Since biotechnology patent law combines the areas of science and law, there are a number of ways you can explore this field. To investigate the law aspect of this career, try to get a part-time job or internship with a law office in your area. You will probably be doing tasks such as filing papers, photocopying, and answering phones, but this experience will give you an idea of what working in a law office is like. If you can’t find such a job, try locating a lawyer in your area with whom you could do an informational interview. Even if the lawyer is not a biotechnology patent lawyer, he or she can give you some insights into the practice of law and the experience of law school.
If you are already in law school, you might consider becoming a student member of the American Bar Association. Student members receive Student Lawyer, a magazine that contains useful information for aspiring lawyers. Sample articles from the magazine can be read at https://abaforlawstudents.com/stay-informed/student-lawyer-magazine/.
To explore the science aspects of this career, consider joining a science or engineering club at your school. Ask your science teacher about any contacts he or she might have with scientists at the university level. You may be able to set up an informational interview with a scientist working on or having completed a Ph.D. Find out what this person likes about the field and get any advice he or she may offer to a young scientist.
The biotechnology patent lawyer’s job actually begins only after researchers or scientists have done extensive work in their field. For example, researchers or scientists may draw on advances in molecular and cellular biology, genetics, and knowledge of the human immune system, to change and combine DNA in an effort to come up with a new vaccine. When they have developed this vaccine, they are ready to seek a patent for their invention from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. At this point, biotechnology patent lawyers join the process to help these researchers and research corporations with all legal aspects of their biotechnology patents. A patent gives the patent holder the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention for a specific period of time.
Biotechnology patent lawyers have extensive scientific and legal knowledge. Like any other lawyer, they must be able to give clients legal advice and represent them in court when necessary. In addition, their scientific knowledge helps them prepare patent specifications for their clients’ work.
For most biotechnology patent attorneys, the job falls into three major stages. First, they take their clients’ patent claims before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and attempt to obtain patents for them. Second, they negotiate various kinds of business transactions that involve patents. For example, they might assist a client in licensing the rights to use or sell a certain patented technology. Third, biotechnology lawyers assist clients in the enforcement of patents, which might involve suing another party for patent infringement or defending a client from an infringement lawsuit. While some patent attorneys may find that most of their cases fall into one or the other of these categories, most patent attorneys take on cases in all three of these areas.
Biotechnology law practice offers a chance to learn about the latest scientific discoveries and developments before most other people. Although lawyers must keep these often thrilling developments quiet to protect their clients’ confidentiality, they still have the satisfaction of knowing that they’re party to the latest inventions in genetics and even the cloning technology.