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Careers, Employability and Enterprise Centre

Patents & Trademarks


The career of patent attorney/examiner is a specialism which allows those with a passion for science/technology and writing to combine this with an interest in law. For those from a non-technical background, trade mark work is a sister occupation which is similar in nature but without the need for technical knowledge and understanding.

Unlike many occupations, it is very difficult to gain relevant work experience but academic qualifications and skills such as attention to detail and a mastery of the English language are more important.

Many who enter this sector will have a higher degree but the majority still enter straight from their undergraduate degree and then gain professional qualifications whilst working.

You can choose to work in private practice for a firm of intellectual property lawyers; work for a registration body at national, European or world level; or, to work in-house e.g. for pharmaceutical companies.

Remember to check the Careers Centre website regularly for details of relevant talks on Patent work happening here at Durham. 

The Work

How to Get a Job

Work experience

Gaining work experience in a patent or trade mark attorney firm can be very difficult. Generally they are too busy with their own workload to have time to give a student a meaningful placement.

Work shadowing isn't really an option either, because these specialists spend so much time conducting desk research, reading or writing.

However it would be advisable and helpful to contact a currently practicing patent or trade mark attorney for an informal chat to find out more about their day-to-day work. You can ask Information Staff whether we hold any contact details of recent Durham graduates working in this sector who are happy to help. You can also approach individuals working for patent or trade mark attorney firms speculatively. You can find out contact details and links to firms website from the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys website

If you are conducting higher level research through your Masters or PhD studies then you should take any opportunity to speak to colleagues in your department who are involved in protecting their intellectual property. Depending upon your field you may be able to patent some of your own work.

The Careers Centre and Graduate School both run events related to 'entrepreneurship', for under- and postgraduate students and staff. These are very useful for understanding the needs of the clients that an intellectual property firm works with. In addition they may also have specific session on IP which will be directly relevant. Attendance at these can then be highlighted on your CV or in your covering letter.

Finally the ability to write clear, precise, factual text, rather than creative writing or giving your opinion, is vital for this job. So if you have the opportunity to do any voluntary writing in this style try to take advantage and develop this skill.

Relevant Employers

Intellectual Property Office Search for current vacancies
European Patent Office (EPO) Search for opportunities at the EPO - including internships
World Intellectual Property Organisation View vacancy announcements or sign up to receive alerts via email
Inside Careers Select "Chartered Patent Attorney" and then "Employers and Jobs" to see a table of which organisations are recruiting for graduate jobs and work experience placements.
Prospects Select "Jobs" and then "Graduate job search" and then you can search for opportunities by keyword or location
Durham University Careers Centre vacancy search Use this to find graduate vacancies as well as work experience and part-time opportunities

Speculative applications

The Directory of Parent Attorneys from the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys is available to search online. You could make use of this to help you to identify potential employers for speculative applications.


If you secure a role with a firm as a trainee patent attorney they will pay for you to study and sit your professional exams. If you choose to study for these independently before applying to firms this can show commitment and give you an advantage.

Patent attorneys

You can find links to relevant training organisations on the website of the Chartered Instutute of Patent Attorneys. The same organisation provides some additonal information about qualifications to become a patent attorney.

Courses which give you professional exemptions are available at:

Queen Mary University, London

Manchester University

Brunel University

Bournemouth University

Trade mark attorneys

You will find information on qualifications connected to becoming a trade mark attorney at the website of the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys.

Find courses

To find relevant courses you can use the search facility on the Prospects website.

Professional Bodies

Professional bodies represent practitioners working within specific sectors. They play an integral role in professional development and training and are often a source of graduate vacancies. For anyone with a specific career role in mind it is very important to establish what support, information and opportunities are available through the respective professional body. In certain cases it can be very advantageous to join a professional body as a student member.

For this career area, professional bodies include:

The Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA)

The Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys

Their websites contain excellent information on the work these professionals do and can also give a good insight into the issues facing professionals in this field and the kind of professional development which they undertake. This insight can help you stand out when making an application and also excel at interview.