It's a wonderful (PhD) life ... Oh wait: is it?

No, dear, it's probably NOT 
an invitation to THAT ball, but rather
a reminder from your supervisor
about that missing chapter of yours
There may be a time in your life when you start thinking about spending a few more years in (higher) education: the perspective of a one-year masters degree (possibly an LLM) is not enough to satisfy your sudden or well-established thirst for knowledge in a particular field, so the perspective of embarking a three-to-four-year PhD adventure does not look so unreasonable.

This is indeed what happened also to some Kats, even the IPKat himself. You of course are aware that our blogmeister Jeremy is an IP pioneer ("active in IP since 1973!"). What you might have missed, however, is that Jeremy himself went for a PhD in IP back in the 1970s, and was probably one of the first people in Europe to write a doctoral dissertation in this area of the law. Jeremy will be posting some observations on his own time as a PhD student a little later this week.

Also I decided to do a PhD at some point of my sentimental copyright education, and I explained the reasons here. Overall, I had a good time as a doctoral student at the European University Institute in Florence, even if -- as it happens in any situations -- there were, especially at the beginning, some doubts and difficulties. If I have learned anything during my time in Florence, it is that passion for your chosen area and almost insatiable curiosity are key to be able to undertake and -- most importantly -- enjoy your time as a doctoral candidate, which may not be the most social experience you can dream of. However, this does not mean that your life becomes your thesis: on the contrary, there is still a lot of time to devote to personal interests and professional, non-PhD-related projects (for instance, while doing my PhD I did a 6-month internship at Bird&Bird in London, completed my training contract and passed the Italian bar).

It seems however that not many people find their time as PhD students enjoyable. Last week Times Higher Education published an article devoted to the PhD experience in areas other than law. The result was that all five out of five interviewees pretty much hated their time as doctoral students.

So, after reading that piece, my question became: 

Are things so terrible also for those doing a PhD in IP?

I collected the considerations of some doctoral candidates (past and present) from a number of jurisdictions, both in Europe and elsewhere, around the following questions:
  • Why did you decide to do a PhD in IP in the first place?
  • How are you feeling/did you feel while doing it? Ever thought of dropping out of the PhD?
  • Is/was the PhD experience as you expected?
  • Are you finding it/did you find your PhD useful to enrich your professional expertise?
  • Are you thinking/where you thinking of remaining in academia upon completion?
  • Is there something they did not tell you about life after a PhD that you would have liked to know in advance?
  • Would you recommend doing a PhD in IP?
  • Any other point worth addressing!

As you will see, their assessments are both thoughtful and very candid (which is way they are so valuable), and in some cases given upon condition of preserving the anonymity of respondents (I will refer to anonymous contributors as Katfriend #1, #2, #3, etc). 

