Today, the IP industry is booming due to a paradigm shift from procuring tangible properties to intellectual assets instead. Furthermore, India is turning into a hub of startups and R&D centers, which are nothing but intellectual creations. Despite this, a career in the IP industry is relatively unknown, so this article aims to help you understand the industry and make an informed decision on how to enter and build a successful career in the same.
With many candidates opting for science and engineering, patent domain in the IP industry has multiple opportunities. Career in IP encompasses working on technical innovations that can be protected. For instance, students with a background in science or engineering (Information & Communications, Mechanical, Life Sciences etc.) can pursue a career in IP. This may involve working for any stage in the lifecycle of a product or a technology – from inception to R&D, technology/product analysis, patent application drafting, filing, prosecution, licensing etc. There are certain skill sets that employers look for in their potential employees. These include:
- Technical Skills – A strong technical background so that they can work on inventions.
- Analytical Skills – An analytical bent of mind for analyzing data for IP projects.
- Problem Solving Skills – Ability to solve the client’s as well as company’s problems quickly.
- Learning Agility – Ability to continually and rapidly learn to achieve desired results.
- Reading Ability – Inclination to understand the gist of technical literature quickly.
Benefits of choosing the IP industry
Exposure to new technologies
Companies in the IP industry deal with technologies of the future (the technologies that might be commercialized in the next 15 to 30 years). This is the single point that attracts students during campus placements.
Opens avenues beyond the conventional jobs
Equipped with a technical degree, graduates usually go for one of the two popular options, Research or Academia. However, there’s a gap in what they study and the industrial expectations. Prominent R&D companies prefer PhD holders owing to their strong research background. However, for people who neither want to pursue research nor have an academic inclination, have the option to pursue a career in the IP industry with their technical background.
Cross domain project exposure
Unlike other industries, one gets a lot of opportunities to work on cross domain projects which are not only interesting but also enhance your knowledge. The industry is based on secondary research of technology, which enhances your knowledge and subsequently knowledge management skills such as working with large data and developing insights from information collected through market-based or techno legal studies which give you the bigger picture of the inner workings of various industries working in the IP domain.
It’s not one size fits all
You have the option of choosing any vertical of the IP industry depending on your aptitude. People with an analytical mind can choose the analytics team in the IP industry. Those who are inclined towards writing can get into drafting, while the ones who thrive on challenges, can get into patent prosecution wherein they can identify technical loopholes in patents and make an argument for prosecuting patents. Patent lawsuits are not always won by the one who is right rather by the one who makes the right argument.
New challenges everyday
In the product driven industry, everyone is focused on only a particular product, while in the IP industry there are new challenges every day. People who fear monotony at work, can benefit from this. For instance, while working on a client’s project, you may come across an idea that can be considered for patent protection. This way you not only solve the client’s current problem but also add value by offering proactive solutions.
Opportunity to learn from experts
The IP industry offers the opportunity to deal with innovators directly. Sometimes, the client’s invention is at the nascent stage, so people working on the project are probably the select few to know about the invention. Therefore, they contribute to the invention which eventually enhances their skills.
Sense of accomplishment
Another benefit is that the impact of your work is visible to you. For instance, if you are creating a patent landscape (i.e. overview of patenting trends in a technology), then you are aware that it can answer 5-10 different problem statements of the client, such as competing technologies, competitors, areas of potential etc. Knowing what impact your work provides in the bigger ecosystem, gives a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
Skills needed for handling dedicated clients
Supporting corporate clients who are working on a particular technology require subject matter experts (SMEs) who can understand the technological innovation and corroborate with applicable information available in the existing technology. This may further involve suggesting a way around existing trends to pursue advancements. In case of repeat clients, it’s our responsibility to learn about their core technologies and stay updated on the same. Going the extra mile earns the client’s trust and makes us indispensable. With dedicated clients, it is often beneficial to anticipate their next challenge and identify a solution beforehand. This also makes them recognize the fact that we are not only proactive in offering services but solutions as well.
Skills needed for moving up the ladder
Apart from the standard skill sets that are needed to sustain in the industry, people must possess that extra factor to climb up the corporate ladder. Firstly, a person must possess the ability to work independently (individual contributor) and hone their skills to be self-reliant at work. Secondly, they should have qualities of being a team player, complimenting their own skill sets with those of colleagues. Thirdly, they must be patient enough to read literature and bring some new insights to the table. Lastly, they must exhibit excellent communication skills (verbal, written and behavioral) to communicate their ideas clearly and effectively.
Role of universities and government in promoting IP
A new concept of job creators rather than job seekers is on the rise. Some of the leading government institutes such as IITs, NITs have established IP cells while government universities/colleges such as Punjab Technical University (PTU), Meerut Institute of Engineering and Technology (MIET) have included IP/Patent related subjects in their curriculum. In fact, IIT Kharagpur offers LLB degrees in IP Laws, which is popular among students aspiring to be Patent Attorneys. Biotech Consortium India Ltd. (BCIL), under the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) which has been actively involved in manpower training & placement related to biotechnology, also offers internship in IPR.
Furthermore, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) India has come up with plans to boost the IP industry further. Notably, MHRD and the regulatory bodies like the University Grant Commission (UGC) and All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) together have designed a more inclusive version with detailed guidelines on the ‘National Innovation and Start-up Policy 2019 for students and faculty’. The Policy will be implemented by MHRD’s Innovation Cell and in coordination with AICTE, UGC, state governments & UTs and universities, the policy will be quickly adopted by higher educational institutions (HEIs). The present policy describes the pre-incubation and incubation support system in campus, incentives for faculty and students involved in innovation and startup and suggests mechanisms in the areas of IP ownership.
The private institutes are also following the government’s footsteps and including IP/Patent related subjects in their curriculum. Some of the prominent universities such as SRM University and Lovely Professional University (LPU), among others have also included IP focused courses.
A career in the IP industry is both challenging and fulfilling. It is something that many graduates would be interested in. This is the sort of industry that needs not only technical and analytical skills, but also excellent communication and client management skills. At the end of the day, a person feels a sense of satisfaction despite a new set of challenges every day. Furthermore, candidates can later move into consulting profiles as many big companies prefer seasoned IP professionals these days.