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Intellectual property law – an exciting bioscience career away from the bench

Posted by on August 26, 2014

Simon Bradbury is a patent attorney at Appleyard Lees specialising in biotechnology and genetics. Simon will be speaking about careers in intellectual property law at our Life Sciences Careers Conference at the Royal Veterinary College London.Simon Bradbury (200x200)

Have you ever thought about progressing a scientific career, away from the laboratory, in a more commercial or legal setting?

Perhaps you are already destined for a different scientific career early on?

One of the “out of the lab” career options is within intellectual property law.  It might not sound very science-related to you now but bear with me.  What is actually hidden behind this rather grand title is a niche area of commercial law that requires just the right blend of science and legal knowledge to help individuals, universities and companies protect the fruits of their creativity.  Generally speaking, intellectual property covers inventions, designs, trade marks and copyright and there are a wide range of biological inventions which need patenting, from new biologic therapies, screening assays, transgenic plants through to biomedical devices.

A few years back I was working with an inventor from similar scientific backgrounds – and it struck me how differently our career paths had developed. I was asking her to read a number of scientific papers and patents so she could give me her thoughts on how they may impact the validity of a patent application I was prosecuting. She said that she would have to take time out of the laboratory and then provided me with a range of excuses before admitting that she simply found it boring. We got into an interesting conversation about the ‘type’ of student we were at university: she hated being in the library and preferred to be much more practical and loved being in the laboratory, while I adored spending hours in the library reading scientific journals and text books and I also liked the odd debate.

There are many scientific jobs in developing, licensing and commercialising innovation in addition to the more legal aspects of protecting intellectual property and enforcing patents. Technology transfer professionals at a university or an institute, research and negotiate licensing or collaboration opportunities with the commercial sector. Larger companies also have teams of scientists who look to bring in technologies from outside of the company so that they can be used in their products. For the more legal aspects, there are jobs as patent attorneys and lawyers who handle the legal aspects of protecting and enforcing life science intellectual property.

I am a patent attorney and have been in the profession for over 13 years now. I don’t miss the laboratory, but still get excited by learning about cutting edge biological technologies being developed. I also find law very stimulating, not least because the patent law governing biological inventions is quickly evolving and struggles at times to keep pace with advances in technology.

Does this sounds like you?

  1. Excellent command of the English language (both written and verbal).
  2. Good eye for detail.
  3. Good analytical skills.
  4. Ability to formulate coherent arguments.
  5. Willingness to continue to learn and take exams (it takes about 3 – 6 years and some 13 exams to qualify!)

If you have the skills above – you might want to consider being a patent attorney.

Life Sciences Careers Conferences (LSCCs) showcase the breadth of careers available after studying the life sciences. The conferences consist of talks from top speakers covering a wide range of biology-related subjects, such as careers in academia, industry, teaching, biomedical science, environmental sector and others, in addition to CV and career planning advice, and a chance to mingle with the experts in our exhibition and ask informal questions over refreshments. Bookings are now open for conferences in Liverpool, London and Staffordshire.

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