Initially, my idea was to cut and paste their stories, but eventually decided against it: I thought that providing their full accounts as they emailed them to me would have been more helpful to perspective PhD students and might enhance discussion in this forum.
Katfriend #1: There is not just a single formula to make the PhD experience work for you
"I see my decision to apply for a PhD as a natural outcome of my affinity to writing. Already at law school, I used to write articles and case notes. I developed a passion for exploring things that other regarded either too obvious or too complex to think about. From the very beginning, I viewed the PhD studies as a natural step forwards, if I want to become an academic one day. And in this respect, PhD gave me exactly the freedom to do things as I wanted, the flexibly to manage my time according to these different goals, to travel and to meet new people and to respond to challenges. 
Soon, however, I realized that not everybody came to PhD studies with the same vision, and that this personal motivation is strongly reflected in the attitude to work of my colleagues and/or their willingness to discuss things. This is especially true in countries of the continental Europe, where PhD is not necessarily seen as a start of an academic career, but merely as a further qualification of a lawyer.  
Thank goodness: you can
say that you may expect
different things from a PhD
and not be wrong
Second, I realized that what you get from PhD depends not only on you, but also on your supervisor. You can be at a great institution, but if you do not have backing for your vision or plans from your supervisor, you might have trouble to execute it. Also, I realized that there is no perfect fit for student-supervisor tandem. Some people just need more freedom, others more looking over shoulders. I personally found all I expected in my studies, and what I did not found at my home institution (eg internal discussions), I arranged elsewhere (online, at other institution, conferences, etc).  
My plans are definitely tight together with academia, but this passion did not come with PhD studies, but was here already before.  
My recommendation for future students would be: i) to give yourself an honest *reason* why do you want to do a PhD (in three years you can do spectacular things outside academia, so why bother?); and ii) if you convinced yourself, then ask yourself if this *reason fits the institution* where you want to apply (do they have only nice stipend, or also great connections to industry or an amazing library?); lastly, iii) spend more time thinking about the *selection of your supervisor* (if possible); if you feel he/she is not the right match, do not worry to suggest a change; I have seen many colleagues being frustrated about their communication with their supervisors. Try to avoid that."
Katfriend #2: Do not do a PhD for your career, but for yourself 
"I decided to do a PhD for knowledge rather than career reasons because I had questions and wanted them answered. I have to say, I absolutely enjoyed the experience and never thought about dropping out. The PhD (and the studentship that came with it) gave me the opportunity to explore a topic I was really interested in without having to worry about anything else. For me, the key to making it work was self-discipline: when I sat at my desk, I focused on my work (=keep Facebook, Youtube, etc closed). As soon as I finished for the day, I did not work at all. This way, I made the required progress and actually finished in 3 years.  
Oh well, both ...
I think there is a certain expectation of unhappiness though: starting with everybody telling you that it is impossible to finish in 3 years unless you work non-stop (not true!). In my case, I went through a phase of insecurity when all my friends started having meltdowns and everybody kept asking me not how but how bad I felt. It seemed like PhD students by definition have to be stressed out or they are doing something wrong. Since I was not, I started to panic.  
Now that I have finished, I am still not sure if academia is for me. And still, I do not regret the decision to do a PhD and would do it again -- and this is despite the lack of impact that the PhD has made on my life so far. 
Overall, I would not suggest doing a PhD to anyone for career reasons. 3 years (minimum) are simply too long unless you are interested in the topic and I mean REALLY interested."

