To search or not to search

A post from our student blogger Nicole

Today I want to tell you about another funny teacher we have; our Patent Searching teacher.  For those of you that don’t know, Patent Searching is about in depth searching for prior patents that may be relevant to the patent you’re working on through multiple databases.  By relevant I mean any patent already published or filed that is similar, but not the same exact thing, to the patent you will be working on.  The teacher is quite funny.  It’s especially funny when he makes up his own lingo, for example, he told us the code on one of the databases was the cuckoo code.  He’s always cracking jokes in class and telling us about his awesome trips, for instance, his trip to Japan for a searching competition.  How awesome is that?  And what was even better was that he brought back a treat for everyone. Green tea kitkats!  It does sound a little strange but they were actually really good!

Now getting into the actual details of the class.  There are multiple databases used in this class to help you search for relevant patents to your capstone project.  All of these databases have their ups and downs, but you will learn what you prefer the most.  As for me and my mouse device, I’m having a bit of trouble searching for any relevant patents.  My biggest problem is the word mouse.  When you search it you get results for a computer mouse rather than lab mice.  This is a perfect example of how literal and difficult these databases can be.  But don’t let that intimidate you because you learn how to fix this problem with the help of this class.  That’s why this class is so important!  There is so much technique that goes into searching that I had no idea about.  It’s quit fascinating to learn about all the little tricks that go into searching.  They become very convenient when you work on your capstone project.  The homework assignments are a huge help as well and don’t be afraid to talk to the teachers because they are very willing to help out!

The teacher likes to end his lectures by asking if anyone has questions and when nobody raises their hand he says so everybody knows everything.  Just another way to make his class laugh.  Like he said a lecture is more memorable with a laugh.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A post from our student blogger Josh

I last submitted to this blog two weeks ago, regarding how classes were progressing thus far and my first impressions of transitioning to life as a Notre Dame student. Since then, we’ve had a number of seminars through our Friday “lunch and learn” program that have enlightened us as to what we could be doing with our future in patent law. We’ve thus far seen presenters from boutique intellectual property law groups, our own legal career services center, and Notre Dame Alumni who work in IP. If your life vaguely resembles mine, then you’re at the point where everyone from your closest friends to your cousin’s dog is incapable of having a conversation with you without asking “what do you want to do with your degree?” Some of us have gotten used to this line of questioning (I had to answer it all the way through undergrad, explaining that not all astrophysicists work with telescopes and not all philosophers are unemployed), but having to decide what in patent law one wants to do involves a new layer of exploration. Thankfully, thus far MSPL has done an excellent job of showing us that there are a variety of ways that one can make use of a skillset involving the analysis, authorship, and prosecution of patents.

For instance, today we had a speaker who discussed what it means to work in the field of patent searching. While we have a class on searching that meets every Tuesday and hear many anecdotes about what it’s like to professionally perform searches, it’s always nice to hear about a given profession from multiple practitioners who work in different places. Patent searches are requisitioned by a variety of groups, from universities to law firms, and from private companies to the patent office itself. Searches are performed for a plethora of reasons, and each search has to be tailored based on the technology itself and what the client desires to do with the results. This may sounds crazy to some of you, but I personally dig the idea of being a professional searcher. Think about it; our generation has been using Google since we were kids. While Google certainly isn’t the only tool in a patent searcher’s arsenal (more of a helpful companion to the databases one would actually use in a professional setting), the basic premise of manipulating a series of search terms in order to produce a handful of useful results is essentially the same. Intellectual property searches are often a key part of the knowledge basis for many decisions in the business world, and the ability to be at the front end of acquiring and presenting such information makes a neat premise for a career.

I only have a limited amount of space here to expound upon the possibilities of what one can do with a MSPL, which is why I’m certain that a few of my future posts will contain other possible career paths for those of you who chose to enroll in this program. Today my mind is on searching (and tomorrow it will likely be on the football game), but future careers as a patent prosecutor, or a research analyst for mergers and acquisitions firms, or any number of other options cross my mind frequently. I have a bio on the website here, which says that I would be interested in being a patent agent focused on mechanical technologies. However, what that patent agent will do, who he will work for, and in what capacity he will work with said mechanical technologies is still quite a mystery. However, this program has continuously shown me that there are a number of possibilities for a professional with a background in intellectual property, and I’m certain I will be able to find one that satisfies my tastes.

