cases with Chinese firms. If you’re fluent in Mandarin or Cantonese, you’ll have no problem getting your foot in the door.
3/Have a brother-in-law who’s a patent attorney who takes you on.
4/Have a neighbor down the street who’s a patent attorney who takes you on.
5/Have a roommate from college who’s a patent attorney who takes you on.
6/Have a brother in Taiwan who works for an international licensing firm and has a poor command of English.
7/Work for the USPTO for a couple of years.
My plan was Scenario 1, but I , as well as over half of the IP dept in my company, got layed off before I could carry it out. I don’t meet Scenarios 2 – 6. Scenario 7 is iffy for me because my wife has a good job in NJ, and I don’t think the return justifies living apart for a couple of years (especially since it’s not a straightforward path to a career, unlike getting a JD, MD, or PhD).
On the plus side:
1/As others have pointed out, becoming a patent agent does not require an inordinate amount of time and money (in comparison to law school, for example). That’s why I did it.
2/”It may not help, but it will not hurt.”
3/Passing the patent bar indicates to a hiring manager that you are serious about IP work, and not just using it as a filler until hi-tech turns around