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(Message started by: Jackie Smith on Dec 10th, 2007, 11:35am)

Title: Is becoming a patent agent a smart move?
Post by Jackie Smith on Dec 10th, 2007, 11:35am
I have a BS in biotechnology and only 1-2 years of relevant work experience doing primarily molecular biology work. I was interested in taking the exam to become a patent agent. How realistic are my chances of finding a job afterwards, and what salary could I expect? ???

Title: Re: Is becoming a patent agent a smart move?
Post by BotchedExperiment on Dec 10th, 2007, 1:22pm
There are many factors that will determine whether you'll get a job; e.g. are you willing to move, are you stuck on a certain salary, are you willing to sit in on law school classes to make contacts, are you willing to repeatedly cold-call any firm within a day's drive from you, etc.

If you're smart, amiable, and driven and you can keep working where you are for the next year, you probably have a good chance of getting a job.

It took me about a year to stuy for the patent bar, develop contacts, and build my own patent business such that it more than replaced my previous salary.

Unless you wind up in-house somewhere or work for a life science boutique firm you're unlikely to do much biotech/life science work.

I have a PhD in molecular biology/biochemistry, and what I've found is that the biotech work is highly coveted by members of a firm and very little of it trickles down to patent agents.  Even when an attorney is new and doesn't have any biotech background, they will get their choice of work over an experienced agent with a PhD.

As for salaries, again, there are many factors, but nation-wide the range seems to be about 60 to 90 k/year.

Unsolicited input:

As for the work itself, I find it easier than basic research, but I work "harder" as an agent.  The number of hours I work now is less than when I was a graduate student, but now, when I'm working, the goal is to be working every minute (uh, except when I'm posting here).  So, be prepared to work harder than you probably are now...

Title: Re: Is becoming a patent agent a smart move?
Post by Dr. Talk on Dec 10th, 2007, 8:06pm
Ditto what Botched said.

Be prepared to work your 70 hours a week and to fight for work from the attorneys.  Also, be aware that senior attorneys will want to review your work before it goes out the door, which will eat into your billables.

Oh yeah, and billiables.  Your pay may depend on what gets billed to the client.  If you don't bill it out, you may get paid less (ofcourse if you bill out alot, you get paid more!).

National average for a patent agent is around $80K.

As a patent agent, you will spend about 90% of your time writing.  Writing patents.  Writing office actions.  And you'll spend about 10% of your time reading.  If you are ok with this, then go for it.

Given a choice, I would have rather stayed in engineering.  Solid salary, paid vacation, no billings to worry about, and its all about doing the work instead of the PAPERwork.

Ask yourself these questions:
1. Do I like writing more than anything else?
2. Do I hate interaction with people?
3. Am I unconcerned about a salary that fluctuates?

If you answered yes to these, then a patent agent job is for you.

PS
Today was a bad day at the firm.  Can you tell?

Standard disclaimer:
This is just my opinion.  No actual facts were used in the forming of this opinion.  I reserve the right to change my mind without notice.  Your mileage may vary.  Do not stand forward of the white line while the bus is in motion.  Close cover before striking.

Title: Re: Is becoming a patent agent a smart move?
Post by zethus25 on Dec 18th, 2007, 12:19pm
If I could do it all over again I would not have become a patent agent.  Go to law school full time instead.  Don't worry about the school loans.  First year attorney's are getting paid around $165K in NY.  Salaries are on the rise every year.You could easily pay off your loans with that salary.  Plus, you'll have ridiculously high paying summer associate positions to help you pay off those tuition bills.  The cost of law school isn't that bad compared to what firms are paying these days.

Patent Agents get ****d daily at big law firms.  Then, you'll come out of law school tired from getting home at 11pm for 4 years, while all your competition (full time students) will be fresh and rested and ready to work when they get out.  Unlike you,  you'll just want regular hours and some of your life back.  You won't want to compete with a bunch of stuck up, rich first year associates that never worked as hard as you.  Actually, for some of them, that will be their very first job in life.  How could anyone compete with kids willing to work all night every day, plus weekends.  

This is what becoming a patent agent gets you.  It's gives the edge to the full timers when you become an tired associate.  If I could go back, I would do law school full time and give the full time students a run for their money.


