A Day in the Life of a Patent Lawyer

    


Andrew Jones


By the time you are reading this newsletter, I will have been in the patent profession for 20 years.  I hadn’t envisaged a career as a patent attorney when embarking on a PhD all those years ago, but unfortunately my skills in the lab were just not that great and it quickly became apparent that an academic career was not for me and I started exploring other options.  I was always interested in law, I had started a Science/Law degree but had to drop the law to follow the science, so the intersection of those fields seemed like a good place to start.  Other chemists I spoke to who had become patent attorneys all seemed pretty happy so I thought why not give it a go.  I wrote to every single patent attorney firm in Australia and was fortunate enough to get a job at one of the leading firms, working for some fantastic partners.  I spent over 10 years at that firm, learning everything I could, before deciding to spread my entrepreneurial wings and start my own firm.  It was kind of daunting (to say the least) to do so, but we have grown from just one attorney working in his front room at home to four attorneys, spanning pretty much all technology areas and working out of offices in the Brisbane and Sydney CBDs.  Exciting times.

 

Being a patent attorney is fantastic, I really am one of those lucky people who fell into a career that they love.  On a good day, I get to see inventions that are the pinnacle of many years’ research and endeavour, neatly packaged up ready for launch out into the commercial world.  The potential for commercial success is clearly apparent and everyone is always optimistic at this stage, before the hard work and long grind of commercialisation starts in earnest.  Coming to an understanding about how an invention works and how to define the scope of a monopoly that encapsulates the essence of this is the reason I get out of bed on Monday to Friday.  

 

Not all days are as good as that however.  Most of the inventions I deal with are unlikely to change the world, and that’s OK, as long as the work I do helps the client’s commercial endeavours.  Many of the “simple” inventions made by clients are being sold in supermarkets, hardware stores and on-line, and I know the hard work that it took to get it there, so it’s pleasing to know that they have protection from copycats, who have an uncanny knack of arriving very quickly after something becomes a commercial success.  I can assure you that there’s no greater thrill for a patent attorney (well, this particular patent attorney, at least) than discovering their client’s product on the shelf at Woollies.

 

My day-to-day varies wildly, from the highs of attending international conferences (in pre-COVID times) to meet and greet patent attorneys from other countries, to the highs of working on a complicated drafting job for an amazing invention or providing a validity and infringement opinion.  Being the owner of a small business, however, there are also some lows, such as the forensic accounting needed when the books don’t balance and ensuring that we are compliant with the myriad of legal and tax requirements of a business.  The profession is also a rather stressful one.  We work within very strict timelines and with serious consequence for missing a deadline.  It is a constant juggling act to meet deadlines and client expectations as well as somehow procuring next month’s work.  The majority of my time is also spent alone in an office, shuffling bits of paper around.  I do know a few people who have decided after a few years that being a patent attorney was not for them, and have gone back to the lab bench.

 

I generally try to split my time between creative work, such as drafting patent specifications for new inventions or preparing submissions to Examiners regarding why a client’s invention is patentable and should be allowed, and deconstructive work, such as is required when providing infringement or validity opinions, where you look for weaknesses in “the enemy’s” patent.  These use different sides of the brain and, at the end of most days, it really does feel like I’ve had a full brain workout.

 

Andrew Jones, Principal of Foundry Intellectual Property

 

A Day in the Life of an Analytical Development Manager


 

Andrew Jones

 

Hello fellow Chemists.  My name is Andrew Jones and I work at Chemika Pty Ltd (www.chemika.com.au) as the analytical development manager.  Chemika is a contract laboratory performing chemical quality assurance testing for companies mainly in the pharmaceutical and veterinary industries.  In this narrative, I would like to tell you a bit about my background, how I have arrived at my current position and what work in my job entails.

 

In my job as an analytical development manager, I oversee all method development and validation activities taking place at Chemika, as well as any non-routine investigations that we are asked to perform by clients.  Although I would identify myself as being part of the laboratory staff, I also work closely with both our sales and quality assurance departments to ensure timely and efficient completion of all aspects of project work.

 

Going back to my days as a high school student, I enjoyed and was good at maths and (especially the physical) sciences. While studying in Years 11 and 12, I had a chemistry teacher who had worked in industry prior to taking up his teaching role.  Discussions with him over those 2 years opened my eyes up to the possibilities of further study and work in the field of chemistry.  This has inspired me to study a Bachelor of Science with a major in chemistry, which I completed with the addition of an honours year.

