Patent agents have particular expertise in the field of intellectual property and their work deals with obtaining and enforcing such property rights, assessing ownership issues and preventing copyright infringement. They are responsible for examining the authenticity and originality of new inventions and ultimately deciding on whether or not they can be patented.
A patent is a right granted by the government to companies in return for disclosure of an invention. In return for the public disclosure of a new and unobvious invention, the state gives the patent owner the right to stop other people using that invention for a certain period of time.
Patent law and practice, and the drafting of the specification, describing an invention, are complex matters requiring great skill, attention to detail and a strong grasp of the legal system. Patent agents typically work in private firms or in large manufacturing organisations, helping inventers and companies to secure the rights to and profit from their intellectual properties.
- Assisting clients or employers to secure effective protection for their innovations and developments by securing patents for inventions.
- Arranging to file patent applications abroad and providing advice on matters relating to the commercial exploitation of an invention.
- Reflecting, in language which is clear, unambiguous, and concise, what has been invented.
- Drawing up a definition which will include within its scope things or processes which make use of the invention or ‘underlying inventive idea’, but which excludes things that people have done before.
- Advising on the impact of the intellectual property rights of others on the client or employer’s business.
A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not a requirement.
Republic of Ireland: To be registered in the register of patent agents maintained by the controller a person must possess the prescribed educational and professional qualifications and satisfy certain other conditions. Visit the Association of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys website for more information.
UK: The term ‘patent attorney’ is a protected title, and only those who have passed qualifying examinations and who have placed their name on the statutory Register of Patent Agents (the title of which has not been updated since the law changed in 1989, enabling practitioners to use ‘agent’ or ‘attorney’ as they choose) are entitled to use the term (though European Patent Attorneys may use that term to describe themselves).
Skills and qualities
- Ability to comprehend both the scientific and technical factors involved and the legal and commercial aspects.
- Skilled in language, both oral and written.
- Excellent communication skills.
- Ability to work to a deadline.
- Excellent IT skills.