Sally, Senior Patent Counsel
I am responsible for securing legal rights, i.e. patents, for ideas generated within the company. My role also involves advising and educating colleagues on issues relating to intellectual property, such as trade marks. Most of my work is with research and development (R&D) colleagues but I also work with the commercial, clinical and regulatory teams to understand the value to the business of our patents and with people outside the company with whom we collaborate on research projects.
I have a BSc in Biochemistry from NUI Galway, MMedSc from Queen’s Belfast, and a PhD from University of Leeds and I am qualified as a European Patent Attorney.
A lot of my time is spent working on identifying patentable subject matter in invention disclosures, technical reports or manuscripts, preparing patent documents and responding to communications from patent offices. These tasks require discussion with the inventors to understand the science and with commercial colleagues to understand the relevance to the business strategy. I also do plenty of communication with colleagues in other departments via telephone, e-mail and in meetings (face-to-face and over the telephone).
I began as an R&D scientist, then acted as a liason between the R&D department and the intellectual property (IP) department. Eventually I decided to remain within the IP department where I progressed to my current role.
My main scientific interest is human molecular and cell biology as I have always been fascinated in how the human body functions. The pharmaceutical industry provides a dynamic environment in which to progress in this field.
I decided to apply for jobs in the pharmaceutical industry as the next step after completing my PhD. It seemed like a natural progression with the possibility for lots of interesting opportunities.
It’s really a mixture of both. I produce work on my own but it’s with the guidance and input of a team, and I work with many different teams.
We have a friendly work environment and get together for enjoyable social gatherings outside work from time to time.
Passing my European Patent Attorney exams.
A bachelor’s degree in a STEM subject is required to train as a patent attorney. Other qualifications are not necessary but it can be useful to have worked a bit “at the bench” to better understand the science. What is important in addition to academic qualifications is a good work ethic, enthusiasm, and confident communications skills.
As a qualified patent attorney, there is much scope to develop in the same role as the work is diverse and never boring. There are also currently opportunities available to work in private practice and in other companies.
An ability to organise and prioritise workload, to assimilate lots of detailed information, to write in a clear and succinct style, to be able to work as part of a team and to communicate effectively in speech and writing. And lots of enthusiasm!
Get a good understanding of what the career will involve. For example expertise required, work hours, location/travel, work:life balance and make sure it sounds like something you’d like to do.