“There are many opportunities to use your technical ability even if you do not want to move into scientific research or engineering – becoming a patent attorney is one!”
23 March 2017
I have always preferred maths and science to languages, arts and humanities subjects. It never occurred to me that maths and science were the sort of subjects girls do not tend to choose, and realise now that I was luckier than some because neither my parents nor my (all girls’) school discouraged me from taking them at A-level.
After taking Physics, Chemistry, Maths and Further Maths, I felt I didn’t want to do a straight Science or Maths degree, and so Engineering seemed the obvious choice. I was also completely fascinated by aeroplanes (still am!) so Aeronautical Engineering called my name!
At the end of my 4 year Master’s degree, I wanted to do something more than pure technical work and so was looking for a way to combine my Engineering degree with something else. After filling in a careers survey, “patent attorney” popped up as a potential career option and the more I looked into it, the more it appealed to me.
The route to becoming a patent attorney starts with a technical degree (such as Engineering or Science), followed by training “on the job” in patent law. This training enables you to obtain patents for your clients and help them protect their innovative ideas in the UK, as well as in Europe and other countries worldwide. The combination of the technical nature of the work, the complicated legal framework and the commercial aspects, to me, make it a really interesting field to work in.
One of my favourite aspects of the job is seeing the ideas my clients have come up with and working out the differences and advantages over what has been done before, in order to protect the clever features. For example, I am currently working on some cases for Airbus concerning an “e-taxi” landing gear system to allow an aircraft to be powered through its wheels (rather than its engines) from the runway to the airport terminal. This could reduce fuel costs, air pollution and brake wear. The idea of an “e-taxi” system has been around for a while so what we are trying to protect are the new ideas of how it could be done – for example, using a roller gear as opposed to a traditional cog, means the system is more reliable.
I won’t deny that the training (it takes about 5 years to qualify and pass all the required exams) is tough but, once qualified, it is so satisfying to be able to use the patent system to protect my clients’ technology and help their businesses to grow. You can find out more about the work I do here.
At the beginning of 2015, I was made a partner at Abel & Imray and I love that I can continue to do patent work, whilst also helping to steer our business too. One role I have is leading our Diversity and Inclusivity group, which involves looking into the ways in which we can improve the diversity of the firm. You can find out more about working at Abel & Imray here.