Patent administration is one of fastest growing and highest paid areas of legal administration. Qualified patent paralegals (also called patent specialists or patent secretaries) are in high demand—and can earn up to 50% more than the average paralegal, making patent law an excellent job for paralegals. If you are currently in a paralegal program, and want to assure your paralegal career outlook, a patent paralegal specialty might be right for you!
Patent, Copyrights, Trademarks—oh my!
A patent is “a set of exclusive rights granted by a state to a patentee for a fixed period of time in exchange for a disclosure of an invention.” The procedure for granting patents can vary widely between countries according to national laws and international agreements. Basically, it boils down to this: a patent application must include one or more claims defining the invention, and the invention must be new, inventive, and useful or industrially applicable. Once the patent is in hand, the inventor has exclusive rights over the manufacturing, distribution, and sale of the invention.
But patents are not the only ways to protect “intellectual property” (known often as IP). There is also the Trademark, which is a mark (™) used by a manufacturer or merchant to identify the origin or ownership of goods, and the Copyright (©), which guarantees a person’s exclusive right to reproduce, publish, or sell his or her original literary, musical, dramatic, artistic, or architectural work. Patent paralegals are experts in all the various ways that IP is protected.
What Does a Patent Paralegal Do?
A patent paralegal works with one or more patent attorneys or agents, and handles all the administrative work involved in the long and complex process of patenting inventions, either at a law firm or within the patent department of a corporation or university. The job description of a paralegal with a patent specialty includes research on patents and helping to draft patent applications. It may also be necessary to perform research for litigation proceedings in a patent paralegal job.
The patent paralegal career is a profession that requires intelligence, initiative and good organizational skills—and patience! Unspecialized paralegals cannot do this work; it requires specific and substantial training. There might be a lot to study in patent paralegal programs, but it’s worth it—experienced patent paralegals are often given a great deal of responsibility for day-to-day patent matters, and with that comes a plenty of respect and a hefty paycheck.
How Do I Specialize in Patent Law as a Paralegal?
Obviously, you can’t begin to work as a patent paralegal without first becoming a paralegal. Paralegal programs include either a two-year associate degree programs (by far the most common way to become a paralegal) as well as Bachelor degree programs with a certification program. Paralegals are always in demand, so no matter what, as a paralegal your career outlook is excellent.
Because of the high demand for paralegals that specialize in patent law, many paralegal programs are including additional courses to allow individuals to specialize in this exciting field. Paralegals can also apprentice with a patent attorney, but the fastest way into the field is by pursuing the specialization as part of your paralegal program. A patent paralegal career may require additional coursework, but given the current paralegal career outlook it can only benefit you in the long run.
Job Outlook and Salary
The ever-increasing level of piracy and counterfeiting costs U.S. businesses substantial revenue annually. As such, businesses have to be just as vigilant in protecting its intangible “intellectual” assets as it would be in protecting its physical assets. Paralegals that specialize in patent law can expect to find work quickly and easily; it’s anticipated that it will be years before supply catches up to demand.
Traditional paralegals usually start earning about $25,000, and with experience can top out at about $60,000 annually. But patent paralegals start at a much higher salary—usually about $35,000, and with experience can earn as much as $70,000 or $80,000 a year—more than twice the national average for paralegals. You won’t find a more satisfying or rewarding paralegal specialization.