Has anyone here ever worked for the US patent office?

So I have basically come to terms with the fact that I don’t see myself getting the real biomedical engineering job that I want, at least not anytime soon. No product design/development for me, due to having no experience or graduate degree. When I do job searches, though, I always see ads for the US patent office. Here’s an example.

Has anyone worked for the patent office before? What’s a typical job day like? Is it as mind-numbingly boring as I think it would be? Even more important, though…will actual biomedical and medical device companies see this as relevant job experience, so that a few years down the line I can get the fuck out?

Quick bump.

Seriously? Out of all the professions and jobs we represent, no one worked for the patent office?

I think some dude named Einstein worked for a patent office. I think he got a job in science or something afterwards.

Best I can manage is a stint at the UK Patent Office, but as a Trade Mark examiner rather than a Patent examiner.

The main activity would be considering applications against the usual criteria - both whether the doodah itself had a practical application and whether it was novel. Doubtless you would be expected to examine so many applications a month.

Allied to this would be corresponding with the applicant (or, more likely, his agent) about the issues raised by your examination.

Hope this helps.

My partner works there now and I’ve looked into it as a career possibility. It is my plan B, and while I’m more interested in my plan A, it’s a job I’d take and be content with. We’re both physicists.

Examiners start in the ‘Patent Academy’. It’s a roughly ~6 month training program (yes, they claim 8 month … they’ve ended most of the sessions early to free up classroom space for incoming classes). Only the first 1-2 weeks are purely classroom time. You’re then in a ‘lab’ of 16 people with a supervisor and you start examining patents. Your work is very closely reviewed at this stage and you basically learn by doing. Reviewing patents involves searching through the prior art and constructing arguments to reject the claim. These are written up in response documents that are about 1/2 form letter, 1/2 newly created text. There’s a lot of writing, but it’s pretty structured writing. After the academy, you’re sent to an ‘art unit’. You’ll know your art unit from the start and be in touch with them throughout your time in the academy. Once there, you’re reviewing patents and writing responses, and a primary examiner from the unit will review and sign off on your work.

Mindnumbingly dull? It can be, but I think it’s more that the mindnumbingly dull part of this job is just obvious from the start. The technology can be fascinating, searching through all of the prior art can be interesting. The people I know all love doing research but hate the constraints of lab research (babysitting cryogen systems and ultra high vacuums for 6 years does that to a person), so nearly endless searchers about technology suit them well. They’re interested in IP issues and are considering law school. It can be pretty solitary work.

I don’t know about leaving there and going back into engineering design / production. Many people leave and work in IP law and some of the big companies still do that in house. They have various education programs - the most commonly known one is the law school program. They also have a program for people to get masters degrees in technical fields. This might be a way to maintain / gain skills that would be relevant to the engineering side of a device company. A hiring contact / recruiter should be able to talk to you about the various education options.

If this is something you’re interested in, I’d recommend pursuing it now. Because of their massive hiring ramp up, the USPTO has one of the most streamlined hiring processes in the federal government. It can still take forever. You can always turn down a job offer if you decide it’s not for you.

Yes. I worked for the Patent and Trademark Office during the fall of 1986. I was in the administrative office though so I didn’t have much actual contact with the engineers and others who actually did the patent reviews.

One thing I can tell you - the Hoover Building (where I worked) was very funky. I think everything has been consolidated in Crystal City now, though.

Its in Alexandria now. They moved to an area near the King Street Metro and the federal courthouse.