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Author Topic: What would be the best recommended decision to become a Patent Agent?  (Read 1856 times)

brho118

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Hello IntelPropForum,

I am a new user and I am seeking information and advice on becoming a patent agent.
I wish to pursue a career in becoming a patent agent (I'm not strongly considering becoming a patent lawyer currently).
This is my summarized educational and work background: I graduated with a GPA of 3.5 in Forensic Chemistry with a minor in French, work 3 summer internships (one was a National Science Foundation Program). In addition, I completed my first year in graduate school (PhD in Chemistry in the Physical Chemistry track) with a summer internship at the university before the beginning of the term.
My current situation as it stands is that I am terribly burned out and reached my limits in this program.
I have decided that I have two options to take:
1) I can switch over to the Master's Program and get the Master's Degree or 2) drop out of graduate school, find a job in industry and build a foundation for a technological background from there.

The reason why I decided on these two options is because I figured that either choice will help me look more competitive once I am ready (hopefully after passing the Patent Bar Exam) for the job market for Patent Agents. My issue is I don't know which choice is better or more recommended for me to take.
What is the best option to take, or what other options would you recommend that I should take?

I greatly appreciate any advice given!
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Robert K S

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You may find that patent work demand is low and patent labor supply is high in your technical field (chemistry), such that you would be better off financially just staying in industry rather than making a non-attorney career in the legal field.  There are many Ph.D./J.D. chemical patent attorneys out there, and you intend to compete with them for work, having neither credential.  Okay!

You don't list switching institutions or programs as a possibility for completing your Ph.D., but were I in your position I would consider one of these options.  Either that or just asking for some kind of leave of absence to recover from burn-out.  If you do intend to go into patent legal practice eventually, the Ph.D. is probably going to be helpful.
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This post is made in the context of professional discussion of general patent law issues and nothing contained herein may be construed as legal advice.

fewyearsin

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It is important to figure out "why" you are burned out.  Life is long, you have a 30 year career ahead of you, it will not be all sunshine and roses.  I recently took up mountain biking to reduce stress, keep me in shape, and give me time alone with my thoughts.  It has been wonderful.  Nothing about my job has changed, but it is much better lately.

As noted above, chemistry is a tough skillset to sell in patents right now.  There are lots of qualified people trying to do chemical patent work.  Even at the USPTO there are rarely openings for chemical examiners because they don't ever quit. 

Getting some industry experience will benefit you greatly in my view.  (1) you'll be getting paid.  (2) you'll be getting experience.  (3) it'll be a change of pace (work vs. university life), and (4) you can always move to patent law later in life if things don't work out in chemistry, or even if they do, as a second career.  You really can't go back to being a chemist once you've gone to being an attorney.

Also, a Masters won't really make you any more competitive.  You're competing with people with PhDs.
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This comment: does not represent the opinion or position of the PTO or any law firm; is not legal advice; and represents only a few quick thoughts from the author, not a well-researched treatise.  Seek out the advice of a competent patent attorney for answers to specific questions you may have.

abc123

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I recently took up mountain biking to reduce stress, keep me in shape, and give me time alone with my thoughts.  It has been wonderful.  Nothing about my job has changed, but it is much better lately.

Good for you. I started distance running again in 2014, and experienced the same thing. Just wish I had done it about 14 years ago!

If I had brho's chemical background, I might consider a health science career, maybe even going to medical school. If I have learned one thing in the last 35+ years, it is that the economics of demand are what matter, and people will always get sick. Of course, people who work in this area will give you their side of the story, but unlike patent agents and attorneys, I have never heard of an oversupply of doctors.
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MYK

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Of course, people who work in this area will give you their side of the story, but unlike patent agents and attorneys, I have never heard of an oversupply of doctors.
That's because the AMA has had a longstanding policy of strictly limiting the numbers of medical schools and class sizes.

Last time I heard anything, the ABA claimed it would be an antitrust violation for it to do the same.
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"The life of a patent solicitor has always been a hard one."  Judge Giles Rich, Application of Ruschig, 379 F.2d 990.

Disclaimer: not only am I not a lawyer, I'm not your lawyer.  Therefore, this does not constitute legal advice.

abc123

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Exactly. The AMA's liason committee on medical education effectively restricts the number of graduating medical students. They have even sued universities to prevent them from establishing medical schools. Combined with a very powerful lobby, and a guaranteed constant demand, and you have a guaranteed license to print money. I don't respect the politics of their business (as Buffett said, health care is a tapeworm on the economic system), but as a career, it is a virtual moneymaker.