 

Having moved directly from high school to university, I had been studying for 17 years straight and felt that I needed a break.  I always had ambitions completing a PhD (more on that later).  So I decided to go and work in industry for a while.

 

I came across a job advertisement from a company called Chemika that was happy to take a graduate on.  I put in an application, which led to my first job in a Chemistry laboratory.  Starting at the bottom of the ladder, my first weeks were spent performing basic, mostly wet chemical testing on raw materials.  As the months and years went on, I was given many opportunities to work on instrument-based techniques (including most common chromatographic, spectroscopic and metal analysis techniques) and analysis of finished products with more complex matrices.

 

Eventually, I was asked to help with method development and validation.  Firstly, under the supervision of more senior staff and then on my own, working towards writing validation protocols and documenting the results obtained in validation reports.  The validation work was something I always enjoyed doing as each day would be different and it would allow me to spend time on problem solving to come up with the best analytical solution to test a particular product in line with the requirements of our client and various regulatory bodies.

 

Chemika offered me the opportunity to return to university and study on a part time basis to complete a PhD.  My PhD project was focused on HPLC column technology.  I won’t say that it was an easy way to do it, there were plenty of days where I put in a full day of work at Chemika, only to go home and work on data analysis or writing for my thesis or papers for another few hours.  But the results were worth it.  I managed to publish over 20 papers and am currently in the final approval process for my degree.

 

As my time at university was coming to an end, I sat down at Chemika to discuss my future plans and how we might work together moving into the future.  This is where my current role was born.  With my research background and interests in method validation, I was offered a position supervising the validation and non-routine work.  My day-to-day job can vary dramatically, so rather than going through a typical day, I am going to follow a validation project through the laboratory.

 

Firstly, we receive an enquiry from a customer.  Working closely with our sales team, I establish what testing technique is to be employed, whether the testing requires validation and what extend of validation is required.  This often requires consultation with the client to identify what testing is most suitable for their needs.  From there, we put a quote together for customer approval.

 

Once the quote has been approved, the next step is to write a protocol.  Thankfully in the pharmaceutical and veterinary industries, the requirements for method validation are clearly laid out.  At this stage, we also need to identify and quantify appropriate method performance parameters that need to be achieved for the method to be considered suitable for use.

 

After the protocol has been written and approved, the laboratory work starts.  The first stage of which is often method development, establishment of the exact sample preparation and measurement techniques that will be used for the testing.  Once these are established, the validation work begins.  Using the protocol for guidance, various tests are performed to stress the method and ensure that it is performing as required.  When all requirements in the protocol are met, a report can be written for our client which can be used for submission to government regulatory bodies as part of the drug approval process.

 

I have a group of lab staff that I work closely with to ensure that the project is completed in a timely and efficient manner.  Although I am not directly involved in every step of every validation, I always take an administrative role in the project ensuring that everything is in place for the other staff to do their job.

 

There is one additional part of my role that does not fit into the validation work, that is technical review of methods and results.  I have technical input on investigations into unexpected results and changes to test methods and equipment.  I will lead projects to investigate if the method is performing as intended and whether changes are needed in the future.

 

For anyone considering a career in chemistry, I would ask them what makes them stand out from the pack?  Don’t just go down the same path as everyone else, do you have passion for a particular area?  If so, play on that strength and use it to market yourself.  Don’t rely on what everyone around you thinks, try and come up with your own solutions to problems, these will often suit you better.

 

The other thing I would say is try and get some research experience, even if you are not planning on pursuing a job in academia, as research experience is highly valued by industry.  At an early stage of your career, the research you do does not matter very much, but the generic research skills that you pick up are invaluable for any career in science.

 

I hope that you have enjoyed reading my background and what my job entails.

 

Andrew Jones ([email protected])

 

A Day in the Life of a Lead Assessor

 


 

Danielle Douglas

 

I am Danielle Douglas and have been with NATA for four years.  I joined NATA as a full-time trainer and delivered public courses including Understanding ISO/IEC 17025, ISO 15189, Quality Management in the Laboratory, Internal Audits and others.

