What is Biotechnology Patent Law?
“A patent is a property right granted by the Government of the United States of America to an inventor “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States” for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted.” (United States Patent and Trademark Office, www.ustpo.gov)Biotechnology patent law focuses on obtaining and defending the property rights granted by patents on technologies developed by scientists working in the biosciences. There are opportunities in biotechnology patent law for both patent lawyers (who combine a law degree and a background in science or technology) and others that do not require a law degree, including becoming a patent examiner, serving as a scientific advisor for a law firm or legal department of a company, and working in technology transfer at a university.
Why switch? Patent-related careers are a viable option for those looking to intersect both science and law, and in particular those who enjoy evaluating science innovation.
What positions can one hold in patent law? Many PhD scientists in this field are employed as technology specialists orscientific advisors. Responsibilities include working with inventors, researchers and attorneys to evaluate invention disclosures, assess patentability, and draft patent applications. As one progresses in this career, most law firms will encourage you to take the Patent Bar Exam to qualify as Patent Agents. In addition, for some PhD scientist career paths in IP/patent law, in particular working as a patent attorney, it is required or highly beneficial to attend law school and obtain a JD (juris doctorate). Some of the key duties of patent attorneys include advising clients about contracts, prosecuting patent applications, and participating in courtroom trials.
Where will you work? Besides law firms, jobs in biotechnology patent law include working for companies, state and federal governments (e.g. USPTO), private institutes, non-government organizations and technology transfer offices at universities.
How to make the transition? Those interested in biotechnology patent law should seek internship opportunities that will expose them to the field. These might include internships in science & technology policy or technology transfer.
While you are at Yale: Apply to the Yale Technology Ventures Program. Additonally, the Science & Technology Policy Fellowships of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS) are likely to provide valuable credentials.
Prepared by: Paul Cao, Ph.D.
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