Emily Berkeley, Patent Examiner
- U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
- B.A., Chemistry, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD; Ph.D., Inorganic Chemistry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Emily Berkeley is a patent examiner with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. She received her Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry in 2013, and began working at the USPTO shortly thereafter.
In her first job after receiving her bachelor's degree, family and friends helped her look for available science positions for recent graduates, eventually helping her find a position as a technician at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. She was unsure of the direction she wanted to pursue, and the technician job was an opportunity for her to gain some work experience.
Regarding her decision to leave her technician position to attend graduate school, Berkeley says, "I liked the big picture aspects of lab tech work, which motivated me to want to continue my education in a scientific area. I wanted to learn more."
After she completed graduate school, she found her current position on USAJOBS, the central clearinghouse for the federal government's job listings, "although the path felt more circuitous than that," she notes. "I knew that I wanted to take a more nontraditional path, and I looked at several different tracks — law, government agency work, policy fellowships, and intellectual property. It was important for me to explore the options." A friend suggested that she apply for a position at the Patent Office. Berkeley describes her current position as having a good level of challenge — stimulating, but not overwhelming.
I review and examine patent applications to determine if they are patent-eligible; for example, whether they are "novel and non-obvious". When you begin work at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, you are assigned to a specialty, based on your knowledge and capabilities. I'm working on analytical testing methods, mostly instrumentation for chemistry, physics, and biotechnology, or new applications for existing technologies.
During the first year there is a lot of training time. New examiners spend four months learning the legal and technical aspects of what is and is not patent-eligible. For the first few years, we work on actual patent examinations in a supervised environment.
A typical day starts out by getting a patent application to review, thoroughly analyzing it, and then searching for related technology. Throughout this time, there are discussions with colleagues and supervisors related to the patent application and technology at hand. Then I write up a report based on the final analysis. I generally work on one application at a time, but there may be some overlap due to the rapid nature of the examination process. Most cases are generally responded to within two or three days after first looking at it.
I use Microsoft Word, Google, and in-house search engines. For the first level of analysis, I use the USPTO's specialized search tools. For the next level, I go to Google and journal publications. There are no restrictions on what search tools I can use, and I can look anywhere.
I work only in an office, and I share space with one other person. The work space mostly consists of a desk, drawers, and a computer with multiple monitors
A typical week is 40 hours. Currently, no overtime is required. The pace moves quickly, and the environment is geared toward flexibility and productivity.
I am not required to travel.
I get to be at the cutting edge of technology. Even just starting, I'm in awe of the amount I've learned through the patent examining process. Doing a search is like solving a puzzle.
In graduate school, I was very focused on my area of research. I really enjoy pursing the breadth of knowledge available in the scientific community, and my current position is a very good place for that. Not only do I get to read about technology, I also get to learn a lot about the legal side, including the history of how the laws developed. I like that I can tie it all together and feel connected to the legal system.
Just start somewhere. If the obvious starting place feels too hard, pick a different way to begin.
I have the ability to focus on the task at hand and enthusiasm for seeing what's next on the plate.
My job is a way great to be surrounded by scientists and engineers without being in the lab.
I wish that I had developed the ability to take criticism or feedback constructively sooner.
The webinars are great! I watch the ones on topics that pique my general interest; for example, beer brewing, flavor science, and vegetables. I also watch the ones that focus on career development.
I like going to the ACS National Meetings for both the seminars and the career development aspects. The recruiting booths and career development workshops are some of the great professional development resources provided at the ACS National Meetings.
I attend meetings, read C&E News, and listen to webinars. I also like having access to the ACS journals. All of these have helped me on a personal and professional basis.
I get to be at the cutting edge of technology. Even just starting, I'm in awe of the amount I've learned through the patent examining process. Doing a search is like solving a puzzle."