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Chemistry or Computer Science?

MrBrooks
Posts: 831
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7/4/2012 2:06:40 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
I'm trying to become a patent lawyer and I need a degree in a science. I've always found both computers and chemistry interesting, and I can't decide which one I'd like to do. I was wondering if there are any would-be or current chemists and computer scientists that would like to inform me about what it is really like.
Thaumaturgy
Posts: 166
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7/4/2012 3:20:25 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 7/4/2012 2:06:40 PM, MrBrooks wrote:
I'm trying to become a patent lawyer and I need a degree in a science. I've always found both computers and chemistry interesting, and I can't decide which one I'd like to do. I was wondering if there are any would-be or current chemists and computer scientists that would like to inform me about what it is really like.

Have fun with the patent law stuff! I'm a chemist who has been working over the past couple of years in patent-related stuff as part of my job (a small side area of my regular duties). I'm getting ready to go take my "vacation" while attending a class to prep for sitting the patent bar...gotta take it now before the new laws fully go into effect and the bar gets even more hard!

But here's my wholly uninformed 2 cents.

I like chemistry and the opportunities are manifold. The patent work in that area can become quite complex but never likely to be the issue of patent reform. Chemistry patents will always be around. Besides: chemistry is fun!

Computer science stuff is a bit more trickly. I"m a neoluddite when it comes to computer stuff, but it sounds like the patent opportunities around this area of tech are going to be quite contentious moving forward. The problems around software patents seem very tricky (in re Bilski and Bilski v Kappos).

As a lawyer you might have a great career being on a new forefront as this is battled.

In the hardware side of things this could be really, really cool work!

If you are wanting to be most useful for the patent group you work for you could be a "double threat" an do both technical degrees, or go with the one that feels most "natural" to you, because when you get down to drafting the claims you'll want to have to worry more about the details of the MPEP than you will the details of the technology. It'll be complex enough especially if you haven't done a lot of the "on the bench" type work in the technical areas you are focusing on.

My problem is that even though I've worked for 15 years as a chemist my degrees are all in geology so I'll have to get a special dispensation to even sit the bar. I'm glad you are looking ahead to focusing on technical stuff that will be applicable to sitting the patent bar out of the gate.

Good luck!!!
Wnope
Posts: 6,924
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7/4/2012 3:54:54 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 7/4/2012 2:06:40 PM, MrBrooks wrote:
I'm trying to become a patent lawyer and I need a degree in a science. I've always found both computers and chemistry interesting, and I can't decide which one I'd like to do. I was wondering if there are any would-be or current chemists and computer scientists that would like to inform me about what it is really like.

If you have absolutely no preference in terms of study, and you've already taken a basic chemistry course, I would suggest focusing on computer science, since it will give you an edge on technology-related patents which are much more likely to take up your time.

Also, if there is an argument involving patents on organic molecules or the like, you probably wouldn't do any independent chemical analysis but instead weigh claims from either side interpretting data, so you really only need fluency in the terminology and basics of chemistry (why certain atoms bond and others don't, what it means to talk about "synthesizing" a molecule or a "derivative" of a molecule).
Thaumaturgy
Posts: 166
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7/4/2012 5:34:28 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 7/4/2012 3:54:54 PM, Wnope wrote:

If you have absolutely no preference in terms of study, and you've already taken a basic chemistry course, I would suggest focusing on computer science, since it will give you an edge on technology-related patents which are much more likely to take up your time.

Don't discount chemistry patents just yet! Remember there's whole giant pharmacological industry that makes zillions of dollars right now! Not to mention the countless other chemical industries!

Also, if there is an argument involving patents on organic molecules or the like, you probably wouldn't do any independent chemical analysis but instead weigh claims from either side interpretting data, so you really only need fluency in the terminology and basics of chemistry (why certain atoms bond and others don't, what it means to talk about "synthesizing" a molecule or a "derivative" of a molecule).

That's a bit of an oversimplification I think.

There is a reason that one requires a technical background to sit the patent bar. It is more than simply fluency and basics. The comp sci route would be no less or more demanding in details.
RoyLatham
Posts: 4,488
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7/4/2012 8:31:21 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
I'm going to suggest computer science. If you ultimately decide that you are not into becoming a lawyer, perhaps due to worry about your immortal soul or something, getting a good job with an undergraduate computer science degree will be easier than getting a good job in chemistry. Chemistry will probably require a PhD to get a fun job.

To write patents you need a degree and to pass the patent agent test. That's fairly easy. Lawyers cannot write patents without also passing the agent's test. Being a lawyer is necessary to write contracts that involve patents and for litigation involving patents, but not for doing any sort of work with the Patent Office.

One very common route is to get an undergraduate degree and pass the agent test, then get a job with the Patent Office as a patent examiner. The Patent Office pays the fees to attend night school to get a law degree. Two years later you have a law degree and two year's experience as an exam while you work as an examiner. Then you are ready to cash in in private practice.
Thaumaturgy
Posts: 166
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7/4/2012 8:53:01 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 7/4/2012 8:31:21 PM, RoyLatham wrote:
To write patents you need a degree and to pass the patent agent test. That's fairly easy.

