Aerospace Engineer with questions about patent law

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dcb942

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Aerospace Engineer with questions about patent law

Postby dcb942 » Wed Mar 22, 2017 11:18 pm

I graduated in 2014 with my degree in aerospace engineering. I have worked the last 2 years at NASA in Houston. It is pretty interesting but I am worried about being laid off in a few years when the ISS program ends and frankly the salary isn't amazing.

I have had an interest in patent law for awhile but no matter where I look most jobs require some sort of Electrical engineering or computer science. Now I have done quite a bit of programing and took several EE classes. I know my way around schematics, code, plumbing schematics, circuit diagrams etc. I do not want to risk going to law school only to not be able to find a job. Granted there are online computer science programs and I could conceivably get a degree in computer science either before or after law school if needed. I live very close to the University of Houston which has a decent IP program and I could do it part time.

My questions are:

What are your thoughts? Do I need another degree?

Is patent law worth the investment?

What is the job outlook for a patent lawyer?

What is the job outlook in Texas? My one condition is that I cannot leave Texas.

bk1

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Re: Aerospace Engineer with questions about patent law

Postby bk1 » Wed Mar 22, 2017 11:26 pm

Moved to appropriate forum.

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UVA2B

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Re: Aerospace Engineer with questions about patent law

Postby UVA2B » Wed Mar 22, 2017 11:28 pm

1) As long as you're patent bar eligible, you don't need another degree
2) Depends what you mean by worth the investment. IP types tend to have a more secured outcome for employment because there aren't that many people with aerospace engineering degrees (or any STEM field) and patent law requires that sort of background generally. Cost-benefit should apply here.
3) The job of a patent lawyer will depend on what type of patent law you want to be in. The two main areas are patent prosecution (bringing patents before the USPTO) and patent litigation (patents already issued, defend/fight for patent infringement). There is also IP transactional work, but that's mostly corporate work cloaked in tech. It's a stable profession, but generally speaking it has less growth and expansion.
4) TX won't be an absolute bar, and there is absolutely patent work being done in TX. E.D. TX. remains (for now) the hot bed of patent litigation for very interesting reasons. But if you can't leave TX, your search should be even more heavily focused on schools that will place well in TX. That means UT+T13. IP tends to be less sensitive to these prestige rankings because firms care as much about the underlying STEM background as they do the law school, but you should still aim to maximize both.

dcb942

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Re: Aerospace Engineer with questions about patent law

Postby dcb942 » Thu Mar 23, 2017 9:37 am

UVA2B wrote:1) As long as you're patent bar eligible, you don't need another degree
2) Depends what you mean by worth the investment. IP types tend to have a more secured outcome for employment because there aren't that many people with aerospace engineering degrees (or any STEM field) and patent law requires that sort of background generally. Cost-benefit should apply here.
3) The job of a patent lawyer will depend on what type of patent law you want to be in. The two main areas are patent prosecution (bringing patents before the USPTO) and patent litigation (patents already issued, defend/fight for patent infringement). There is also IP transactional work, but that's mostly corporate work cloaked in tech. It's a stable profession, but generally speaking it has less growth and expansion.
4) TX won't be an absolute bar, and there is absolutely patent work being done in TX. E.D. TX. remains (for now) the hot bed of patent litigation for very interesting reasons. But if you can't leave TX, your search should be even more heavily focused on schools that will place well in TX. That means UT+T13. IP tends to be less sensitive to these prestige rankings because firms care as much about the underlying STEM background as they do the law school, but you should still aim to maximize both.


Thanks for your response. What I meant about worth the investment is that if I invest 4 years and a lot of money, is the salary decent and the work enjoyable?

dcb942

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Re: Aerospace Engineer with questions about patent law

Postby dcb942 » Thu Mar 23, 2017 1:45 pm

UVA2B wrote: But if you can't leave TX, your search should be even more heavily focused on schools that will place well in TX. That means UT+T13. IP tends to be less sensitive to these prestige rankings because firms care as much about the underlying STEM background as they do the law school, but you should still aim to maximize both.


Unfortunately I am kinda stuck in Houston for at least the next few years. Wife has a good job and we just built a house. The part time university of Houston law degree appeals to me so that I can work while going to school. The IP program there is highly rated, number 8 in the nation (if that means anything). I would gladly try to get into UT if I could live in Austin again. I do not want to waste time or money, so is UH decent for IP?

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UVA2B

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Re: Aerospace Engineer with questions about patent law

Postby UVA2B » Thu Mar 23, 2017 1:48 pm

dcb942 wrote:
UVA2B wrote: But if you can't leave TX, your search should be even more heavily focused on schools that will place well in TX. That means UT+T13. IP tends to be less sensitive to these prestige rankings because firms care as much about the underlying STEM background as they do the law school, but you should still aim to maximize both.


