Engineering + intellectual property law = ????

I’m a chemical engineering grad looking for a new field of work. I started looking into law and have noticed on a number of occasions that job postings for intellectual property lawyers often give preference to those with engineering degrees.

Can any of you Dopers tell me how the two are connected? Is anyone out there a IPL? If so, what do you do on a day-to-day basis?

For a patent attorney to be effective, s/he has to be conversant with the technologies that are the subjects of the patents, or at least with the process of technological innovation. An engineering degree isn’t necessary, but it helps, and is a signal to hiring firms that the applicant for a patent job will be able to perform.

If you’re looking at areas of intellectual property other than patents, forget the above - but a firm that handles those too will be more interested in an applicant that can do the full range of the firm’s work.

You can also take the Patent Bar, administered by the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), and become a patent agent without doing that pesky law school thing. Patent agents generally do what patent lawyers do – prosecute patents.

Of course, a patent agent can’t do all the other things that a patent lawyer could do, such as appear on behalf of a client in court. But a lawyer who prosecutes patents wouldn’t do that anyway unless she were also a litigator. I believe that firms pay their patent agents less than their patent lawyers.

I am not sure where you are based, so this is an Australian perspective for a bit of inspiration rather than practical advice.

I studied law, and in Australia people often do a second degree course with law (Arts, Economics, Science etc.).

One of my friends did a Science degree with Law (majoring in Engineering), and has always worked as a lawyer in the Intellectual Property area. He says he would never have been able to succeed so quickly if not for his technical background.

So my point is they are very connected and a sensible combination. Good luck!

To add to what ElvisL1ves and tesseract said, I believe you are required to have a degree in science/engineering before taking the patent bar. Thus, patent attorneys are a fairly small subset of attorneys, therefore they tend to be in high demand, therefore they make pretty good money.

And I have a number of friends that are IP lawyers. They love their jobs, and there always seems to be plenty of IP work.