LOL! LOL^1000!

"Fairly easy"? Did you take the patent bar? I'm getting ready to sit it sometime within the next 6 months and I can tell you it doesn't look easy.

It has about a 50% pass rate and you only have to get something like 70% right to pass if I recall correctly.

"Fairy easy" it doesn't sound like. The MPEP isn't the easiest read on the planet!

Sounds like you have some experience in this. What was it like when you sat the bar?
RoyLatham
Posts: 4,488
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7/4/2012 11:19:41 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 7/4/2012 8:53:01 PM, Thaumaturgy wrote:
At 7/4/2012 8:31:21 PM, RoyLatham wrote:
To write patents you need a degree and to pass the patent agent test. That's fairly easy.

LOL! LOL^1000!

"Fairly easy"? Did you take the patent bar? I'm getting ready to sit it sometime within the next 6 months and I can tell you it doesn't look easy.

Yes, I took it and passed it without a problem. The pass rate was about the same then as now, although of course it was on parchment then.

I didn't mean to suggest that someone could just study the night before and then pass it. I took a correspondence course that went on for about three months. The amount of study is about equivalent to a one-semester college course. It's important to draft some claims and have someone critique them. Claim language is odd.

I occasionally write patents for people on things related to my specialty, maybe a couple dozen over the years. I've done a bunch of expert witnessing for patent litigants, but that's more about the subject matter than patent law. the most common analysis involves deciding what is "obvious."
Wnope
Posts: 6,924
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7/5/2012 3:48:15 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 7/4/2012 11:19:41 PM, RoyLatham wrote:
At 7/4/2012 8:53:01 PM, Thaumaturgy wrote:
At 7/4/2012 8:31:21 PM, RoyLatham wrote:
To write patents you need a degree and to pass the patent agent test. That's fairly easy.

LOL! LOL^1000!

"Fairly easy"? Did you take the patent bar? I'm getting ready to sit it sometime within the next 6 months and I can tell you it doesn't look easy.

Yes, I took it and passed it without a problem.

Best. Response. Ever.
Thaumaturgy
Posts: 166
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7/5/2012 8:40:16 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 7/4/2012 11:19:41 PM, RoyLatham wrote:
Yes, I took it and passed it without a problem. The pass rate was about the same then as now, although of course it was on parchment then.

I didn't mean to suggest that someone could just study the night before and then pass it. I took a correspondence course that went on for about three months. The amount of study is about equivalent to a one-semester college course. It's important to draft some claims and have someone critique them. Claim language is odd.

OK, that sounds about like what I've heard. I'm getting ready to take an onsite class out East to prep and I've had several quarters of classes at a local university on it and I'll probably put in another 100 hours after that.

I'm not as worried about the claims language as I am about the needly little MPEP details. Fee schedules and docketing. I'm pretty fast on finding references so digging through the MPEP won't necessarily be a problem but doing it fast enough is what I need to work on.

I occasionally write patents for people on things related to my specialty, maybe a couple dozen over the years. I've done a bunch of expert witnessing for patent litigants, but that's more about the subject matter than patent law. the most common analysis involves deciding what is "obvious."

I recently got a First Office Action forwarded from Legal here at my work. Sometimes our Legal dept. will (interestingly) take care of office actions without consulting us (the inventors), but sometimes we are tasked with responding. I enjoy the response part quite a bit. It not only shows me what the examiner thinks but allows me to kind of "on the fly" review stuff.

It does seems that 103 rejections seem to be fast and furious these days. It's ten times worse for us because the research group I'm in works in pretty crowded technology. We can avoid anticipation but non-obviousness is like fighting the hydra.
Thaumaturgy
Posts: 166
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7/5/2012 8:43:00 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 7/5/2012 3:48:15 AM, Wnope wrote:
At 7/4/2012 11:19:41 PM, RoyLatham wrote:
At 7/4/2012 8:53:01 PM, Thaumaturgy wrote:
At 7/4/2012 8:31:21 PM, RoyLatham wrote:
To write patents you need a degree and to pass the patent agent test. That's fairly easy.

LOL! LOL^1000!

"Fairly easy"? Did you take the patent bar? I'm getting ready to sit it sometime within the next 6 months and I can tell you it doesn't look easy.

Yes, I took it and passed it without a problem.

Best. Response. Ever.

Well, to be fair to my point: I have seldom heard people call a test with a 50% pass rate requiring only 70% right to pass as "fairly easy". Roy obviously is pretty sharp on this stuff. He's certainly not in the average group.

And even then you'll note that he responded with the amount of work necessary to take a 1 day test was equivalent to semester's worth of classwork.

What was your experience with patent bar? I'm looking for any info I can from folks who took it, both bad and good. When you took it, was it "fairly easy" for you? Is DDO just inhabited mostly with people who are extremely good at the Patent Bar?
RoyLatham
Posts: 4,488
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7/5/2012 2:06:41 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 7/5/2012 8:40:16 AM, Thaumaturgy wrote:

OK, that sounds about like what I've heard. I'm getting ready to take an onsite class out East to prep and I've had several quarters of classes at a local university on it and I'll probably put in another 100 hours after that.