Unfortunately I am kinda stuck in Houston for at least the next few years. Wife has a good job and we just built a house. The part time university of Houston law degree appeals to me so that I can work while going to school. The IP program there is highly rated, number 8 in the nation (if that means anything). I would gladly try to get into UT if I could live in Austin again. I do not want to waste time or money, so is UH decent for IP?


Don't worry about specialty ranks like that. They're meaningless. I can't say I know really anything about the part time program at UH, but it probably won't help or hurt you in landing IP work. As previously mentioned, employers will want to see a few things for hiring: good law school grades, good grades in STEM background, and relevant work experience in industry. If you have those things, you'll be competitive for IP firms.

Bluem_11

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Re: Aerospace Engineer with questions about patent law

Postby Bluem_11 » Mon Mar 27, 2017 6:49 pm

dcb942 wrote:I graduated in 2014 with my degree in aerospace engineering. I have worked the last 2 years at NASA in Houston. It is pretty interesting but I am worried about being laid off in a few years when the ISS program ends and frankly the salary isn't amazing.

I have had an interest in patent law for awhile but no matter where I look most jobs require some sort of Electrical engineering or computer science. Now I have done quite a bit of programing and took several EE classes. I know my way around schematics, code, plumbing schematics, circuit diagrams etc. I do not want to risk going to law school only to not be able to find a job. Granted there are online computer science programs and I could conceivably get a degree in computer science either before or after law school if needed. I live very close to the University of Houston which has a decent IP program and I could do it part time.

My questions are:

What are your thoughts? Do I need another degree?

Is patent law worth the investment?

What is the job outlook for a patent lawyer?

What is the job outlook in Texas? My one condition is that I cannot leave Texas.


1 & 2.Getting another STEM degree to then go to law school isn't a great idea unless you go to a t14 LS. If you want the STEM degree sure, but that's a lot of debt and lost $$ for no sure things in patent law.
3. It's BETTER than most of the law market but it is not great. Still more supply than demand just less of a scrap than most law students. Demand is there for prosecutors with experience in STEM fields but first job will be a grind.
4. That's quite limiting, although the USPTO has a Texas office as a fall-back plan. If you have Texas roots though you'll have a leg up. Still though the law market isn't great, and limiting yourself to one state can hurt.

My recommendation is patent law isn't a wise investment in your set of circumstances.

Abbie Doobie

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Re: Aerospace Engineer with questions about patent law

Postby Abbie Doobie » Wed Mar 29, 2017 11:21 am

OP, you ask about patent law, but patent law is a broad topic that encompasses a couple of distinct practices. Patent law can mean patent litigation where you represent either patent holders or accused infringers/petitioners in infringement suits, patent validity challenges, etc. It can mean patent preparation/prosecution, where you work with inventors to draft patent applications for their inventions and then respond to the patent office after it has reviewed your client's patent application. It can also mean things like patent-related aspects of transactions (M&A, licensing).

I think you first need to determine which type of patent practice you would be interested in pursuing because that will dictate the type of credentials you need. For example, if you want to be a patent litigator, your technical background isn't terribly important and your law school and class rank dominate. For patent prosecutors, your technical degree and work experience are paramount.

For patent litigation, the job outlook is generally not great since the number of new litigations being filed is decreasing. And thus the market tends to be very competitive. Plus, the hours, and more so the lack of work-life balance and control of your schedule, can be brutal. For patent prosecution, the outlook is okay but not great. Patent prosecution is a very cost sensitive practice as many companies are seeing the value of their patents declining as it has become easier to invalidate patents with the creation of the PTAB. And thus it can be hard to break into patent prosecution if you do not have the correct technical background and some patent prosecution experience. Also, because prosecution tends to be low margin, it's being pushed to small patent prosecution boutiques that tend to not pay very well (probably not much more than a typical engineer makes).

Here's my recommendation: if you are really interested in pursuing a career in patent law, do not go to law school. Instead, take the patent office exam (referred to as the patent bar) try to make a career out of being a Patent Agent. The job market is great for patent agents due to the downward pressure on prosecution fees. For every patent associate job posting, I see probably 3-4 patent agent postings. This is were the job market is going; patent pros will more and more be work executed by patent agents.

With that in mind, first you should see if your aerospace engineering degree allows you to set for the patent office exam. If so, I would get that done while you are still an engineer. That way it shows law firms that you are serious about transitioning to patent law. Once you have that, test the market to see if you can get any interest from firms in Texas. The market generally seems pretty good for patent prosecutors in Texas right now. If you don't get any hits, then maybe consider pursuing a masters in electrical engineering if you can get a good deal.

I've been in patent prosecution for almost four years now, and if I knew then what I did now about the market, I probably wouldn't have gone to law school and just tried to make my way as a Patent Agent.



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