Shaping something new

Back to articles April 2019


Shaping something new

Patent attorney Huw Jenkins has a degree in cell and molecular biology and a DPhil in developmental genetics from Oxford University. Huw started training in 2011 as a patent attorney in London and joined Secerna in 2018.

He tells us why he made the move from a career in academia to patent law and what, in his view, makes the role so worthwhile.

What led you into a career in IP?

I have always been fascinated by fundamental science, which led to a PhD researching evolutionary mechanisms underpinning cell growth and division. At university, I became interested in how knowledge from such research can be used to help solve problems facing our society – for example, how a better understanding of how genes act to control plant growth may be used to develop more environmentally friendly crops. Or how a better understanding of the way in which cancer evades the immune system may be used to develop new drugs. I was therefore drawn to learn more about technology transfer, and the idea of IP appealed to me, as I could apply my existing scientific training whilst also learning new skills in law.

What is the best thing about your job?

I enjoy learning new things each day and working on a wide variety of projects. Recently, I have been working on cases as diverse as agricultural technology, precision medicine and gene editing. In drafting patent applications for universities or spin-out companies, I have the chance to shape something new and be involved from the very start of an idea: that’s what I really enjoy.

What brought you to Secerna?

There is so much happening in the biomedical, pharma and life sciences sectors across the North of England. Yorkshire and the Humber have world-class strength in the bio-economy and bio-based innovation, and I was keen to get involved. Having trained with a large London law firm, I felt the time was right to move north for a new challenge. I was also keen to take a role in a smaller firm where I felt I could make an impact in a friendly, flexible environment. Secerna gave me that chance, alongside opportunities to work with great clients in an exciting area of science.

What does a typical day look like?

As a patent attorney, I handle all aspects of the patenting process. As well as discussing and drafting new patent applications with scientists and technology transfer managers I handle prosecution of cases around the world, especially Europe and the USA. This involves persuading examiners that the claims of a patent application are allowable.

A typical day may therefore involve receiving Search or Examination Reports from the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) or European Patent Office (EPO) and developing strategies with a client for the best ways to overcome any objections. It may also involve discussions with overseas attorneys for cases being prosecuted outside Europe; or working on oppositions or enforcements of granted patents.

Whilst life as a patent attorney is predominantly office based, there is the opportunity to travel. In addition to attending hearings in Munich and the Hague, I regularly visit clients or attend conferences across the UK and Europe and had the opportunity to spend a couple of several months this year working in Switzerland.

What advice would you give someone considering a career in IP?

If you’re looking for a career that is both challenging and rewarding, a career in intellectual property law offers both. From my own experience, it can be a steep learning curve from the lab bench to law firm, and you’ll need to be prepared for the adjustment.

I would certainly recommend speaking to a patent attorney to find out as much as you can about the role (and firm) before taking the leap. As competition for training places is high, a proactive approach may be needed to secure a trainee role.

What interests you outside work?

I enjoy nature and being outdoors and have a long-term goal of climbing all of the Scottish Munros (hills over 3,000 feet). Closer to home, I enjoy exploring the Yorkshire Wolds, coast and pubs with my wife and young dog.

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