Sabine Jacques (University of Nottingham): The importance of supervisors and getting time off from the PhD
"Having always wanted to specialise in IP law, I found myself having difficulties to satisfy my thirst for knowledge during previous degrees. IP law merely being an optional course in my home country, I ended up daunted by the fact that I was not prepared enough to exercise in the field I intended. It thus came naturally that I found myself contemplating several PhD programmes and am incredibly happy with the experience so far (I am currently finishing my second year). Not only do I have the pleasure to deepen many IP questions but I also pick up transferable skills such as in depth thinking from different view points, time management, building a professional network and communication and research skills. Of course, there are moments of doubts and it is not an easy ride but that is also why good supervisors are mandatory. Even though I had been warned as to the solitude of a PhD research student, I never realised what I was getting myself into until being in it.  
... are probably true!
This is why I believe that two things are really important to my experience. 
The first element is to have good supportive supervisors who are approachable when you need to contact them. Sharing my feelings over the PhD with my colleagues, I value the impact of being well surrounded. Therefore, I recommend future PhD students to get in touch with possible supervisors beforehand to see whether the relationship can be a successful one. The other element for me is to secure a non-PhD related activity (and especially a group one) to combat the loneliness which might appear during the four years. As at the end of the day you remain the only one working on your project, I find it important to share an activity with other people, as much as taking some distance from the project for a couple of hours.  
However, I find myself ill-equipped to recommend the PhD route to just anybody. The PhD being such a personal journey, I do not see how a single experience can serve as guidance. For me, it definitely was the right thing to do."
Tyrone Berger (Monash University): Commitment is key 
"I decided to do a PhD in IP in the first place because my wife was an academic, and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. It was a decision to do further study, which meant a sacrifice of sorts. Now a few years into my thesis, I have a sense of duty to myself and my family to follow through. I am feeling confident (privately), but such confidence is not well received in academia.  
For the most part you are left on your own. There are University regulations, of course. But what you do with that time is up to you. In the end, you get out what you put in ...! I work hard at developing my craft.  
I would like to remain in academia upon completion, if they have me. The key is to find that decision-maker that is prepared to give you an opportunity. Panels interviews don't do it for me as there is no transparency or genuine feedback. I am an academic now regardless of tenure etc. I have too much invested! Where that takes me only time will tell.   
I would absolutely recommend doing a PhD in IP but commitment is everything, and that is not for everyone."
Believe it or not, doing a PhD is not
the only pleasant thing to do in Paris
Cédric: PhD is not the only way! 
"I first enrolled to ... be able to get paid for the classes I was teaching (I needed this status to be an 'official' adjunct lecturer at the law school, as required in France). I realized later that writing a thesis was not my vocation, and I stopped. Years later, after I came back from a stay at a foreign university, I decided to go for the PhD again, after I understood that the 'Doctor' title is a plus if you want to work abroad. In other words, I wrote a monograph not for the pleasure of helping science, but for more trivial reasons! 
The moments of fun while doing your PhD are rare, and exclusively solitary. Writing and thinking lead to isolation, and socially you have nothing to share on what you are doing. Plus your friends do not see the point of doing this - and they are right! 
I think that embarking a PhD adventure is only partly useful to enrich one's own professional expertise, because you can also improve your professional skills by writing several articles rather than loose sweat, blood and faith in a doctoral thesis. 
I was thinking of remaining in academia upon completion of my PhD. Yet, ironically having finished the PhD precipitated the end of my academic career! 
I would recommend doing a PhD only at certain cumulative conditions: do it in a different country from your own, get full funding (but not from your parents!), write it in English, choose a topic that will help you find a job afterwards.  
Any other point? Well, why write a PhD when you're young? It's an experience you can live later - when you retire for example!"
Katfriend #4: There are difficulties but also pleasant surprises along this journey
"I am not sure when I started my PhD what I really expected. I did not expect that there would be as many extremes - extremely good days when I felt I was making real progress - and bad weeks, when I questioned what I was doing, and why. At times I loved it, and was grateful for the mere opportunity. At other times, it was an object of annoyance and irritation, most often when the relationship with my supervisor, and other colleagues in the department was at its worst. 
A group of doctoral candidates keenly
awaiting the return of their supervisors
I also did not expect to be treated with disdain by academic staff, or feel unsupported - it was almost as if I was a doormat to be trodden over. One professor even stated quite openly that there are ‘students of status - and students without status.’ By this he referred to those with research council funding versus those without. 
I think the biggest thing I wish I had known was to expect the unexpected and prepare for the unknown. Be aware that it will be far from easy, do not expect to be treated with respect from the department, and be ready to have days where things do not go to plan. It is part of the test, but nobody will ever tell you that. 
