How to become a patent attorney

Want to start earning money straight after graduation and kickstart your career at the same time? Then you should consider the training to become a patent attorney! As a budding patent attorney, your career prospects are in good hands at Westphal, Mussgnug & Partner.

The additional qualification of a German/European Patent Attorney opens up more than just a new perspective: an innovative career advantage. This section explains the reason and how we will support you across all four relevant steps, all the way to successfully gaining the qualification as a patent attorney.

Why should I become a patent attorney?
The combination of science and technology with current case law is a career option unknown to most graduates. Advantages: In addition to a great opportunity to advance your career, you will receive a permanent job and generous salary as soon as you graduate, not to mention financial support and time off for all training activities.

What exactly does a patent attorney do?
As a patent attorney, you advise clients who want to use their invention, brand name or design commercially and prohibit others from using it. This means that you are actively involved in helping innovation and ideas achieve the success they deserve.

How do I become a patent attorney?
To become a patent attorney, you will first have to complete a science or technical degree at a university. Your patent attorney training will see you working in the law firm as well as at the German Patent and Trademark Office and the Federal Patent Court. This will be accompanied by a distance-learning course in law. Once you have passed the final examination, you are eligible for admission as a patent attorney.

What exactly does the patent attorney training consist of?

Step 1: Patent attorney training

Admission requirements
As a candidate for the patent attorney training, you must evidence your technical competence. This requirement is satisfied by a degree in a science or technical subject conferred on the basis of a government-administered or academic examination at an academic institution. A university of applied sciences does not qualify as an academic institution within the meaning of the Patent Attorneys’ Regulations. Additionally, you should ideally have completed at least one year of work in a technical field. This requirement may already be satisfied by industrial internships you may have completed alongside your academic curriculum.
In addition, the training requires a request for admission letter to be sent to the President of the German Patent and Trademark Office.

Start and duration
Your training starts on the day your instructor – our law firm – officially registers you as a patent attorney candidate. The training extends over a period of 26 months from the date we have registered you as a patent attorney candidate and is the same length at all candidate-hosting law firms. If you want to move seamlessly into the subsequent office year, the start of your training should be chosen accordingly. Due to the start dates offered by the German Patent and Trademark Office / Federal Patent Court for the office year, the notification date should be selected as either April 1, August 1, or December 1.

The training at the law firm should, in addition to imparting legal know-how, above all serve the acquisition of practical experience in the application of said legal know-how. This is because the job of a patent attorney is ultimately about successfully applying the previously gained theoretical knowledge. It is therefore important to us that you have ample opportunity to familiarize yourself with the tasks that will later characterize your professional life. Another part of the training is participation in a monthly working group. You will receive the invitations together with your training admission notice. The working groups will develop the essential knowledge about industrial property rights and protection. These working groups usually consist of lectures delivered by patent attorney candidates on a particular topic, as well as Q&A sessions on the relevant topics. In addition to the training at the law firm, you will also complete two years of general legal training at a university. Currently, the course “Law for Patent Attorneys” offered by the Hagen Distance Learning University is the only recognized course. The study requirement can only be waived if you have already sat and passed the first state examination in law.
In contrast to other law firms, Westphal, Mussgnug & Partner will cover your study costs as well as your costs incurred in connection with the attendance phases in Hagen and the graduation in Munich.

Step 3: Training at the Federal Patent Court

Admission requirements
Once you have successfully completed your training at the German Patent and Trademark Office, the President of the German Patent and Trademark Office will dispatch you to the President of the Patent Court.

Start and duration
The training segment at the Patent Court commences directly after the training at the German Patent and Trademark Office and lasts six months.

The President of the Patent Court will compile the plan for your training at the Patent Court. You will usually be required to participate in a certain number of oral hearings held before the Court’s Cancellation Senate, the Utility Model Complaints Senate and the Legal Complaints Senate. Working groups, which are accompanied by an exams preparation course, will continue to take place.

Step 2: Training at the German Patent and Trademark Office

The training at the German Patent and Trademark Office starts with the so-called “office year” in Munich.

Admission requirements
Admission to the office year requires completion of the distance learning course “Law for Patent Attorneys”. An application for training must be submitted to the Patent Office and Patent Court three months before your training at the law firm comes to an end.
We are happy to offer you the opportunity to continue working for our firm throughout the full office year, last but not least to continue receiving an income. This only requires the aforementioned application to include a request for permission of secondary employment, which in most cases is granted by the President of the German Patent and Trademark Office.

Start and duration
The training at the German Patent and Trademark Office lasts 2 months. The German Patent and Trademark Office and the Federal Patent Court currently only offer the following intake dates for the office year: February 1, June 1 and October 1

At the German Patent and Trademark Office, you will be assigned tasks that are part of the daily work of examiners, namely patent and trademark examiners. Depending on the examiner, these tasks can be worked on in the office or from home. While your work on these tasks is ongoing, you can already sit in at various oral hearings. The German Patent and Trademark Office holds mandatory working groups, which take place in the form of training courses. There are also some exams, but their results are not included when the final mark from the written and oral examinations is calculated.

Step 4: Patent Attorney Examination

Admission requirements
Once you have satisfied the objectives of the training at the patent court, you will transition to step 4 and approach the end of your patent attorney training. A request for admission will have to be sent to the President of the German Patent and Trademark Office before you can start step 4. The request must be submitted no later than 2 months before the first day of the month in which you have requested your examination to take place. The subsequently issued admission notice will set out the dates for the written examinations. Westphal, Mussgnug & Partner will pay the examination fee under the condition that you commit to continue your employment with our law firm after completion of your training. This, of course, is what we are hoping for!

The patent attorney examination consists of four proctored examinations written over consecutive days. An invitation to sit the oral examination is sent together with the announcement of the results from the written examinations.

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