What is a patent attorney?

A Patent Attorney is a member of a specialised legal profession qualified to advise clients about patents and help them get their patents granted by the patent offices around the world. We represent applicants at the European Patent Office (EPO) and the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO), and work with foreign attorneys to obtain patents in other countries.

A patent is a monopoly granted for a new scientific invention, relating to anything from computers and electronics to new pharmaceuticals and useful gene sequences.

Patent Attorneys may be employed “in-house” by companies or may work in private practice firms (just like solicitors). If you work in a private firm, you will work for numerous different clients ranging from individual inventors, universities, start-ups, large international companies or attorneys from abroad. A good Patent Attorney needs to be adaptable to deal with these different clients and be quick to learn new technologies.

The training usually takes four to five years and you are required to pass various professional exams to qualify as a UK Patent Attorney and a European Patent Attorney.

Patent Attorneys also often advise clients about other intellectual property rights, such as trade marks, designs and copyright.

What do you need to be a Patent Attorney?

  • A good science or engineering degree and a broad-based interest in science and technology - have you ever taken something apart to see how it works? 
  • Excellent communications skills, especially in writing 
  • A thoughtful approach to words and language 
  • Good people skills to deal with clients and explain complex technical ideas and legal advice to them 
  • The ability to work to tight deadlines and to handle several projects simultaneously 
  • The ability to deal with detail as well as seeing the bigger picture 
  • Commercial sense 
  • One of the key skills of a Patent Attorney is reducing an invention to its essential features and writing. 

Best bits

  • Variety of work, both in terms of clients and technology
  • Intellectually stimulating
  • Very financially rewarding, especially when qualified
  • A job that enables you to use your science and not be stuck at the lab bench
  • A well-structured career progression with good job security, particularly when qualified.

Worst bits

  • Stiff competition for jobs (often over 25 applicants per graduate position)
  • Tough exams to pass
  • Long hours on occasion
  • Lots of deadlines set by clients and patent offices.

What you'll do

One of the really engaging aspects of the job is that you actively utilise both your scientific knowledge and your analytical reasoning every day. The actual tasks that you will undertake as a Trainee, and once you become qualified, vary tremendously but they tend to call on a similar set of skills.



Large portions of our time are spent on analysing technical documents. This may be information from a client about a new invention, earlier patent documents or academic articles sent to us by a patent office, or arguments from a patent office Examiner or another Attorney in patent opposition proceedings.

You will often find that you are not drawing on pre-existing knowledge about the technology; rather the ability to rapidly understand new science and interpret it to provide some practical advice is usually more important. This type of analysis requires a lot of careful, thorough reading of technical documents and assessment of both the key concepts and the precise technical detail.



Most of our work output to both our clients and to patent offices is some form of writing. It may be a formal letter, an opinion about a legal or technical issue, a quick email, or a new patent application; but each requires careful, precise writing. The job involves taking care about the way you use written language to ensure that it conveys the exact intended meaning. You will often find that Patent Attorneys enjoy this detailed understanding of written language, even to the extent that being labelled as pedantic is taken as a compliment!



In addition to the analytical aspects of the job, another important skill that is required in our work is the ability to look at a client’s position as a whole and develop a strategy that covers all of their intellectual property. Many clients have a number of patent applications that cover different inventions or different parts of a product and an important part of our job is working out how these interact with each other to give the client the best possible protection.

Although we concentrate on a client’s patent portfolio, we also need to keep in mind that they may also be able to get other intellectual property protection (such as trade marks or industrial designs) to help to protect other aspects of any given product. In many cases we act as intellectual property advisors rather than just focusing on a single patent application in isolation.

Commercial awareness  

Commercial awareness  

Although our work involves careful, thorough analysis and precise writing, this all needs to be set in a commercial background. Patents are commercial tools for our clients, so it is important to develop a knowledge about how these tools are used in a business environment. In most cases, new Trainees do not start the job with this kind of commercial awareness but an interest and desire to develop these skills is important.

It is quite rare to find all of these skills in a new Trainee Patent Attorney. During the application process we try to identify candidates who show the potential to develop these capabilities and our in-house training for our Trainees is designed to develop these skills alongside the natural learning from day-to-day work.

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01347 823822 | info@gradcracker.com | Company registration number: 6370348
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