Case study

Associate patent examiner — Robert

Working for the Intellectual Property Office, Robert uses his technical, analytical and interpersonal skills to assess applications for patents

How did you get your job as a patent examiner?

I applied for the job through the Civil Service Jobs website after seeing an Intellectual Property Office (IPO) stand at a careers fair.

The process was straightforward with a simple application form and then an interview in Newport.

What's a typical day like?

I'm contracted to work a 37 hour week. However, due to our flexible working conditions, I can work fewer or more hours a day on a whim. There are also no core-working hours so I can work anytime between 5am and 10pm.

The majority of my job is spent searching through patent databases, research journals and on the internet to make sure applications are new and inventive, and also using search results to draft reports to applicants using my technical and legal knowledge to make sure that I grant high-quality patents. To do this I have to use my analytical skills to work out the key features of an invention and then decide whether those features or similar features are present in other inventions.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I particularly like the flexibility afforded to me by the job and the trust and responsibility given to me by my employer.

What are the challenges?

The challenges involve dealing with a range of different technologies, and being able to pick up and learn about said technologies very quickly in order to process an application.

Another challenge is putting forth clear arguments to attorneys.

How is your maths degree relevant?

I spent a portion of my degree studying coding theory and data compression, which is directly relevant to my current job, as I work on patents relating to video compression.

As well as this, my maths degree has given me the general analytical skills needed to analyse the language of patent applications, abstract the concepts described and think laterally about how to determine whether the patent is actually new.

How has your role developed?

After completing the eight-week training course I joined an examining group and started working on live cases. All of my work is checked by a revising officer, who is typically a senior patent examiner, and, as I've gained more experience, I have been given trust and responsibility in my decisions and reports.

My career ambition in the near future is to be promoted to patent examiner and, eventually, to senior patent examiner.

What advice do you have for others?

Take a STEM-based degree (science, technology, engineering or maths), while also making sure that your English and communication skills are polished.

Also check the IPO and Civil Service Jobs websites regularly to find out when there are vacancies.

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