Title: Re: Is becoming a patent agent a smart move?
Post by fdjdhfl on Dec 19th, 2007, 8:53am
As a patent agent myself at a large IP firm, I can say that it is NOT worth being a patent agent/technical advisor for a private law firm for the ideas mentioned above.  We, as a whole, it seems, are treated like garbage.  A simple chart if I may with patent agent on left, brand new associate on right:

pay:   salary                                        salary x 2
bonus: none                                  anything billed over say 1800 hrs
raise: 0-2% yearly                  not sure, but it has to be rather good
sign in bonus: $0                         $5,000
relocation bonus: $0                   $5,000
laptop/pda/smartphone: by petition practically begging why you should get one                associate: no problems
choice of work: get thrown the ones no one wants to do, plus the hardest ones geared towards your major           associate his pick

Just go straight to law school and spare yourself the pain.  I'm going to law school soon myself.




Title: Re: Is becoming a patent agent a smart move?
Post by zethus25 on Dec 19th, 2007, 9:40am
fdjdhfl (strange name), I couldn't have said it better myself.  I spend five years working at a patent agent for a boutique law firm in nyc while attending law school at night.  

I was given the most technical work at the firm.  Sometimes it boardered on impossible.  While first year associates walked on a red carpet, taking depositions, working on long drawn out litigations, doing legal research etc.  Those tasks help them make their hours quota.  Unlike the tasks given to patent agents which are all more recently becoming fixed fees to clients.  I actually drafted patent applicaitons and amendments for fixed fees even though the technology and claims required well over the a loted time.  

In today's industry you would crazy to take a patent agent position.   I admit, I did it.  But I totally regret having went through it.  It was a poor choice on my part.

Title: Re: Is becoming a patent agent a smart move?
Post by Dntblvvrythngnthntrnt on Dec 19th, 2007, 10:27am
What kind of firms are you people working at?  My firm treats patent agents great.

Title: Re: Is becoming a patent agent a smart move?
Post by Defeated Army of One on Dec 19th, 2007, 11:01am
I concur with many of the remarks already posted. Being a patent agent is a loser's choice ... and I'm a loser. I've worked for several firms now, and while they were all a little different, I've always felt isolated and insecure. One thing no one has touched upon here is secretarial and staff support. The staff members of a law firm know that the attorneys butter the toast. Secretaries and other staff members simply are not going to do much to help patent agents ... because we're just staff members also. I find myself moving along to another firm every two to three years. You see, as a busy docket builds up, tracking and satisfying deadlines increasingly means I need help from a secretary. Secretaries complete docket forms, monitor docket reminders, attend to many simple filings such as IDS submissions, and generally facilitate the practices of attorneys. But they ignore patent agents. So we can't compete with the associates in our work places. It's a game that can't be won by a patent agent. Attorneys routinely tell me that I shouldn't be wasting my time on X, Y, or Z ... my secretary should do that. So I look bad ... but I'm powerless to change anything. Sometimes they'll tell me such things while their instructions to my secretary to concentrate on their work for the next few days are still hot in their breath. So, in order merely to meet deadlines, I find myself completing transmittal forms, scanning documents, and constructing continuation specifications by cutting and pasting text from the parent cases from on-line sources. That's a patent agent's life at a law firm. We don't want to miss deadlines. We don't want to commit malpractice. So we do everything ourselves in environments wherein good secretarial help is crucial to professional survival. And while I don't miss deadlines, and I don't commit malpractice, everyday I un-weave my own job security in efforts to merely satisfy the most basic tenets of patent practice. And one day that security is gone, and I get fired or I quit. There is always another law firm out there that will hire me though, each self-assured that they are different and better ... but it's always the same.

And no ... I'm not going to law school. I'm waiting to get fired again. Then I'll draw unemployment income for a while, regroup, and reinvent myself as a bicycle messenger or a performance artist. I'm not going to fight forever to find some meaning and security in patent work. I'm done screaming against the setting of the sun.  I always wanted to run away and join the circus ... my chance is coming ... soon.

I am a defeated army of one.
I am a patent agent.
Do not follow my path ... for it is damned.
Go be an engineer, a scientist, an artist, a musician, or just a fool, but don't become a patent agent.



Title: Re: Is becoming a patent agent a smart move?
Post by BotchedExperiment on Dec 19th, 2007, 11:40am
Dntblvvrythngnthntrnt--That's actually a good question.  

