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What have I let myself in for? – James Warren

Date published: 01/02/18

What have I let myself in for?

  • Name: Dr James Warren
  • Current Organisation: University of Leeds
  • Current Position: PDRA
  • Secondment organisation: Appleyard Lees

My name is Dr James Warren and I am interested in developing tuneable, self-regulating biomaterials comprising of self-assembling peptides for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine purposes. My current role is a post-doctoral research assistant working under Prof Ruth Wilcox within the Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering at the University of Leeds.

During this work and throughout my PhD, I have been exposed to intellectual property and patents but with little explanation from a patent attorney why certain questions were asked and the rationale for very precise wordings of sentences and phrases – beyond the obvious answer of that is how it is done in the patent world. So I felt I needed to understand this world of patents better, as I have done throughout my entire academic career – if I don’t know something I will find out the answer. I tried contacting various patent firms and luckily Appleyard Lees replied with a shock answer to my request – they said yes!

Questions answered around intellectual property

The chance to spend time working in a patent firm, under actual patent attorneys, means I can ask all the questions I have wanted to ask but knew it would cost me – literally – as each phone call was expensive. The answers to these questions will mean in future I will understand what will be required in the outset to file a patent, speed up the process and maybe make the chance of successfully getting a patent accepted higher.

The secondment will take place in the Manchester office of Appleyard Lees under the supervision of one of their partners – Jennifer Delaney, who specialises in organic chemistry.   In my opinion she is the ideal host for my secondment due to the fact, reiterating how small a world it is nowadays, she did her PhD at the University of Leeds in the chemistry department – the same department I did my undergraduate, masters and part of my PhD in.

At this moment in time, I imagine the exposure to the other side of a patent – the actual writing of one – will be the focus of my learning. Anyone reading this blog will have to wait until the next installment to find out the additional skills and knowledge I have gained through this secondment.

This isn’t the dark side…

It is Dr James Warren again with the 2nd installment of my journey outside of academia into the real world of employment. I am currently about half way through my secondment at Appleyard Lees IP firm, and all I can say is it is not as bad as I thought it would be after being sheltered within the walls of academia for so long. The main difference I have observed between my work here and that at the University is that everyone is a small cog in a larger machine as opposed to multiple machines with small cogs within the same building. The work I do is far more hush hush in terms of complaining to my partner and family about how my day has gone, but it has made me realise I probably complain about things a little too much on an evening.

The main difference I have observed between the two organisations is that everything here is predominately revenue and customer satisfaction driven and everything is billed. This is in contrast to the University where research output and teaching are the main driving forces.

I have to say though, that despite the differences between the two organisations and the work, the similarities have meant a smooth transition for me in being able to grasp the day to day tasks of a patent attorney. I am thoroughly enjoying the mental challenges of understanding new areas of science and having to notice the smallest differences and then be able to articulate those in a manner that is understandable. I am looking forward to new inventions that I will get the chance to read about and attempt to understand how it works.

Back to the real world

It is Dr James Warren again, with the 3rd and final installment of my secondment blog. The end of my secondment coincided with the end of the calendar year so coming back in the New Year to University life has been peculiar.

The secondment has taught me more than just what a patent attorney does. It has taught me how to be critical of my own work and to realise that small nuances can result in very different interpretations of simple statements. The highlight was realising I really enjoyed the work, and the satisfaction of spotting something that meant a patent was still viable or a difference between it and another patent.

The process of drafting and protecting a patent is probably the most useful piece of learning I have brought back to the University in that it means my future work will (hopefully) be better and more precise.

The best piece of advice I can give to anyone considering a secondment through Translate:Me is think outside the box and ask questions. The more curious you are about something the more use you will get from the secondment. I would also recommend asking the Translate:Me members of staff for their ideas on potential secondment opportunities, including whether they think you would be suitable for one of the pre-organised secondments opportunities.

Finally I would like to say thank you to the people of the Appleyard Lees for their patience, the Translate: Me team for everything they have done to help and also my supervisor – Ruth Wilcox for letting me take the time to carry out the secondment.