IP Intern Program

Howard & Howard's Intellectual Property Law Intern Program differs from other law clerk programs by fully utilizing the engineering or other technical expertise of each intern to understand the various technologies of our clients. An intern's education and skills accumulate with the addition of legal knowledge to be able to identify patentable novelty, as well as to prepare and obtain patents before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Qualifications

A candidate for the intern program must have an engineering or equivalent technical degree. Some candidates begin as interns directly after graduating with a technical degree and before beginning law school. Other candidates work in their respective engineering field and begin attending law school before joining the program. In any case, candidates should have at least three years of evening law school remaining to enter the program.

Work Schedule

All candidates attend evening classes and work at least thirty hours per week during the school year, and forty to fifty hours during the summer months. Attending a day class is occasionally allowed with pre-approval. The working hours are flexible but the increase in efficiency and skill is directly proportional to the hours worked.

The Work

The program begins with understanding the inventions submitted by inventors from various clients, thereby exposing the intern to a wide variety of technologies. The intern may interview the inventor and/or study a disclosure of the invention for conducting a prior art search. The prior art searches are conducted using Internet-based search tools and/or by preparing a written description of the invention to enable a professional searcher to search through the prior art patents at the USPTO. The searcher looks for prior art patents that show the exact same invention. Absent finding the exact same invention in the prior art, the searcher notes the prior art patents that are closest in terms of patent law to the invention. The intern then studies the prior art patents noted during the search and isolates the structural and functional features of the invention that are not shown or suggested in the prior art patents. The intern prepares a letter to the inventor to advise the inventor whether or not a patent can be obtained and, if so, the scope of coverage afforded by such a patent. The inventor is advised where the invention falls in a spectrum of potential patent protection ranging from very specifically claimed property to very broadly claimed property as limited by the teachings in the prior art patents noted during the search.

Once the intern has mastered the patent searching process, the foundation is set for preparing a patent application. A handbook is available for guidance in the steps of preparing a patent application, but the most important aspect of the training is the one-on-one tutoring in the various phases of the patent application preparation. It takes approximately two to three years to become self-sufficient in the preparation of patent applications.

Although the core of the intern training resides in the preparation of patent applications, interns are also exposed to trademark and copyright issues. In addition, interns are frequently called upon to conduct legal research and other support activities for litigation involving intellectual property issues. Some of the work involves patent infringement and validity studies.

Of course, interns are required to hold all client matters in confidence and are held to the same standards of confidentiality as a licensed attorney.

Organization of Work

Because it is difficult for an intern to separate substance from form in the learning process, it is important that the intern be exposed to a single teacher until reaching a skill level where the difference between individual techniques can be recognized. For example, it is important for an intern to first learn "how" to draft a patent application utilizing one approach to avoid confusion and increase efficiency. Once the intern has a firm understanding of this approach, the intern can successfully incorporate other patent drafting styles. The goal is to reach a solid procedure for preparing patent applications that will satisfy various attorneys and clients with recognizable and premeditated deviations from the procedure. In addition, the efficiency in training and learning is substantially increased by exposure to one teacher during the initial training.

In order to accomplish this efficiency, workloads are funneled through the single teacher/quality control manager for distribution to the interns. In this manner, the teacher can make sure that the work is assigned to the appropriate intern at the requisite skill level, i.e., the teacher is always trying to bring each intern to the next level of proficiency while avoiding too big of a jump in complexity. In addition, the teacher is able to even out workloads among the interns and make sure any one intern is not requested to complete multiple jobs in the same time frame by different attorneys.

Pay and Benefits

Interns are paid an hourly wage for time worked and are evaluated once each year. Raises depend upon the productivity of the intern. Howard & Howard offers medical and dental insurance coverage provided at a reasonable cost for individuals and for families.

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