Back to articles April 2019
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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