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Patent attorney

Patent attorneys advise clients on how to apply for patents for new inventions, designs or processes.

Annual Salary

£27,000 to £80,000

Average UK salary in 2022 was £33,200
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

37 to 39 a week

You could work: evenings; occasionally

Future employment

There will be 2.4% more Patent attorney jobs in 2027.

Day to day tasks

As a patent attorney, you would:

  • meet with inventors or manufacturers
  • research existing patents to check the invention or design is original
  • advise clients about the chances of being granted a patent
  • write detailed legal descriptions of the invention or design - known as a patent draft
  • apply for patents to the UK Intellectual Property Office or European Patent Office
  • answer questions from patent examiners
  • advise clients whose patent rights may have been broken
  • represent clients at court during patent disputes
  • advise on issues like design rights and copyright
  • keep up to date with intellectual property law
  • mentor new trainees

Working environment

You could work in an office, at a client's business or in a court.

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • working towards this role
  • applying directly

You'll usually need a degree or postgraduate qualification in a technical subject, for example:

  • science
  • engineering
  • mathematics
  • computing

Once you finish your course, you can apply to work as a trainee in a patent office and study for professional exams while you work. It usually takes at least 2 years to qualify.

You may be able to take a postgraduate award in law or intellectual property law, which can count towards qualification as a patent attorney. Many patent attorney trainees are sent on one of these courses by their employers.

If you do a course that covers intellectual property or patent law, it may exempt you from part of the professional training.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study
For more information

You could start your career by finding work as a technical assistant or trainee patent attorney. This may be in a firm of attorneys, or in a company's patent department. Once working, you would take further training to qualify. This route can take between 4 and 6 years.

Direct application

You may be able to find work without a scientific or engineering degree if you have a very high level of technical experience gained in industry.

This may also apply if you're a qualified solicitor with experience of working in intellectual property rights. You would still be required to study for and pass professional exams.

More information

Career tips

It may help in some jobs if you can read business French and German to a reasonable level, as clients often want advice about European patents, which can be prepared in English, French or German.

Further information

You can find more details about working in intellectual property rights from The Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys.

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With experience, you could become an associate or partner in a private practice firm.

In industry, you could move into management or research and development. You could also choose to become a patent examiner with the UK Intellectual Property Office or European Patent Office.

Some patent attorneys also register to do trade mark work.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • legal knowledge including court procedures and government regulations
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • excellent written communication skills
  • analytical thinking skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • maths skills
  • knowledge of English language
  • the ability to think clearly using logic and reasoning
  • customer service skills
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages confidently
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