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Patent attorney

Patent attorneys decide if it’s worth applying for a patent on a new invention, design or process.  

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £23,000 to £100,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 37 per week

1. Entry requirements

There are no set requirements but you’ll usually need a degree in a scientific, engineering or technical subject. A postgraduate qualification in science or engineering can also help.

You’ll usually start as a technical assistant or trainee patent attorney. This may be in a firm of attorneys, or in an industrial patent department.

You may be able to find work without a scientific or engineering degree if you have a high-level of technical experience in industry, or if you’re a qualified solicitor with experience of working in intellectual property rights. 

Further qualifications may also help, like a postgraduate certificate, postgraduate diploma, or master’s in law (LLM) in intellectual property law. This can count towards qualification as a patent attorney. 

You may find it useful to be able to speak one or more European languages. 

The Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA) has more information about this career. 

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • the ability to explain complex technical information clearly
  • good analytical skills
  • the ability to adapt existing knowledge to cope with new technology and processes
  • the strength to work under pressure and meet deadlines
  • accuracy and strong attention to detail

3. What you'll do

Your day-to-day duties may include:

  • meeting inventors or manufacturers 
  • searching existing patents to check the invention or design is original
  • advising about the chances of being granted a patent
  • writing a detailed legal description of the invention or design - known as a patent draft
  • applying for patents to the UK Intellectual Property Office or European Patent Office
  • answering questions from patent examiners
  • advising clients whose patent rights may have been broken
  • representing clients if a case comes to court
  • advising on other issues like design rights and copyright
  • keeping up-to-date with intellectual property law
  • coaching new trainees

4. Salary

Starter: £28,000 to £34,000

Experienced: £65,000 to £85,000

Highly Experienced: £100,000 or more (partner in private practice)

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You’ll usually work standard office hours, Monday to Friday, with occasional overtime to meet deadlines.

You’ll be mainly office-based, but also travel to meet clients, attend court and visit the UK Intellectual Property Office. You may also travel to the European Patent Office in Munich.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you could become an associate or partner in a private practice firm. 

In industry, you could move into management or research and development. You could also choose to become a patent examiner with the UK Intellectual Property Office or European Patent Office.

You could become a European patent attorney and work internationally.

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Last updated: 08 December 2016