My experience is typical as those discussed above, except that I'm self-employed and work for a few different firms.  Thus, I know that I'm not going to have any assistance, so I knew the score when I started.

I'm guessing that most agents that have negative experiences are those that work at firms (or in-house) where there are very few, if any other agents.

I wonder if one works at a place with several other agents, if the system isn't geared to accomodate them.

Title: Re: Is becoming a patent agent a smart move?
Post by Defeated Army of One on Dec 19th, 2007, 12:06pm
I confirm, I am alone in my practice area as a patent agent. That is, at my current firm, and at all previous firms, I have been the only patent agent under the supervision of the attorneys who review my work. At my current firm, other patent agents work in offices in other cities. Thus, in a sense, I have always been an army of one.

I wonder if "Dntblvvrythngnthntrnt" is an attorney or a patent agent.  Many attorneys believe that their firm is a special place for patent agents. The more vehemently the attorneys hold that belief, the more false is that belief.  Such attorneys say "I am attorney, hear me roar, I'm in charge damn it and I say this firm is a wonderful place for patent agents! ... now secretary, listen carefully, I need you to concentrate on the work that I give you despite any consequences that may have on the work the patent agent gives you ... I am attorney, hear me roar, I'm in charge damn it! ... and patent agent, why do I keep getting these pesky docket reminders for matters that are satisfied? ... doesn't someone mind your docket control sheets? ... can't you even get your secretary to mind your docket control sheets? ... what's wrong with you? ... you don't seem to be fitting in here ..."


Title: Re: Is becoming a patent agent a smart move?
Post by Dntblvvrythngnthntrnt on Dec 19th, 2007, 1:21pm
I'm an agent.  I'll elaborate more tonight.  Right now, I need to be billing.   ;D

Title: Re: Is becoming a patent agent a smart move?
Post by zethus25 on Dec 19th, 2007, 3:12pm
I was a patent agent.  Now i'm a patent attorney.  I suffered the same pain as Defeated Army.  Actually even as an attorney, I'm waiting for the day I too get fired so that I can rest, collect that fat unemployment check, and shop for a patent litigation job.  Patent prosecution is for the birds!  I plan on coming up about 350 hours short this year.  I know there's not a chance in heck I'll ever get fired though.  Firms can't find suckers like me to sit around and draft quality patent applications all day.   Trying to figure out what I went to law school for, when it doesn't look like patent prosecutors actually practice law.

Title: Re: Is becoming a patent agent a smart move?
Post by zethus25 on Dec 19th, 2007, 3:58pm
Oh, and to really twist the knife in harder for all you patent agents out there.... my job tasks didn't change one bit after becoming an attorney.  I just get paid double now for doing the same stuff i did as a patent agent.  

I do notice the secrataries being a bit more helpfull now.  Funny how that works out.

Title: Re: Is becoming a patent agent a smart move?
Post by Dntblvvrythngnthntrnt on Dec 20th, 2007, 6:40am
Guys, you just need to find a firm that has a large amount of patent agents (and/or tech specialists).  Don't work at a large general practice firm.  Don't work at a boutique that employs only 1 or 2 patent agents.  I can assure there are firms out there where patent agents are treated with respect.  Admittedly, they may or may not be easy to find.  I happened to stumble across such a firm in my job search years ago.

To answer the OP's question.  Yes, I think it is a smart move.  You might end up hating the profession.  It would be better to find that out as a patent agent than an attorney who has just spent three years of time and $ in law school.

Title: Re: Is becoming a patent agent a smart move?
Post by jsclkadjflkewd on Dec 25th, 2007, 7:33pm
I work for a large IP firm with more than 20 agents and I have to say that this happens in my company also.  We do the same work and we get 1/2 of the pay.

Now, after having just watched Walmart lawsuits where the women are getting less pay than the men for doing the same work, they are suing for discrimination.  Now since it seems that we are doing the same work for substaintially less pay, should we not be suing also?

