A patent engineer is a patent law professional. While not a lawyer, patent engineers have a keen understanding of patent law and the patent application process. Engaged by both corporations and individuals, these employees provide administrative and engineering support, in an effort to efficiently work through the patent application process.
A patent engineer oversees the full life cycle development of all patents. He seeks out new inventions that are patentable. Performing an initial interview with an inventor, the engineer interprets and documents the scope of a new invention. Working with a design team, he ensures that there are no issues with regard to copyright or existing patent infringement. Creating all relevant materials for a patent application, he writes, designs drawings and double checks for accuracy. After all kinks have been worked out, the patent engineer submits the patent application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office for review.
While traditional methods of finding employment, such as classifieds and online job boards are effective for those seeking work in this field, a greater resource is the National Association of Patent Practitioners (NAPP). A professional organization for those in the patent community, NAPP provides an abundance of benefits to its members. In addition to administering an online job search engine, the organization hosts multiple regional events throughout the year, where members may network with each other and learn about industry news and advancements. Each summer, an annual meeting is held in a different city, offering members the opportunity to liaise with others from different parts of the country. Additionally, membership gives professionals eligibility to gain credits in NAPP’s certification program, greatly increasing a candidate's marketability.
To be successful as a patent engineer, an applicant must be an extremely skilled writer, as this role requires the writing and interpreting of many technical reports, particularly in mathematical and diagram formation. Additionally, the candidate must also possess a strong reasoning ability. It is imperative that challenges are identified and resolved through significant research (i.e. data collection, fact establishment and the drawing of valid conclusions).
Employers require successful candidates for patent engineering roles to possess a four year degree at minimum. Applicants possessing master’s degrees are usually preferred. Common educational majors include engineering, science and related fields of study. Additionally, candidates for this role are typically required to have previous professional experience, particularly prior success within the area of patent development.
In 2009, SimplyHired.com states that the typical patent engineer working in the United States of America makes an average salary of $77,000 per year. This is substantially higher than the national average household income, which the United States Census Bureau reported on September 10, 2009 as $50,303.