As for a PhD in IP – I have no regrets about doing the PhD. It is however not the thing itself but the process that is important. I regret the department where I did it sometimes, but without the town, and without those years, I would not be doing what I am doing now, and I would not have had the experiences or travel I have had. I also would not have some of my closest friends. The PhD is a journey – but again, nobody will tell you that. Prepare to be told nothing, and to learn everything yourself – it is a fantastic lesson in self-discovery." 
Katfriend #5: I felt isolated and did not receive the guidance I needed  
"I began life as a PhD student in IP with a certain amount of confidence and optimism. I had just completed an LLM at a prestigious law school with flying colours and successfully passed a very tough bar exam. What’s more, my legal education had brought to the forefront my interest in theory and abstract thinking. My teachers picked up on this and noted that I was naturally inclined towards the academy. Writing a PhD seemed to me, and to those around me, as the natural next step towards a career. 
I found the PhD experience very difficult. I hoped for guidance on how to make the transition from being a good law student to becoming a good legal academic. In my mind, this involved some senior figure showing me how to produce good legal scholarship. But this tuition was not readily available. Over the course of three years, I met with my academic supervisor very infrequently – roughly every two or three months. She is a nice person, but far too busy for serious academic supervision. She rarely gave intelligible feedback; it felt like we were always speaking two different languages. In three years, I don’t think she ever read anything I wrote. Even more problematically, it felt like the whole institution had failed to define its vision of good legal scholarship. This left me completely rudderless. I did not know what to write about; I did not even know the type of questions that I should be asking. 
There is no way around this fact: it was an isolating, lonely, and incredibly frustrating time. It was a real sink or swim environment. Some students sunk and flunked out of the program. That prospect of failing horrified me, as did the idea of having no source of income and no positive references from my last employer. So I doubled down and worked as hard as I could. I took no holiday for over two and a half years. I regularly worked twelve-hour days and ate all my meals at my desk. But in doing so, I became a much better scholar. I defined for myself a vision of good legal scholarship and tried to produce something fitting of that description. Ultimately, I completed my PhD (which barely passed) and accepted a post-doc position at another institution. For which, my PhD supervisor provided a reference (but which I drafted myself).  
Perhaps, therefore, this was a success of sorts. But it came at a high price. At the end of five years of doctoral and post-doctoral study, the constant stress levels have taken a serious toll on my health. I developed a heart arrhythmia, very serious insomnia, and suicidal behaviour. I was subsequently diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and dysthymia (chronic depression). The anti-depressants are helping a little. I cannot ascribe all of these problems to my PhD. I am probably the type of person naturally inclined towards these illnesses. But it certainly feels like my experience as a doctoral student contributed significantly towards these maladies."
Katfriend #6: What happens after the PhD? Sadly, not much it would seem
"I do not remember having very clear expectations of what I wanted my PhD experience to be before I started it, but it has definitely been more isolated and lonely than I had hoped. I had also thought that, being part of the fairly small IP research cluster at my law school, I would have a lot more interaction and perhaps a greater sense of camaraderie and equality even with the more senior and more established members of staff. This, however, was not the case, and over the course of my PhD I have been made very conscious of my status as a student first and foremost, rather than as a junior researcher and hence more of an equal. 
Classic PhD moment:
a supervisor and his PhD candidates
One thing that I would have really appreciated being told before starting on an IP PhD was how difficult it would be obtaining an academic appointment, especially within my current jurisdiction (the UK) [this is something that also this blog addressed here]. 
Notwithstanding the importance of IP, it remains very much an optional subject as it is currently taught in most universities, and many of the junior positions I have seen advertised so far are either not in IP or require the appointee to be capable of teaching at least one foundational law subject. In addition to the dearth of IP-focused academic positions, there is also the more general and now seemingly ever-present problem of a dearth of positions for junior academics in law in the first place. Even where these are available, most of them seem to be for fixed-term research and teaching positions, which are not particularly conducive for building a career, implementing longer-term research plans, or giving one any sense of stability and permanency. 
I began this PhD with the intention of remaining in academia for my foreseeable working life, and that is still my primary aim. But I also have a sense that this is increasingly becoming one of my few remaining options. While I qualified as a lawyer in my home jurisdiction, I now feel both too underqualified and too overqualified to return to legal practice, having been away from it for so long. This is also something I wish I could have been told before starting my PhD – that towards the end, I would feel ill-equipped to return to legal practice even if I wished to, and potential employers might share the same perception."