Building blocks

StonehengeA post from our student blogger Brittany

This is not your traditional Masters program, our cohort is comprised of several students having educational backgrounds in civil engineering, biology, astrophysics and even a few students with doctorates. I state that not to brag about how educated we are but to say that even with so many educated people in a room, we are ALL new to the field of patent law and are looking to this program to train us to be competent patent practitioners.

Walking into a room with several lanyards laid out and my first thought was “Yes more free stuff” (grad school made me appreciate the freer things in life). To my surprise, we had to write claims for our specific lanyard. Our group spent DAYS describing that darn lanyard to ensure that another group could correctly chose it based on our description. Being able to agree on terms of art or something as simple as deciding between the metric or imperial system to define measurements can be rather difficult. We’ve had a few widgets we’ve had to write claims for and geez is it difficult, but these interactive assignments are providing us the foundation by which to write more elaborate claims for rather complicated inventions.

Patent law building blocks, including claim writing, have been the focus in almost every class. For example, in our Patent Searching class we are learning to use several databases to find issued patents and patent applications relevant to our capstone projects. Deciding on what keywords to use for a search strategy and when to adjust the initial search strategy are important building blocks for determining the patentability of an invention. A thorough search has to be completed before any claims can be written because that will set the stage for the rest of the patent drafting process. Unbeknownst to me, people can have a lucrative career solely as a patent searcher, so that should let you know just how imperative it is.

Obtaining such building blocks will set us apart from people that jump into the patent law field merely because they have an extensive background in science or engineering and don’t want to take a “traditional” route. Being able to properly complete a prior art search and draft an application with a strong claimset will prove to be a great selling point to any potential employer.

Introducing Nicole Reilly

An introductory post from student blogger Nicole

Hello fellow Patent Law students, my name is Nicole Reilly and I’ve come all the way from Rowan University in New Jersey to study this awesome program!  Being a civil engineering student has taught me how to work hard and efficiently during my college career.  Throughout the years I learned a lot, but by the time senior year came I knew something wasn’t right; something was missing.  I realized that I didn’t want to settle as just an engineer, I wanted something different.  I knew I had to find a way to use my engineering abilities but not as an engineer.  Of course this was a huge deal considering I spent four years working towards a specific degree.  I liked the classes and everything, but I wasn’t interested in a typical day of a civil engineer.  So one day I was going through my emails and stumbled upon the MS in Patent Law email from the University of Notre Dame.  I read about it and looked more into it on the MS in Patent Law page on the University’s website.  I realized that this would be perfect for me!  What better way of using my engineering skills in a different field.  It’s actually funny to think about because when I was younger I always wanted to be a lawyer, but I was too young to know which kind or even if I really wanted to do it.  Now I have the opportunity to become a patent agent that combines my childhood dream and my engineering degree.  Not only will I be able to help people with their inventions, I will be able to hear about all kinds of new inventions.

Speaking of new inventions, I’ve always thought of myself as an amateur inventor.  I am constantly thinking of new inventions.  Every idea, every thought I have is written down.  I have a section in the notes on my phone where I write down all the ideas that I think of or that pop into my head.  I want to be able to use my love of inventions towards helping other people fulfill their dreams, turning their inventions into realities and what better way to do that then becoming a Patent Agent!

Introducing Josh Denison

An introductory post from student blogger Josh

Welcome to our blog for Notre Dame’s M.S. in Patent Law program! Stay tuned throughout this year to catch a glimpse into life as an MSPL student, so that you can learn more about who we are and what we do. My name is Josh Denison, and as I have yet to fully immerse myself in the life of an MSPL candidate, it seems fitting I tell you a little bit about who I am and how I arrived at the decision to pursue a career in patent law.

