Chemical Engineering graduate Dr Dan Cooney returned to his alma mater on 28 May 2015 to give the last talk in the CEB Careers series this academic year.
Dan is one of our Chemical Engineering alumni and also a Patent Attorney. He was a member of the Chemical Engineering Department from 2000 to 2007, first as an undergraduate and then as a PhD student. Following the completion of his PhD he moved onto the world of Intellectual Property (IP) working for J A Kemp in London, ranked in tier 1 by The Legal 500 and one of the largest UK and European Patent and Trade Mark Attorney firms, with offices in London, Oxford and Munich.
He talked about Intellectual Property (IP) and the various types of legal rights that can help protect a business from competitors and protect their technology. He described the differences between trademarks and patents and then moved onto explaining the process involved in registering a patent, often having to navigate a complicated legal system
Despite entering the course from the 'chemical' side, Dan’s interests moved more to the 'engineering' side of the subject, and he now handles a range of electronic and mechanical patent work, as well as inventions in more traditional chemical engineering and biotech fields. He also has experience of working on secondment as an 'in-house' patent attorney for a biotechnology startup. He thinks that 'Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, with their focus on cross-disciplinary learning, make for a perfect background for entering such professions'. Incidentally, it was retired Professor Malcolm Mackley, who convinced him to try the IP route at an innovation course.
He spoke about the reasons why, being a chemical engineer, he ended up becoming a Patent Attorney. 'I wanted to use scientific knowledge & training in my job but didn't want to work in a lab or in academia, which didn't seem to leave me with a lot of options! I then thought of technical consulting and becoming a patent attorney. Being a patent examiner seemed too 'narrow' technically and didn't even consider being a solicitor', Dan commented.
Finally, he highlighted the availability of career opportunities for technically-minded chemical engineers – for example as a patent examiner (working at the patent office) or as a patent attorney or solicitor (working on behalf of an inventor apply for a patent). Particularly when working as a patent attorney or solicitor, the ability to be able to understand and work with very different technology areas is key.