Patent agent trainees are intellectual property professionals similar to patent agents who are in the process of training for their full credentials. They must have a technology background, understand patent law, and be able to communicate with clients. A trainee needs to have an undergraduate or graduate degree in a field relevant to his or her practice, but may not need a law degree. To become full patent agents, trainees must acquire a certain amount of job experience and pass a multi-part examination.
People in this position assist patent agents and attorneys in their day-to-day work to get the experience needed to become full agents. In many countries, a patent agent trainee must have a documented period of work experience with a qualified professional before becoming a full agent. The training period acts as an apprenticeship, providing information and skills that cannot be acquired solely in the classroom. Trainees do most or all of their work under the supervision of a more experienced legal professional.
Like full patent agents, trainees must prepare patents and communicate with clients. They discuss the technology and laws behind a proposed patent, then write about the technology more extensively to prepare the application. A patent agent trainee must be able to present patent information so that both laypeople and those with technical expertise can understand the proposal. Trainees must also be able to explain aspects of patent law to their clients.
This type of job involves enforcement of existing patents as well as filing new ones. A trainee must be able to advise clients whose patents have been infringed upon and apply to prosecute violators when necessary. Patent agent jobs require workers to distinguish between a prosecutable infringement and situations where legal action isn't appropriate.
Trainees require a range of personal skills in addition to material learned in the classroom. They must have good communication skills and a solid understanding of the science behind clients' inventions. Trainees should be able to envision additional uses for inventions when necessary, and must also possess good time-management and organization skills. A basic understanding of the legal process is also essential, as a patent agent trainee must write and do research on a daily basis.
Becoming a patent agent trainee requires at least a bachelor's degree in an engineering or science field. Law firms usually specify which fields are relevant when they advertise positions. Some employers also require a law degree, but this is not necessary for all positions.
After working for the required period of time, trainees may choose to take the patent agent examination which usually involves writing several papers on patent drafting, validity, and infringement. They may also include short answer portions or interviews. After passing the examination, the patent agent trainee can work as a full patent agent in his or her country, state, or province, but may need additional qualifications to work elsewhere.