August 2, 2013 by IPAlchemist
Well would you credit it? Your very own IPAlchemist is now A Face of Chemistry! Those who said I had to choose – I could be a lawyer or a chemist but not both – well they were wrong.
Before I go on to explain what on earth I am talking about, I have to give the now-usual obligatory apology. It has been MONTHS since I posted here. It is not that nothing has been happening – far from it – but that what blogging time I have has been exclusively reserved for the IPKat (check out the Publications page for a periodically updated list of IPKat posts) with the only occasional foray as a guest blogger on the India-specialist Spicy IP blog. There have been some other writings as well, but for those too you have to peek at the Publications page as well.
Anyway, a little while ago those lovely people at the Royal Society of Chemistry (and I mean it – they really are lovely) asked if I would mind being filmed for the Faces of Chemistry series. You can check the RSC’s explanation of the series on the Faces of Chemistry microsite, but my understanding is that they are aimed at young adults, and that the intention is to encourage people to study chemistry to show what an amazing range of career opportunities it leads to. Well that is very much my bag, and I will do anything I can to further and improve the public image of chemistry, so of course I said yes.
We burbled around for a little while making all the arrangements, and then on the appointed day two wonderful people came from the RSC with a cameraman who brought with him all that impressive looking kit. The way they structured it was that the nice lady asked me lots of open questions, and then I was supposed to reply in such a way that when they edited out the questions, the answers by themselves would make sense. Well I soon got the hang of it and we were away. And then before I knew it they said they had enough material and that was it.
We had agreed that they would also film around the office, with me lecturing, working, discussing cases, and so on, and that they would also interview two other chemists in the firm – Fergus Tyrrell who is my trainee, and Robert Lundie-Smith who is an IP solicitor. This would give different perspectives on the topic.
It turned out that they had so much material that they made two films – one of me, and one of Fergus and Robert. So a little while later two draft edits appeared in my inbox.
Well, dear readers, I can tell you that although I can handle speaking in public and even being filmed, watching it back is quite another thing altogether. All three of us found it excruciating watching ourselves, and my toes curled with embarrassment. Why do I go “Ummm” so much? Why do I look shiftily to one side when I am thinking? Why did no-one tell me? And do I really sound like that? Not to mention look like that? Apparently I do. So I have watched the proofs twice for quality control purposes (in fact they were perfectly edited and I didn’t request any changes, and neither did my colleagues), and then never again. Well, maybe one day I will bear to look once more.
The IPAlchemist would like to thank the RSC for a great opportunity. It has been a joy and a privilege to be associated with this project.
October 24, 2012 by IPAlchemist
My current job.
I am a patent attorney, partner in the intellectual property law firm EIP, and head of its chemistry practice group, EIP Elements. This covers pharmaceuticals, food science, process chemistry, polymers, agrochemicals, batteries, inks, and all sorts of other fascinating things.
What I do in a standard “work day.”
A lot of reading of patent documents and other “prior art” (which can be journal articles, abstracts…). A lot of writing as well: huge volume of emails; drafting patent documents; writing letters to the patent office, or other patent attorneys in other countries; and of course writing to my clients giving opinions, advice, and reports.
Although the work runs the danger of being solitary, I make it collaborative by talking to my colleagues – getting second opinions, arguing over obscure rules of grammar or punctuation, or discussing knotty legal problems.
There is quite a lot of travelling – I get to go to Japan and the USA quite regularly, and Munich (the seat of the European Patent Office) often. My favourite place to visit has been Jurong Island in Singapore, which is a vast agglomeration of chemical plants and an amazing sight.
What kind of schooling / training / experience helped me get there?
The chemistry degree was essential – you cannot even train as a patent attorney in Europe without a science or engineering degree, and you can only practise in a technical field that you understand. It was probably also important that I was interested in topics outside science – English language and literature and other languages especially, as literacy is a key aspect of being an effective patent attorney.
I did a DPhil and a post-doc – these were not perhaps so essential, although I do think that it helps me as a patent attorney that I understand a little of what it is like to do actual research. In the long term, the most important thing about the post-doc was probably that it was in Japan, so I learned Japanese. Many people enter the patent attorney profession after an undergraduate degree.
How does chemistry inform my work?
It is there all the way through – in particular the nomenclature aspects – you cannot claim a class of compounds if you don’t know how to name them correctly. It was probably teaching 1st year organic chemistry to biochemistry undergraduates that really hammered nomenclature into my head. I rely on the inventors most of the time for the detailed technical input, but I have to have the general background knowledge to understand this.
Being in private practice (rather than working in-house in a particular company) I get a lot of variety in the technical fields that I work in, and I really love that. My main reason for moving away from the research path was the monotony.
Finally an anecdote
My entry into the patent world was by a series of accidents. I heard about it when I was a teenager when my mother had an idea (a heater for the windscreen wiper reservoir to prevent freezing) and consulted a patent attorney about it. I mentioned that I was interested in the patent attorney career to a student doing a DPhil in the same lab as me when he was planning to enter the profession, and when he left his job to emigrate, he contacted me to ask whether I would be interested in the vacancy. A partner was visiting Japan where I was doing my post-doc at the time, and the job was then mine! People nowadays are a bit more methodical about it all, I think.
September 13, 2012 by IPAlchemist
So, APAA is coming up. It will be my first time to visit. I have wanted to go for the longest time, but previously the “one observer per non-member firm” rule made it impossible for me. Of course, as a UK-based UK and European Patent Attorney, I am not eligible to be a member of APAA.
Never before will I have seen so many patent attorneys in one place, with the possible exception of a party that I went to at AIPPI in Geneva. So I am really looking forward to it.
Of course I am looking forward to meeting old friends from Japan, but the really amazing aspect is the opportunity to meet so many attorneys from countries which I have not had a chance to visit yet (which is all except Japan, Singapore and New Zealand, and my trip to NZ was a holiday, so I didn’t meet any patent attorneys… Actually the Singapore visits were both very brief, so I didn’t see much other than the fascinating Jurong Island.)
If you chance by my blog and are going to APAA, look me up and say hi to the IP Alchemist!