I suspect it won't take you that much time. It probably took me a total of 50 or 60 hours of study. Saying it was "pretty easy" was relative to the unusually high IQs of DDOers, but I could be wrong about that.

I'm not as worried about the claims language as I am about the needly little MPEP details. Fee schedules and docketing. I'm pretty fast on finding references so digging through the MPEP won't necessarily be a problem but doing it fast enough is what I need to work on.

The fee schedules never seemed to be a big deal, but to be sure the MPEP is a wonderland of details. Claim language language involves the stuff about "consists" vs. "comprises" and how to say "or" without using the word "or."

I recently got a First Office Action forwarded from Legal here at my work. Sometimes our Legal dept. will (interestingly) take care of office actions without consulting us (the inventors), but sometimes we are tasked with responding. I enjoy the response part quite a bit. It not only shows me what the examiner thinks but allows me to kind of "on the fly" review stuff.

Nearly all patents are dismissed with a 103 rejection on the first office action. If you are an examiner, why not use that?

One of my patents depended upon the difference between a solid sphere and a spherical shell. What can you say except that they are not the same, despite the examiner stating that they are the same. The agent I was using at the time argued it through multiple rejections and the internal appeal to a panel of senior examiners. All failed. He said we should appeal to the court system. I asked if that wouldn't be expensive. He said no, because he wasn't going to add anything new. The court came back with a grant of my patent, saying little beyond "Of course they're not the same."

It does seems that 103 rejections seem to be fast and furious these days. It's ten times worse for us because the research group I'm in works in pretty crowded technology. We can avoid anticipation but non-obviousness is like fighting the hydra.

On the first rejection, it's always "If it's so obvious, somebody would have invented it before. None of the prior art has A, B, and C like my invention"
Thaumaturgy
Posts: 166
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7/5/2012 2:50:01 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 7/5/2012 2:06:41 PM, RoyLatham wrote:
The fee schedules never seemed to be a big deal, but to be sure the MPEP is a wonderland of details. Claim language language involves the stuff about "consists" vs. "comprises" and how to say "or" without using the word "or."

I'm currently working a proejct in which some "transitional phrases" are of importance.

On the first rejection, it's always "If it's so obvious, somebody would have invented it before. None of the prior art has A, B, and C like my invention"

I'm going that route with my response but I'm also hedging my bets and going after an "undue experimentation" angle and citing in re Wands. One of the priors gave a couple of examples which didn't look too much like our stuff and trying to link that with the other prior art to come up with something like our invention was, at best a stretch and since it's a multicomponent mixture I could rely on the large number of experiments needed just to cover the ground.

Only problem is; the field I'm in is so ridiculously crowded that our legal team who actually has to draft these response to the examiner usually has to do a lot of fancy footwork.

I wish at times I worked in a part of chemical coatings that was on the edge of technology. Instead I'm making coatings to support "edge of technology" hardware but basically having to do it all on the cheap so I'm using materials in coatings that many others have played with for eons.

And our management wants to know why we can't get broader claims (!) :)
tBoonePickens
Posts: 3,266
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7/5/2012 3:30:57 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 7/4/2012 2:06:40 PM, MrBrooks wrote:
I'm trying to become a patent lawyer and I need a degree in a science. I've always found both computers and chemistry interesting, and I can't decide which one I'd like to do. I was wondering if there are any would-be or current chemists and computer scientists that would like to inform me about what it is really like.

The $$ in Patent Law is in both these fields for the time coming; however, I think it's more so in biochemistry. Pharmaceutical patents for drugs, genetics, nano-tech, etc will be where the big $$$ will be. Probably a Chemical Engineering degree will make you go where the big $$$ are! Good luck with Orgo 1 & 2!
WOS
: At 10/3/2012 4:28:52 AM, Wallstreetatheist wrote:
: Without nothing existing, you couldn't have something.
MrBrooks
Posts: 831
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7/5/2012 5:14:18 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Its good to have so many smart people running around DDO. If I had brought this question anywhere else I would have probably gotten some half-baked advice. Unfortunately I'm still on the fence, but I am leaning more toward computer science. It would be cool to do both, but I was planning on double majoring in Govt/Polts and either Computer Science or Chemistry.

It sounds like I win out either way though, and I do love win/win situations.
tBoonePickens
Posts: 3,266
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7/6/2012 9:09:44 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 7/5/2012 5:14:18 PM, MrBrooks wrote:
Its good to have so many smart people running around DDO. If I had brought this question anywhere else I would have probably gotten some half-baked advice. Unfortunately I'm still on the fence, but I am leaning more toward computer science. It would be cool to do both, but I was planning on double majoring in Govt/Polts and either Computer Science or Chemistry.

It sounds like I win out either way though, and I do love win/win situations.
Awesome! I personally prefer CompSci (was my major) over Chemistry, though I love the sciences too (esp. physics.) Good luck!
WOS
: At 10/3/2012 4:28:52 AM, Wallstreetatheist wrote:
: Without nothing existing, you couldn't have something.