Katfriend #7: The PhD system is really broken 
"It goes without saying that I have gained a lot from the PhD and it has been a privilege to have the opportunity to complete one. However, I also think it's important to articulate that there's a huge structural flaw with IP PhDs, which is reflective of the broader field of humanities scholarship. There is no incentive for supervisors to offer anything more than a cursory check on what a PhD researcher investigates. This means that everything from the question being answered, the method, the refinement, the exploration and the product is a vastly inferior version to what could be produced if there was more of a collaborative, cooperative spirit. The disappointment of many PhDs should provoke a deep reflection on IP scholarship as a whole, but without incentives to do so, it will continue in its sorry, hamstrung state, where a lot of research is repetitive and fails to enhance understanding or advance the field, and scholars are made through sheer survival."

A high degree of initial intellectual curiosity seems to be the main common driver behind the stories told above. Also, some of the stories reported are less dramatic accounts than those of the Times Higher Education article.

However, it seems that in most cases the way the PhD experience actually turned out depends a lot on the relationship (or lack thereof) with one's own supervisor. 

It would be interesting to hear from PhD supervisors how they perceive their role and what guidance they practically offer their students [also: do they ever think whether THEY are doing the right thing for their students, rather just than questioning what their students are actually trying to write?], as well as the experience of both those enjoying/struggling with/hating their own PhD adventure (past or present) and those that have decided or even never considered [BREAKING: they do exist] doing a PhD.
It's a wonderful (PhD) life ... Oh wait: is it? It's a wonderful (PhD) life ... Oh wait: is it? Reviewed by Eleonora Rosati on Monday, August 18, 2014 Rating: 5


  1. I did a science PhD. Through it I was exposed to the good and bad points of academia. Academia is very competitive, with lots of politics sometimes, a lot of uncertainty and unfairness. A lot of luck can be needed for success. You can end up on the scrap heap in your early thirties if the publications did not happen for you and the grants did not come through.

  2. Bit off topic, but I'd like to draw anyone who is considering doing a PhD/DPhil to the following personality trait: Impostor Syndrome.
    ( If this describes you, you really need to address the phenomenon before embarking on a PhD. This type of thinking can very easily be developed/exacerbated by the research environment, especially in competitive fields. I completed a science PhD, even passed with very positive feedback and was offered prestigious postdoc positions, and yet eventually left research as I never felt that I lived up to my ideal of what an academic should be. I am very happy in a commercial environment now, but I wonder if greater self-awareness would have made my research a more fulfilling experience.

  3. Many people with a PhD certainly are frauds. A PhD should be a sign that you are on top of your game, yet many are simply the result of a repetitive production line, where the individual adds nothing of original thought to the process, and in many cases struggle to understand their subject. This is also common amongst graduates.

    The value of a PhD or degree, especially in subjects such as science and engineering can only be judged by an assessment of the individual holding such qualifications. The degree itself cannot be taken as a measure of quality and expertise.

    Many 1st-degree only people also tend to turn the noses up at those having a PhD. It always comes across as an envy thing, with comments such as "I could have done a PhD". Could have but didn't! The best PhDs are in a different league to the best gradutes in terms of knowledge, the application of that knowledge and the ability to generate new knowledge.

    The IP profession would do well to recruit more top PhDs in science and engineering. In my experience, many attorneys (science graduates) have a low level of understanding of their own subjects, which is made dangerous by their belief they are specialists in the subject.

    A highly valuable trait, in my view, is not simply to know your subject, but to appreciate your limitations. Such appreciation is clearly lacking amongst may patent attorneys I have had the misfortune to work with. In private practice, such admissions aren't good for business, but such attorneys need to read the EPI code of conduct.

    I don't see much value, if any, in law PhDs.

  4. I am puzzled by this post and wondered, when I first read it and even now on another reading, how this is relevant to IPKat ? Yes, many IP practitioners have PhDs and for patent lawyers / attorneys, that makes sense for a deeper understanding of the science but so what ? I forget Germany of course where there seems to be an expectation that lawyers have PhDs - why ? I doubt that a PhD in law gives an edge over other practising lawyers. If anything, the PhD holder has less practical experience of the law and that can often show. But turning to Eleonora's questions, one of my siblings did a science PhD and had mixed experiences - very political, lots of hard work, self-motivation and in-depth knowledge over 3 years followed by a post-doctoral contract and then an alternative and very successful career outside the science field, mainly because of the state of science in the UK which makes it difficult to earn a decent living from it.