Title: Re: Is becoming a patent agent a smart move?
Post by Another PhD on Dec 30th, 2007, 9:15pm
I am a PhD in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology with 5 years of postdoc experience in Immunology and in an effort to move away from bench, i was considering a career in tech transfer/patent agent. But after reading all your posts, I am really scared to pursue this. My main motivation for doing this switch was hopefully a more regular life (considering I have a kid and my husband is going to start his own lab in a university) than what I have been used to over the years (ie 9 am - atleast past midnite). But seems like I was wrong in thinking of this as a possibility. Anyone out there who can correct me? What other options does a person like me have in this kind of field? Anything you would suggest... nah, don't think I want to go back to school for law/MBA now. Well, MBA may be - if there is an expedited process, but not really. Thanks so much for your advice!

Title: Re: Is becoming a patent agent a smart move?
Post by Defeated Army of One on Dec 31st, 2007, 8:57am
Hi Another PhD,

I approached IP toward ends related to yours. I can say that I've satisfied most of my goals ... except for any sense of stability or pride.

Despite any comments regarding turning the knife, I am quite satisfied with the money I make. And I don't work long hours. Hell I have to beg to stay busy. The easiest thing for me to do at my current employment is to fall out of the loop and idle. The work is all divided up into practice groups by the attorneys. They have little meetings in nice little rooms with bagels and coffee and everything. But I'm not invited. So I get my work under the ... trickle down theory I suppose. But I can't see past the layer of rocks (the associates) just above me that occasionally drip on me. I'm just some sort of over-flow valve ... sitting empty and ready much of the time.

Like you, I have a PhD. I had hoped that with that degree I would one day find sensible employment. But I haven't. The money is great. Any job has politics. But as a patent agent at a law firm, I have a wall of bosses ... all the attorneys. While any one of them on any given day may make a little sense ... when I integrate the experience ... I feel like a target in an air rifle game in a carnival with lots of little kids jacked up on candy and soda pop firing away at me with their little rifles. No one of their projectiles has killed me yet ... but I'm constantly subjected to their senseless revisions on my work and their manipulating tactics that preclude my security in an environment where protocol and order and help from the staff is needed. None of it seems real. It's all just a big carnival game ... I can't win it because I'm part of the scenery of the game ... I'm not actually playing the game.

Maybe you can find security in two places that I see potentially available to you:

If you live in a city of any size ... there are likely several or many carnivals that I've described in your city. Just look around your city to see how many patent practices exist. When you get sick of the blue cotton candy at the first carnival ... go try the red cotton candy at the second. Eventually you'll see it's all the same ... but you can fool yourself a few months at a time with each new job. I think I've said before ... law firms don't ask too many questions about why you're changing jobs. They suffer profound hubris. Tell them that you weren't happy at your last  job and they'll understand ... after all ... you were working for Tinky LaLa and Poe but you're applying to Willy Nilly and Schmuck ... everybody knows working at Willy Nilly and Schmuck is better than working at Tinky LaLa and Poe. Seriously, look them in the eye and tell them that and they'll be satisfied. It's what they want to hear. You're smarter than them. You can manipulate them.

On the other hand, maybe your spouse can bring home the security and you can bring home some extra bacon. That way, if things get too crazy at your first firm (and they will), then you can just take some time off before you move on to your next. Or maybe you can one day do overflow work for several distant law firms that you never have to visit. Other patent agents work that way.

As far as pride goes ... forget about it as a patent agent. Your work will be supervised, and typically contaminated with poor judgment, by youngsters with less education and experience than yourself. That's just how it goes.

Title: Re: Is becoming a patent agent a smart move?
Post by johnnyvento on Jan 1st, 2008, 1:58am
Defeated Army Of One...

I am a PhD getting ready to take the patent bar and look for patent agent jobs... if you feel like it, please email me at michaelsmail at gmail dot com




Title: Re: Is becoming a patent agent a smart move?
Post by daven on Jan 1st, 2008, 6:46pm

on 12/19/07 at 15:12:55, zethus25 wrote:
I was a patent agent. Now i'm a patent attorney. I suffered the same pain as Defeated Army. Actually even as an attorney, I'm waiting for the day I too get fired so that I can rest, collect that fat unemployment check, and shop for a patent litigation job. Patent prosecution is for the birds! I plan on coming up about 350 hours short this year. I know there's not a chance in heck I'll ever get fired though. Firms can't find suckers like me to sit around and draft quality patent applications all day. Trying to figure out what I went to law school for, when it doesn't look like patent prosecutors actually practice law.


How many hours do they expect you to work per year?  Are you coming up short due to taking too many vacations or not working enough hours a day?  thanks



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