Patent industry is a relatively newer industry compared to Indian legal industry. With technology growing at rapid pace in modern era, the need for legal protection of inventions is enormous. Even in recent and uncertain pandemic times, Indian patent filings have demonstrated a healthy growth, which indicates increased interest towards protecting innovation in India and even, globally. This translates to an ever increasing need for patent professionals with expertise on Indian patent process. To pursue a career in the Indian patent industry, an engineering graduate can generally pursue a law degree to become a patent attorney or even clear the patent agent examination to become a patent agent. However, this article covers 3 types of organizations that recruit for patent engineer jobs in India. Engineering graduates can join these organizations as patent engineers without requiring a law degree or clearing the Indian patent agent examination.
At a broad level, there are 3 types of organizations in the Indian patent industry that recruit B.Tech graduates:
- In-house organizations
- Legal services firms (also called law firms)
- Knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) organizations
The responsibilities of a patent engineer may vary depending on which organization they are working in. There may also be variations in job responsibilities from organization to organization. However, this article is intended to cover some common roles and responsibilities among the above-mentioned types of organizations.
1. In-house organizations
In-house organizations typically refer to product companies or service-based companies whose main revenue generating source is a product and/or a service. Typically, these companies have a research and development department or team, which focusses on innovation arising out of their research. To protect these innovations, such companies need an in-house intellectual property (IP) team for in-house patent assistance.
As a patent engineer in the in-house IP team, you may be involved in counselling inventors, enhancing their patent know-how, assisting patent attorneys/patent agents with patentability assessment of ideas and innovations to generate patent-eligible inventions, patent drafting, patent prosecution, patent monetization, patent infringement detection, and even maintaining granted patents. Of course, you may be performing any subset of these or additional activities depending on the objective of the in-house IP team but these are some broad roles for which in-house IP teams employ patent engineers.
2 – Legal services firms (or Law firms)
Law firms are legal services providers that provide several types of legal services to their clients, for instance, in the areas of taxation, finance, corporate law, intellectual property law and so on. Typically, in-house organizations outsource patent activities to law firms as service providers because of their core expertise in the legal domain. The law firms predominantly have a team of Patent attorneys and agents who actively interface with local patent offices on various patent matters.
Law firms can provide a host of services including the above-described patent activities and legal opinions to help their clients. Normally, law firms prefer hiring patent attorneys and patent agents. It is not common for law firms to hire fresher engineering graduates unless they have a law degree or a patent agent certification. However, some law firms do hire engineers once they gain hands-on experience in the patent industry. Therefore, if you are hired as a patent engineer in a law firm, you can expect to assist other patent attorneys and agents in your firm with the projects they are handling for clients. For example, patent engineers may perform a technical analysis of an invention and explain to a patent attorney, which saves time and effort for the patent attorney and is cost-effective for the firm. If a patent engineer is proficient in handling patent activities, they may even draft and prosecute patents and attend inventor interviews. Eventually, a patent Attorney/Agent would review the work product and interface with the patent office to file the work product and conduct hearings.
3. Knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) organizations
KPOs are patent services firms that employ a mix of patent attorneys, patent agents, and patent engineers. However, KPOs generally do not interface directly with local patent offices but engage partner law firms to do so. These organizations generally have a larger proportion of patent engineers compared to patent agents and patent attorneys. As a patent engineer in KPOs, you may perform a substantial amount of technical analysis, draft and prosecute patents, handle various technical intricacies of patent searching and monetization for clients. However, the final work product may be reviewed and filed by an internal or external patent attorney/patent agent.
Hopefully, the above article was successful in sharing some insights into potential career paths for patent engineers. Do comment your thoughts below and share this article in your network of engineers!