  5. Anonymous of today, 10:48: the state of our PhD students is of vital relevance. While practitioners get on with their work, policy is increasingly guided -- and educated opinion shaped -- by our academic cousins. The gulf between IP law as seen by academics and as practised is growing, and this blog is anxious to build bridges between the two.

    At the moment there are quite a few feral postgrads roaming around -- unloved, unsupervised and increasingly unemployable. We owe them something, I think.

  6. Hi Anonymous of 23:03. I agree with a lot of what you say. However I disagree that there is no value in law PhD's. I think research into law is helpful in opening new perspectives which assist in governments formulating new laws and policies. The law defines so many of our relationships, individual v state, corporations v other corporations etc. The more we see what is happening in law and how it affects everything, the better policies we can put into place.

  7. @Anonymous on Tuesday, 19 August 2014 10:48:00 BST: Hello, I see the IPKat not just as a repository of judicial decisions/legislative developments, but also as a forum where professional issues that are of interest to/affect the IP community might and should be discussed.

    Academics are part of such community and these days getting a PhD is the first step for those who wish to enter academia: reporting the experiences and appreciating the difficulties of those doing a PhD in this area of the law is aimed at encouraging an informed debate.

  8. My view of lack of value in law PhDs should maybe focused on IP law. Developments, for example, in patent law are not driven by academic research findings, but but by lobbying from industry.

    In the pharmaceutical area, there have been quite a few changes regarding exclusivity provisions and exemptions in recent years, all designed (in theory) to improve investment in research and access to medicine. However, the changes are all by minor modifications as attempted quick fixes. In general, the patent system works well for pharmaceuticals with up to 15 years market exclusivity via 20-year patents, SPC extensions, research and Bolar exemmptions.

    These provisions make it worthwhile for pharma to invest in new drugs were there is a significant market in order to make a good return. However, there is little to encourage investment in diseases where the number of sufferers is either small or, more particularly, poor. Orphan drug exclusivity provisions work well for the former and this is one of the most innovative advances in IP law that I can think of. There has also been significant cuts in research into areas that are high risk (e.g. CNS).

    So, my point is? My problem with academic IP is that that there appears to be no new thinking attempting to address this key problem. Science PhDs would, however, focus on analogous issues.

  9. Thanks Jeremy and Eleonora. I think that your point Jeremy on the gulf between practitioners and academics is worrying and perhaps then there should be more - and more meaningful - emphasis on consultation before policy is shaped or amended.

  10. Jeremy said:
    unsupervised and increasingly unemployable

    Gissajob! Although I think I've always been unemployable, PhD or otherwise.

    Anyway, as someone currently undertaking an IP-based PhD I think it is important to do this research in order to provide evidence for policy decisions. I have seen "evidence" used in policy documents that doesn't stand up to much scrutiny, and which largely contradicts the overall finding in a study – but the document drafters seemingly do not have the time or inclination to make such enquiries.

    I understand, of course, that policy is also driven by lobbyists.

  11. The reason for the gulf is clear, but such a reason invokes a much politicized and often acerbic discussion, that is often difficult to maintain a polite discussion with.

    Suffice it to say that true innovation promotion in patent law is NOT something desired by either end of the political spectrum.

    The far right, often symbolized by the Large Multi--national Corporation would rather not see game-changing disruptive innovation that can be hold them captive to a new force of individualized power and would rather compete on those grounds that they already hold dominion over based on their size and established market positions, while the far left is often represented by many in academia, whom are seemingly afflicted with the liberal bent of despising any form of power that stems from property held by anyone outside of the state.

    While the Far Right and the Far Left are natural enemies, the adage of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend (for now)" very much fits the "policy" debates surrounding patent innovation systems.

  12. Thanks a lot for this post, not long ago I was writing to Eleonora about this topic.

    As I have considered doing a Phd in the past, all the contributions are an amazing insight to academic life.

