Trainee patent attorney Jonathan Roberts joined Secerna in 2017 with a Masters in Physics from the University of Sheffield, a PhD from Lancaster University and a keen interest in tech. Here, he tells us - among other things - what led him to a career in IP, what a typical day looks like, and what advice he’d give to someone thinking about a career in IP law.
Pretty early on in my PhD studies I attended a Day in the Life of a Patent Attorney talk at a conference, which sowed a seed in my mind and got me thinking ‘that sounds like a cool job’.
Then, over the course of my PhD, I was involved with a university spinout company working alongside a patent attorney. I was exposed to the ins and outs of filing patent applications and was given some really good insights into interactions with the various Patent Offices around the world. I knew that I didn’t want to stay in academia, and the more IP law I experienced, the more interested I became.
Once I’d finished my PhD, I immediately began to look for IP jobs and now, a couple of years later, I know I made the right choice.
Without a doubt, it’s being given insights into brand new products and technologies, and gaining an in-depth understanding of how things work. I’d often overlooked the complexity of some of the most ubiquitous technologies that surround us, such as the internal workings of an ATM or the how the internet actually works, but I find learning about such technologies fascinating. And that’s just a couple of examples. At any given time we’re working with numerous innovative people, companies and technologies, which makes the job very exciting.
I also think that our job puts us in a very privileged position. We have opportunities to see and learn about inventions and new technologies at their inception, and being able to help and support the people who are driving these innovations along the course of their journey to market is brilliant.
The size of the firm really appealed to me. In some firms, you’re often a tiny fish in a very big pond and it’s easy to get lost. Here, there’s a close knit team, everybody knows each other, and from early on you have opportunities to get involved in some really interesting projects, with support from very experienced, respected and capable colleagues.
It was also apparent that Secerna was, and still is, undergoing continuous growth. This also attracted me because I felt that, by joining the team at a relatively early stage, I would be able to have an impact on the way the firm develops whilst gaining experience of seeing the firm’s progression over time.
There’s no such thing as a typical day, really. My role has evolved the longer I’ve been here, and my days often involve things like corresponding and catching up with clients, reviewing technical documents, preparing draft patent specifications for new innovations, responding to examiner’s reports or advising clients on IP strategy, such as whether they have freedom to launch a new product. I’m currently working with clients from around the world in the mechanical engineering and medical device industries, among others, which makes my days very diverse.
Be prepared for the steep learning curve when entering the profession. You will be required to learn many new things; be it an area of patent law, commercial considerations or details of an unfamiliar scientific field.
From my own personal experience, the more effort you put into this, the more gratifying the job becomes as you will race up the learning curve much faster. I think someone who is extremely self-motivated (both inside and outside of working hours) and enjoys learning new things would be extremely well suited to a career in IP. There is also the added incentive that the career can be extremely lucrative and so all the hard work put in at the beginning of your career will eventually be well rewarded.
I have found that people often tar careers in IP with the “boring” brush. In my opinion, those people could not be more wrong. I find my job extremely enjoyable and would recommend a similar career in IP to anyone who finds the prospect of learning about the overlap of science, law and commerce fascinating, and who enjoys solving different problems on an almost daily basis.
I am a keen sportsman and find many sports entertaining. Particularly, I enjoy playing and watching football at all levels and I frequently go and watch my home team, Sheffield United, play. In my spare time, I read books wherever possible, particularly in the crime thriller genre. I’m a big film and TV buff, and I try and watch new films and TV series when I can (Game of Thrones being a personal favourite). On weekends, I am normally out exploring the countryside during walks with my dog, Douglas – a chocolate Labrador - and going to the park, swimming, and other activities with my daughter Florence.
I have an inquisitive mind and spend some of my spare time problem/puzzle solving or learning new things, such as listening to educational podcasts or otherwise trying to expand my knowledge. I think one of the reasons I love my job so much is that it satiates my desire to learn!
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