 

My background is in analytical chemistry and I have diverse experience in various types of laboratories.  My career started off in a pathology laboratory, then I moved on to fertilizer manufacturing.  My main claim to fame was in the oil and gas industry, where I worked upstream in a Cementing Laboratory, primarily designing and testing oil well cement slurries for offshore wells.

 

Emigrating to Australia has made it challenging and difficult to establish myself in a new position within my type of industrial/analytical/chemistry background and experience.  My mind was set to stay within the science and laboratory environment because this is where I have always excelled.  I took the challenge in my platinum years to go back to university and obtained a Master of Quality Analysis and Laboratory Management.  This was quite exciting because it refreshed my knowledge and skills that have gone stale.  Studying locally also introduced me to the Australian science industry.  During my studies, I worked in a NATA ISO/IEC 17025 and ISO 17034 accredited laboratory in the specialty gas industry.  This laboratory was nestled within a gas manufacturing plant, testing and blending gas mixtures as well as producing reference gases.  However, I jumped ship at an opportunity to work for NATA where a strong background in science is essential.

 

Working for NATA is about a rewarding lifestyle with a constant challenge.  The lifestyle part is about extensive travel because accreditation takes you to various parts and industries in Australia.  This means travel and more travel.  It does not suit everyone and only fits individuals that enjoy science beyond travel.  There is always this romance about travel.  But once the honeymoon phase is over, then people realise, “no, this is not working out”.  Travel was always part of my career and took me across the globe and I can be a bit blaze about it, just another job, or site, will be back soon.

 

The challenging part at NATA is the never-ending learning part and the juggle of your time, travel, skill building, catch-up and ever filling calendar.  The first three years with NATA, I was on training full time and learned new skills, particularly public speaking.  Most of all I got to know ISO/IEC 17025 well and understood how NATA operates.  However, I missed the science and the inside of a laboratory.  At the start of 2021, I joined NATA operations and took the journey to become a Lead Assessor in a role as an Accreditation Specialist in the Calibration sector.

 

Working as an Accreditation Specialist is like being a project manager.  You manage multiple projects (jobs) simultaneously where jobs are at all different stages.  The good thing about it is that you are in control of your jobs and can manage your own schedule as long as you get the jobs done.  The role is well structured and documented with a lot of processes and systems in place to ensure deadlines are met and jobs progress effectively.  An efficient support system is in place as we function within teams where peers, colleagues and administrative staff collaborate.

 

An Accreditation Specialist’s primary role is to act as a Lead Assessor.  A particular easy day in a Lead Assessor’s life, when an onsite assessment is taking place, may start very early, meeting up with assessment team, maybe over breakfast.  When an assessment involves a team, the Lead Assessor also assumes the role of a facilitator for the day.  Reaching a facility may involve any suitable medium of transport and you need to ensure all arrive on time at the facility.  Excellent time management plays a role in following the program that includes entry meeting, answering queries, interview people, review management system documentation, assist the assessment team, writeup an interim report of the assessment findings and conduct and closing meeting.  If all went well that day, you leave on time and head over to the hotel or maybe home.

 

There are few assessment days and most of the time is then taken up by planning and admin tasks.  For example, one is most likely catching up with colleagues at the office, paperwork and dealing with issues such as printing, IT, meetings, training, answering calls, review files.  Then there are Work-from-Home days.  During Work-from-Home days, time is spent on reviewing documents, methods, reports, results and prepare briefing notes, initiate new jobs, putting a future team together that matches with the facility scope, review submissions, follow processes, recommend maintenance, continuing or granting accreditation.  This type of days is the most challenging part of an Accreditation Specialist’s life as one needs to manage time, assigned jobs and meeting deadlines.  There are more “other days” in a Lead Assessor’s life than assessment days.  A lot of work is done in the background. before and after an assessment, where bulk of the assessment work takes place.

 

The key to this role is accreditation, where facilities need to meet the requirements of ISO/IEC 17025(or other programs) and additional requirements that may be imposed on them and ensure that the facilities are competent to perform activities for which they are accredited to.

 

The journey in my diverse career led me to this exiting role.  I get to meet new likeminded people, see various types of industries, visit state-of-the-art laboratories.  Ultimately, I continue to enjoy my career as a scientist in and around laboratories.

 

Click here to go to Danielle’s LinkedIn