Demand for our patent services is higher than ever. Over the past 2 months we've been welcoming our latest patent examiner recruits to the job in what is our largest ever intake.
We recruit scientists and engineers and teach them the legal patent law, examining practice, and how to search to see if an invention has been done before. Becoming a fully-fledged patent examiner takes many years of experience – typically 7 or 8. But it’s also important to get the basics down as quickly as possible. We've broadened and deepened our usual training programme to ensure they get the best possible start. We've built a new training area complete with a mirrored IT setup of that used by examiners for them to practice on.
Art and science
This last skill is a specialised one and the one which has seen the most change since I joined the Office back in the 1990s. Back then, electronic databases were in their infancy. Most of our searching was done through shelves of paper documents, all carefully classified. Today, we have powerful electronic tools to help us find relevant documents. Using them effectively is an art rather than a science.
Our new recruits joined in September and for their first month they had lectures on all the different aspects of the job. Experienced patent examiners give most of the lectures. There are also several days of lectures from the University of South Wales. The new recruits also had coursework and tutorial sessions to try things out.
This month, they've moved on to trying their hand at casework. This involves “dummy” cases to illustrate important concepts, and real cases, under the close supervision of a senior patent examiner.
They finish this training this week and will be joining the coal-face examining groups. They’ll be working on live cases, again under close supervision. They will also attend further lectures and workshops.
Every day is a learning day
Of course, there’s never a point at which you stop learning. This year we have over 50 different training sessions that for our more experienced examiners as well! Examining practice never stands still. There’s always new legal developments or new search techniques to try. I’m proud of what we do to keep providing the services our applicants need so that they can make the most of their innovation.