Patent law is complex. The qualification process for patent attorneys is rigorous and typically takes 4 to 6 years in addition to a scientific or engineering degree. The resulting blend of scientific and legal knowledge is unique and sets the profession apart from other legal advisors.
The complexity of patent law means that you need to know that your chosen advisor is fully equipped with appropriate technical and legal qualifications, and has the specialised knowledge and experience necessary to serve your interests.
Not only are all registered patent attorneys degree qualified in a scientific discipline, they also spend on average 4 to 6 years training to pass rigorous UK and European professional examinations to establish their competence to draft and prosecute patent applications; and to provide quality advice relating to trade mark, design, copyright issues and disputes. This unique blend of technical, scientific and legal expertise distinguishes us from all other legal advisors.
In the UK most patent attorneys have Chartered status and are regulated by the Intellectual Property Regulation Board (IPReg). This places an obligation on attorneys to adhere to a Code of Conduct, and update their skills and knowledge via a programme of continuing professional development. IPReg also provides clients with a means of recourse in the rare event of any instances of professional misconduct.
Such is the importance placed on protecting the public interest in this field, it is a criminal offence in the United Kingdom for anyone to use the title “patent attorney” unless they appear on the official Register of Patent Attorneys. You can find our entry in the official Register here.
For many, the first port of call in relation to any legal matter is a solicitor. However, in the same way that patent attorneys are not qualified to provide general legal advice, in the highly specialised field of intellectual property (IP) a general solicitor is highly unlikely to possess the necessary skills, experience and technical background to secure IP rights and help resolve IP disputes. Specialised IP solicitors and barristers do exist and their skills can be complementary to those of a patent attorney, particularly in the areas of IP contracts and litigation.
Organisations which offer prototype manufacturing and invention promotion and exploitation services as opposed to patent attorney advice also exist. Whilst some reputable organisations do exist, many appear to undertake bogus research, produce sub-standard patentability searches, and generate misleading mass-produced reports. Crucially, these types of companies are not qualified as patent attorneys and therefore do not benefit from the client-attorney legal privilege or inherent confidentiality that automatically exists between a client and a registered patent attorney. An absence of regulation also means that clients choosing to utilise such services often have no effective means of recourse should a complaint arise. Further impartial guidance relating to the potential dangers of using such organisations can be found on the UK Intellectual Property Office website by clicking here.
It is possible to self-file a patent application without professional assistance. However, the legal and procedural complexities are significant should not be underestimated. Don’t take our word for it though. The UK Intellectual Property Office itself confirms here that only 5% of patent applications filed without professional input are granted. Furthermore, in those circumstances where granted patent rights have been obtained without professional assistance, they rarely provide a commercially useful scope of protection. It is often not possible to rectify any drafting errors retrospectively. We therefore recommend that clients seek professional advice at an earliest stages of any potentially valuable innovations.
In summary, given complex nature of patent law, we strongly recommend that you seek advice from a registered patent attorney when seeking advice or protection in relation to a new product or service innovation. Don’t take our word for it though. The UK Intellectual Property Office (i.e. the government body responsible for granting patent rights in the UK) backs this up on its website here.
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