Case study

Associate patent examiner — Oscar

Oscar's motivated by the prospect of a new application landing on his desk and the chance to become acquainted with a technological development that the wider world is yet to hear of

How did you get your job?

The first and only advert I saw for the role appeared on the Kent University job shop website. I applied online and was invited for an interview a number of months later. The interview, which took place at the Newport office, lasted an hour and was followed by a tour, at which I was offered the job.

Find an area of technology you're interested in…any applicant showing a genuine interest in their subject will be a far more attractive prospect

Was your degree relevant in securing your job?

Extremely - the office requires graduates from all areas of science and technology, with some subjects more in demand than others, and with some roles requiring a combination of expertise. In my case, working on applications for automotive and hybrid control systems, I regularly rely on the knowledge and skills acquired through gaining a BSc in mechanical engineering and MSc in computer science.

Describe a typical working day

I'll pick up an application, containing description, drawings, and claims, and read through it, in order to both understand the proposed invention and to highlight any errors to be brought to the attention of the applicant.

Once I've ascertained the key points of the application, I'll search the patent database in an effort to find existing patents which may describe similar or identical features, and which would present an obstacle to the application being granted.

During the search I'll try to identify relevant parts of the patent classification key, then search through the abstracts and descriptions of existing patents in order to filter relevant results. Gaining a full understanding of a new application, when the technology often goes beyond material found in textbooks, is often extremely challenging. Once the search is finished, I'll write a report informing the applicant of my findings.

How has your job developed?

As my competency has increased I've steadily been given more autonomy in my duties, while at the same time being encouraged to volunteer for extra responsibilities around the office - even volunteering for a reading program in a local primary school.

In the longer term, my first priority is to spend the next few years attaining full competence in the role of patent examiner, at which point I may look for secondment/transfer opportunities within the Intellectual Property Office or wider Civil Service, in an effort to broaden my experience in IP.

What are the best things about working your job?

Instead of working on one or two research projects in a single engineering company, as a patent examiner you're afforded the opportunity to see firsthand the research being done across an entire sector.

Any advice for someone wanting to get into patent examining?

Find an area of technology you're interested in - the satisfaction I gain from the job depends not only on the nature of the role, but also on the enthusiasm I have for the material on which I work. Any applicant showing a genuine interest in their subject will be a far more attractive prospect.

Find out more

See what jobs are available at the Intellectual Property Office (IPO).