Patent Law Careers

The Foundation provides career-preparation and career-readiness support for law students interested in exploring a patent law career through its Sidney B. Williams, Jr. Scholar Program.  The Program is open to individuals with an interest in the advancement of racial or ethnic groups that are underrepresented in the patent law profession in the United States.  Selected Scholars are eligible to be considered for $30,000 tuition grant awards, with these scholarship awards being payable over the Scholar’s 1L-3L years  For more information on applying to the Scholar Program, go here.

Seeking and Securing Patents for Inventors

Patent attorneys who are registered to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office have the opportunity to represent inventors seeking to secure patents for their inventions.  Through the Sidney B. Williams, Jr. Scholar Program, opportunities are available for Scholars to take the nationally acclaimed PLI Patent Bar Review Course and sit for the patent bar exam at Foundation expense.  Doing so opens opportunities for Scholars to secure employment representing inventors, including internships and clerkships, even before completing law school.

Finding Patent Associate Positions in Law Firms

Law firms of various types—from large AM LAW 100 firms to small boutique law firms specializing in intellectual property law—offer employment to recent law school graduates as associates.  Starting salaries for patent associates can be well in excess of $150,000.  Through the Sidney B. Williams, Jr. Scholar Program, opportunities are available for Scholars to take the nationally acclaimed PLI Patent Office Exam Course and sit for the Patent Office's Registration Exam at no expense, thanks to the generosity of PLI. The Program works to provide its Scholars with summer clerkships focused on patent law by connecting them with law firms having a substantial patent practice.   These clerkships during the summer after completion of the first year (1L year)  and the second year (2L year) of law school classes can provide Scholars with the opportunity to be considered for additional summer clerkships and possible employment opportunities as first-year associates upon graduation from law school.  The Foundation actively seeks out law firms interested in offering summer clerkship opportunities in patent law. If you are interested you can contact the Foundation for more information.

Joining In-House Corporate Patent Groups

Within the in-house legal organizations of many companies are departments or divisions that have attorneys who are dedicated to protecting the company’s intellectual property, including seeking and securing patents on inventions that company employees may make.  In-house patent counsel typically has the opportunity to work directly with the company’s engineering and research staff to devise strategies for protecting products that the company has in development or on the market.  Typically, companies afford the opportunities for in-house attorneys to take on management roles within these legal organizations.  The Foundation works with organizations such as the Intellectual Property Owners Association and the Association of Corporate Patent Counsel to explore opportunities for Sidney B. Williams, Jr. Scholars to make corporate connections that might lead to summer as well as permanent employment opportunities.

Working as a Patent Examiner for the USPTO

The United States Patent and Trademark Office hires technically trained engineers and scientists to fulltime positions as patent examiners.  Patent examiners have the responsibility for reviewing applications for patents and determining if the subject matter that can be validly patented under the patent laws.  Opportunities are available both in the Washington, D.C. area (Alexandria, VA) and in regional patent offices across the country.  Many patent examiners take advantage of the telework program the USPTO offers.  The USPTO offers patent attorneys other types of employment, including positions available outside the United States.  Patent lawyers also work in other roles at the USPTO, including the Patent Trial and Appeal Board and the Office of the Solicitor.

Becoming a Patent Litigator

Disputes over the validity of a patent, or whether the rights under a patent are being infringed arise with some frequency and result in various forms of adversarial proceedings involving patents, both in the U.S. district courts and in the United States Patent and Trademark Office.  Many of the most prominent national law firms have practice groups within the firms that specialize in patent litigation.  Litigation practice can include both trial work, where the issues of patent validity and patent infringement can be decided by a jury, and appellate work, typically before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit with nationwide jurisdiction over patent appeals.  The Foundation works to assure that Sidney B. Williams, Jr. Scholars have opportunities to make connections with firms with a substantial patent litigation practice.

Transactions and Technology Transfer

Patents and other forms of intellectual property are designed to provide incentives for investments in the development and commercialization of new technology.  As part of the role of spurring innovation, patent attorneys can play key roles in agreements that result in the licensing, due diligence, or transfer of patent rights.  These roles include negotiating and drafting agreements for licenses, joint ventures, or cooperative research.  This type of transactional work normally can be found in both law firms and in-house patent organizations where the Foundation works to connect its Sidney B. Williams, Jr. Scholars with prospective employers.  Information on technology transfer career opportunities is available from groups such as the Licensing Executives Society and the Association of University Technology Managers