It shouldn't be any surprise that if you pick up US World and News Report rankings and look at the top medical school acceptance rates, it is virtually 2 percent down the entire list. Money, prestige, guaranteed demand. I guess other people have figured it out.



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still_learnin

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I wish to pursue a career in becoming a patent agent (I'm not strongly considering becoming a patent lawyer currently).
... I graduated with a GPA of 3.5 in Forensic Chemistry with a minor in French, work 3 summer internships (one was a National Science Foundation Program). In addition, I completed my first year in graduate school (PhD in Chemistry in the Physical Chemistry track) with a summer internship at the university before the beginning of the term.

First verify that you meet the specific educational requirements to sit for the PTO Registration Exam. If your degree is on the "Category A" list, you send them an official transcript. But if your degree is not on the Category A list, you must show that you've taken the required number of classes in various subjects -- which often means tracking down a course catalog from many years ago when you were in school.

See the USPTO's General Requirements Bulletin at
Quote
www.uspto.gov/sites/default/files/documents/OED_GRB.pdf
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The above is not legal advice, and my participation in discussions on this forum does not create an attorney-client relationship.

two banks of four

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To the OP, I was in a boat similar to yours.  Really didn't like my grad school program.

A few things for your consideration.  You mentioned P-Chem (which I really enjoyed).  Most P-Chemist have to know at least a bit of programming.  Could you leverage that into software writing and/or finance?  Especially if you ran simulations (Ising models or Monte Carlo simulations for lowering free energy), you should be able to have job potential fields far wider than just IP.

As for whether to drop out, as mentioned upthread, there is a glut of Ph. D. chemists who are agents/attorneys.  As someone who's contemplating leaving the PTO, I was looking at the list of chemist alumni from my grad school (a very well regarded institution).  It was shocking to see how many of the Ph. D. agents were in a precarious career situation.  One seemed to have to lost an in-house agent position in 2008 and is now doing it as a side-gig.  Two went back to law school in their late 40s, and both appear to have been laid off from big pharma.  The last one says as much about major class of clients as it does about the abundance of practitioners.  It's just not a rosy situation at all, and is one of the things that keeps me from wanting to go to the other side.

Of course, every now and then, I work on cases handled by recently-minted agents without even a master's degree, and I wonder just how they got the job.  So my guess is that there are ways out there, but how is always the hardest question to answer.

As for whether to drop out or get the master's, I'd say go for the latter and then drop out.  It will always look nicer (even though a master's in the physical sciences often don't hold much water).  One of those situations where something, while almost strictly ornamental to those in the know, nonetheless carries weight.

-------------------------------------------
Exactly. The AMA's liason committee on medical education effectively restricts the number of graduating medical students. They have even sued universities to prevent them from establishing medical schools. Combined with a very powerful lobby, and a guaranteed constant demand, and you have a guaranteed license to print money. I don't respect the politics of their business (as Buffett said, health care is a tapeworm on the economic system), but as a career, it is a virtual moneymaker.

It shouldn't be any surprise that if you pick up US World and News Report rankings and look at the top medical school acceptance rates, it is virtually 2 percent down the entire list. Money, prestige, guaranteed demand. I guess other people have figured it out.

I can't remember if it was you or someone else who quipped a few months ago:  what do you call someone who finished last in his/her law school class?  Employed, if lucky.

What do you call someone who finished last in med school class?  Doctor.  The last line, i've seen in quite a few different places.  The incentives are there, and I don't believe for a moment that it takes something special to become a board-certified M.D. (though it does take quite a bit of skills and dedication to get that degree from a top notch school). 

In grad school, I served as a TA and oversaw a student who barely made B+ in orgo lab.  Barely in more than one way, too, as he was caught red handed copying someone else's work (essentially made the same mistake that someone else made, almost verbatim).  I insisted on reporting him, but was overruled.  The cynical side of me (and does one become cynical staying in grad school and then working at the PTO) suspects that this may have something to do with his status as a cash cow student for the university's lucrative post-bac program.  He went to a Carribean med school and is now a doctor.  Many others in that class were also pre-meds who also were just plodding along, and at least some of them went to med school...