I grew up a curious child in the small town of Duvall, Washington. Aside from this curiosity, my only other notable trait was an incessant need to communicate. As I got older, my desire to work with new and exciting ideas through oration and writing persisted. I continued to enjoy pursuing knowledge of the natural sciences, and I was fortunate enough to have a teacher who pushed me to enter projects in local and regional science fairs. As a sophomore, I examined what physical properties of various materials affected the sounds of electric guitar pickups which I had made. This was my first experience with both technical writing and my undergraduate institution, Ohio Wesleyan University; I was awarded a scholarship for this work, and my eventual desire to attend a liberal arts university where I could study a variety of topics was fulfilled.

I didn’t initially attend OWU intending to study physical sciences, despite the scholarships that brought me there. Yet, I found myself riveted by the more difficult courses in physics and astronomy. When it came time to select a major, I settled on Astrophysics, as it satiated my childish curiosities and gave me a new lens through which to see my world. I took a position as a student intern at the local observatory, and did over two years of research with an advisor on imaging the surfaces of magnetically active stars. I presented my research at two annual meetings of the American Astronomical Society, and in doing so found my calling of writing and debating about ideas in science.

I applied to Notre Dame after hearing of their MSPL option from an OWU alumnus who completed the program two years ago. While I applied elsewhere, I knew that this program was an education in the very areas of my talents, and thus it rapidly evolved into my top choice. I was thrilled to receive an offer of admission, and as of a few weeks ago, Notre Dame will officially be my new home for next year. I cannot express how excited I am to begin the process of being educated in patent law, and I hope to be able to share my academic experience with you here.

Intoducing Brittany Butler

An introductory post from student blogger Brittany

As young research scientists we are too often told to follow the yellow brick road to academia and while that may be the end goal for many students, it cannot be said for all, as a growing number of graduates from the biomedical sciences field are venturing out into a variety of career paths. I am one of those graduates. My name is Brittany Butler and I recently received my Doctorate in Neuroscience from the University of Florida after receiving a dual Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Chemistry from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, so as you may be able to tell I have a soft spot for science. As a trained microscopist, I enjoyed spending hours on the scope obtaining data for my dissertation which focused on understanding the molecular machinery responsible for altering proteins involved in Parkinson’s disease and drug addiction.

I was fortunate enough to attend a highly competitive Neuroscience program with an amazing mentor and despite my success as a graduate student, my passion did not encompass a career in academia, but I knew that I wanted a career that would incorporate my enthusiasm for the advancement of scientific research. It was during a workshop at the National Society for Neuroscience Conference that I first learned about the high demand for patent agents/lawyers with extensive scientific experience. The presenter, Paul A. Calvo, Ph.D., was genuinely enthused and forthcoming with the pros and cons of being a patent agent, such as high job satisfaction but extensive hours reading. His honesty regarding his choice to transition from what many consider a “traditional” career path to patent law and how his life had changed for the better immediately intrigued me. The idea of being able to work with lawyers and attorneys to patent compounds, antibodies and biotech devices seemed rather impressive. Upon leaving the meeting I felt encouraged; after years of debating between alternative fields I finally had an idea about the career path that suited my passions and goals.

Because I’m quite methodical in nature, I spoke with as many people and read as many articles as I could about a career transition to Patent Law to determine if it was right for me. Luckily for me, I knew VaNae Hamilton, Ph.D., a student in the 2014 entering class of the Masters in Patent Law Program (MSPL) at The University of Notre Dame. She like me was a recent biomedical sciences Ph.D. graduate, so our stories paralleled although she was a few steps ahead.  I knew that The University of Notre Dame was an exceptional academic institution, and because I am originally from the Midwest, the thought of going back was comforting although I had grown accustom to Florida winters. I picked VaNae’s brain with questions about her personal experience with the program and I could tell she was all-around very satisfied. The curriculum is not only well structured and detailed for the success of students with a science or engineering background, but it also provides hands-on experience in the field which was crucial in my decision to apply. Prior to my acceptance I often spoke with the Program Director, Karen Deak, Ph.D., and other members of the administration and I immediately felt welcomed, so when I finally got my acceptance letter I was beyond ecstatic.  Initially it was daunting to think I was going back to school yet again and change isn’t easy, but I knew this was an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up, that I couldn’t pass up. I look forward to starting the MSPL program in fall of 2015 and trading out my tickets to the swamp for front row seats to Touchdown Jesus!