Intellectual Property Intern Program
Howard & Howard's Intellectual Property Law Intern Program differs from other law clerk programs by fully utilizing each intern’s engineering or other technical experience to understand and support our clients’ various technologies. By coupling interns’ education and skills with legal knowledge, they will be able to readily identify patentable novelty and prepare and prosecute patent applications before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
A candidate for the intern program must have an engineering or equivalent technical degree. Some candidates begin as interns directly after earning that degree and before beginning law school, while others work in their respective engineering fields and enter law school prior to joining the program. In either case, candidates should have at least two years of evening law school remaining to enter the program.
The work schedule varies and depends on several factors including client need and the intern’s class schedule. Most interns attend evening classes and work at least thirty hours per week during the school year, and forty to fifty hours during the summer months, while others have combined day/evening law school schedules and work around their class loads. Working hours are generally flexible, but increases in efficiency and skill are directly related to the number of hours worked.
The program begins with learning to understand the clients’ inventions and exposing interns to a wide array of technologies. Interns may interview the inventor, study a disclosure of the invention to conduct a prior art search using Internet-based search tools, or prepare a written description of the invention to enable a professional searcher to investigate the prior art.
The searcher looks for prior art patents that show the exact same invention, and if that invention is not found 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 identified during the search and isolates the structural and functional features that are not shown or suggested in the prior art patents. The intern prepares a report for the inventor that advises whether or not a patent can be obtained and, if so, the scope of coverage afforded by such a patent. The report also indicates where the invention falls along 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 interns have mastered the patent searching process, the foundation is set for preparing a patent application. A handbook is made available for guidance in the steps of preparing a patent application, but the most important aspect of an intern’s training is one-on-one tutoring in the various phases of the application preparation. It takes approximately two years to become self-sufficient in the preparation of patent applications.
Although the core of the intern training lies in the preparation of patent applications, interns are also exposed to trademark and copyright issues and are frequently called upon to conduct legal research and other support activities for litigation involving intellectual property issues. An intern’s work also frequently involves patent infringement and validity studies.
Interns are required to hold all client matters in confidence and 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 interns are exposed to a consistent methodology until reaching a skill level where the difference between individual techniques can be recognized. For example, it is important to first learn "how" to draft a patent application utilizing one approach to avoid confusion and increase efficiency. With a firm understanding of this approach, the intern can successfully incorporate other patent drafting styles. The goal is to develop a solid procedure for preparing patent applications that will satisfy attorneys and clients with recognizable and premeditated deviations from the procedure. Exposure to the consistent methodology during the initial training substantially increases efficiency.
To accomplish this efficiency, workloads are distributed to interns through a single teacher/quality control manager. The teacher makes sure that the work is assigned to the appropriate intern at the requisite skill level, with the intention of bringing each intern to the next level of proficiency while avoiding too large of a jump in complexity. The teacher can also even out workloads among interns to guarantee no one intern is asked to complete multiple jobs in the same time frame by different attorneys.
Pay and Benefits
Interns are paid a competitive hourly wage for time worked and are evaluated for performance 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 families.
Interested in Joining Our IP Intern Program?
Our continuing success comes from bringing on outstanding lawyers whose work ethics and values align with the firm’s. If you’d like to join the Howard & Howard team, please submit your resume below.
Current IP Interns
B.S., Electrical Engineering; M.Eng., Global Automotive Manufacturing Engineering