« Last Edit: 05-04-18 at 04:32 pm by two banks of four »
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abc123

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I don't believe for a moment that it takes something special to become a board-certified M.D.
I'll probably have to disagree with you on that, at least with respect to doctors who graduate from accredited US schools.

And with respect to the doctors who graduated from schools in places such as the Carribean, that just proves the major point I was making, which is that associations like the AMA set the bar to get into medical school very high to try to keep the number of students low. Therefore, you are going to see people going to schools in places like the Carribean.
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MYK

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I don't believe for a moment that it takes something special to become a board-certified M.D.
I'll probably have to disagree with you on that, at least with respect to doctors who graduate from accredited US schools.
Umm, you guys do realize that "board-certified" is sort of "not only has he gone through medical school, not only did he graduate, not only did he survive residency, not only did he get into an internship for a specialty, not only has he practiced for several years in that specialty, but now a board for that specialty has signed off on his work as a well-qualified practitioner of that specialty", right?

Also, it's arguably harder for someone who went to a Caribbean (or other non-U.S.) med school to get a license to practice in the U.S., since not only does he/she/it have to go through all of the same stuff as someone who goes to a U.S. med school, he/she/it also has to pass yet another exam that has a pass rate of only about 10%, and after that still has to get into a residency program.

Can't say much for the quality of the Indian docs coming over -- every one of them I've gotten stuck with (thanks, university medical clinic) had shitty habits developed from back home, e.g., reusing the same Q-tip on a few dozen patients until they broke it -- but it wasn't easy for them to get in.
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"The life of a patent solicitor has always been a hard one."  Judge Giles Rich, Application of Ruschig, 379 F.2d 990.

Disclaimer: not only am I not a lawyer, I'm not your lawyer.  Therefore, this does not constitute legal advice.

abc123

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I realized all this, my best friend is a neurologist who went to medical school overseas.

Can't say much for the quality of the Indian docs coming over -- every one of them I've gotten stuck with (thanks, university medical clinic) had shitty habits developed from back home, e.g., reusing the same Q-tip on a few dozen patients until they broke it

I started wondering when an "FMSG" as they are known in the trade, decided to save money, and instead of using a disposable tongue depressor, stuck a shoe horn in my mouth :)
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ConfusedIP

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Umm, you guys do realize that "board-certified" is sort of "not only has he gone through medical school, not only did he graduate, not only did he survive residency, not only did he get into an internship for a specialty, not only has he practiced for several years in that specialty, but now a board for that specialty has signed off on his work as a well-qualified practitioner of that specialty", right?

Yeah, yeah.... it surely takes a lot of hard work to become a doctor, but its only impressive in a sense that the person is willing to put up with enormous amount of grinding for a very long time.  You need endurance and good memory and definitely talent for some more esoteric specialties, like surgery.  Of course there are superstar doctors like there are superstar lawyers, but an avg. doctor is just a reasonably intelligent person who put in the work.  A number of my high school classmates became specialty doctors (ortho surgeons, anesthesiologists, etc.) but they weren't necessarily super smart or anything.  Just reasonably intelligent, diligent students who were willing to keep grinding.  On the other hand, my truly brilliant college/high-school classmates made money in hedge funds, start ups, or just went nuts.
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Toot Aps Esroh

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Poor OP's thread has gotten horribly derailed.

To put it back on track, my opinion is that OP's BS in forensic chem is not likely to be of much value in the patent world, unless s/he happens to have an "in" with a dad or a rich uncle or some such to gift him/her a job in patent prep/pros.

To further derail the thread -  I know a lot of doctors up close, and few of them are brainiacs.  Not even close.  Just overall ok-to-good students willing to grind out the studies to become a doctor.  No small feat, that - not casting aspersions on their work ethic.  But only a few that I know are really top 1% intelligent.
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MYK

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OP, you might consider teaching high-school chemistry.  The schools that bother to have a chemistry curriculum are probably not going to be the horror-story messes that drive people out of teaching and into alcoholism.  You could also go international after a couple of years;  expat high schools are always looking for qualified STEM-subject-matter teachers.  Hopping countries every few years should keep things interesting for ya.
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"The life of a patent solicitor has always been a hard one."  Judge Giles Rich, Application of Ruschig, 379 F.2d 990.

Disclaimer: not only am I not a lawyer, I'm not your lawyer.  Therefore, this does not constitute legal advice.

novobarro

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OP, also look into tech transfer, your university probably has a tech transfer department.
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