Patent Agent Positions Soar At The Expense of Associate Jobs Being Lost

Our Network Recruiters are reporting to us that the IP Patent Agent/Advisor job marketplace is continuing to soar, but it comes at the cost of eliminating Associate jobs. Our Recruiters informed us that they were seeing an upsurge in Patent Agent/Advisor positions as far back as 2017. This year, in 2020 the surge continues, despite the current COVID-19 situation.  

Our Recruiters informed us that this upsurge is not in addition to new Associate positions being added to firms, but actually to replace Associate positions. IP Chairs have expressed to our Recruiters that in IP prosecution hiring a Patent Agent is more cost effective and that skilled Patent Agents with proper training can develop a basic legal skill set. See excerpt job from AM firm listings below:  

“Prepare and prosecute patent applications, and help develop patent portfolios for drug candidates. Liaise with clients and foreign associates regarding the domestic and foreign patent application processes and strategies. Communicate with the USPTO as necessary. Identify and review ongoing issues that might affect the patent process. Help develop patent portfolios, manage the patent docket and communicate dates and ensure deadlines are met. The ideal candidate will have: Ph.D. in organic chemistry and research experience in biological sciences. Prior experience with patents in pharmaceutical and life sciences fields. Current registration and in good standing with the USPTO required. 5+ years of experience as a patent agent or patent attorney.

“Seeking a Patent Associate or Agent with a minimum of four years of experience to join our Intellectual Property and Technology practice. Candidates should have a degree in chemistry or biochemistry with an emphasis on chemistry. Responsibilities will include mid-level patent attorney work such as drafting, filing and prosecuting US patent applications, managing and coordinating international patent application strategies, preparing patentability, non-infringement and invalidity opinions, and overall intellectual property counseling. Academic and Professional Qualifications J.D. degree preferred; admitted by the State Bar of California and in good standing to practice in California. Must be registered and in good standing to practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Patent agents will be considered.

As the COVID-19 crisis lingers on and firms remain in a cost savings mode, our Recruiters believe that the Associate level attorneys will continue to be replaced by Patent Agents/Advisors. Hiring an Agent over an Associate is giving law firms the ability to be in a better position to secure new business opportunities in a marketplace that is rapidly becoming more competitive every day.   

Associates are going to need to retool themselves by adding skills in areas of client counseling, new business development, and managing and mentoring staff, or they may eventually find themselves being replaced by Agents and Advisors. 

Our Network is keeping a close eye on this situation and will report any new developments to the IP community.