Is it necessary to study a STEM subject at university?
To enter the profession, a degree in a science, engineering, technology or a mathematics-based subject from a recognised institution is strongly preferred. A science/engineering background is required to enable you to understand a client’s invention. This mix between science/engineering and law is one of the aspects that make the role of the patent attorney such an interesting career.
Do I need to have a PhD?
No, a PhD is not generally required to become a patent attorney.
How do you become a Chartered Patent Attorney?
The training to become a patent attorney occurs largely on-the-job. This generally involves working for one or more fully qualified patent attorneys, and preparing for and sitting a series of examinations.
The examinations include those set by the Patent Examination Board (PEB). The PEB is a committee of CIPA accredited by the Intellectual Property Regulation Board (IPReg) to set and administer the Foundation Certificate and Final Diploma patent attorney qualifying examinations. The PEB sets UK qualifying exams and these must be taken in order to become a registered (UK) patent attorney. The work of the PEB is overseen by an independent Governance Board, which operates autonomously from CIPA Council. Examinations are also set by the European Patent Office (EPO). These must be taken in order to become a European Patent Attorney.
In addition, many patent attorneys also handle trade mark work, therefore they may benefit from becoming a registered trade mark attorney (UK qualification) and a European trade mark attorney. For more information, see the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys (CITMA).
How long will it take me to qualify?
The examinations set by the PEB are held annually. Consequently, the minimum length of time to become a Chartered Patent Attorney is two years. In reality, it typically takes 4-6 years to become a patent attorney. The examinations set by the EPO are held annually and require candidates to have worked for two years under the supervision of a European patent attorney before sitting the main examinations. For this reason, it is common for people to become a Registered Patent Attorney before becoming an European Patent Attorney.