  13. Thanks so much Luciano! Glad you found the post useful!

  14. Anonymous of 13:23, I did some research into IP research. Here are PhD thesis titles. They all sound very useful:

    Patent Mediation in Germany: Empirical Study on the State of Alternative Dispute Resolution in Europe's Largest Economy (2012)

    From State Street To Bilski: Patent Protection In The Financial Industry (2010)

    Cross-Border Enforcement Of Patents (2010)

    Patent Misuse And Antitrust: An Empirical Study (2009)

  15. I have to say that those thesis titles prove my point. As does the comment "I did some research into IP research".

    The topics of the theses may be of real importance, but they are just an analysis of what has already happened. I've read a few theses on the internet when reviewing specific law topics and have found them to be of graduate-essay quality.

    Even taking Jeremy's experience as an example, his thesis was basically un-examined, so what was its relevance, other than to further his own knowledge?

  16. Anonymous of today at 21:39:

    Even if my thesis had been properly examined, its content would have been of largely historical value since, in less than a month after ny viva, much of its content was rendered literally academic by the Patents Act 1977.

    The real value of my thesis and, I suspect, of many other theses in IP law and other subjects, was the lessons learned by me and passed on to others with regard to the acquisition of a vigorous, honest methodology for analysing problems in their real-world context and in seeking to apply the skills of my chosen discipline in solving them.

  17. Jeremy, they are certainly the skills I would expect to be learnt by a PhD student.

    The question is rather, what value was the research itself to promoting new thinking within the IP profession?

  18. "rendered literally academic"

    Self deprecating humor...

  19. Anonymous at 17.28 today, I fail to see your point. Mine is simply that years spent in academia mean years not spent in practice and therefore a PhD holder has less practical experience of the law, an important point if the PhD holder is practising law or as Jeremy says, formulating policy - on the basis obviously of academic knowledge rather than practical experience.

  20. Anonymous of yesterday, 22:43 asks
    "The question is rather, what value was the research itself to promoting new thinking within the IP profession?"

    Since you ask, if you are old enough to have been around in the mid-1970s, you will recall that there were some 50 submissions relating to employee invention awards ahead of the publication of the Patents Bill. Three were in favour of introducing a statutory scheme to deal with all aspects of the employer-invention relationship. One was mine; the second was made on behalf of the Trades Union Congress and the third was made by the Institute of Patentees and Inventors -- both partially on the basis of my ongoing PhD research. The then Labour government was persuaded that it was a good idea in theory, though it messed it up in practice. So while I can't say that I contributed to "new thinking within the IP profession", I can say that my PhD rsearch did contribute something positive.

  21. RE: Anonymous at 17.28 today, I fail to see your point. Mine is simply that years spent in academia mean years not spent in practice and therefore a PhD holder has less practical experience of the law ...

    You might try to look at a PhD for a career as on Research&Development for an industrial product. R&D increases a chance of obtaining more advanced/competitive/innovative product.

    Years in academia and years in practice complementing each other not substituting or replacing each other.

  22. Years in academia and years in practice complementing each other not substituting or replacing each other.

    Hear, hear!

  23. Jeremy, I take your point as a positive example, and my knowledge and experience of IP doesn't go back anywhere near that long ago. And, there are always exceptions to the rule.

    Travelling forward in time to near history, possibly just post-1977 Act, I believe my opinion on IP PhDs still stands.

    There is another conversation amongst these comments concerning the value of IP PhDs, and as an example of the academic v industry experience, one commentator has quoted the value of science PhDs.

    Contrary to supporting the value of a law PhD, this commentator has merely proved the point that science PhDs are clearly of true value, but has not supported the value of law PhDs. Science PhDs are generating new thinking and the PhD is graduate will be someone on top of their game as I mentioned previously. When they move (if) into the world of industry, they will have new things to learn, but they bring with them something of real value to their industry and their colleagues. Industry is focused on the application of mainly known tools to solve problems.

    The IP professional (non-academic), on the other hand already knows their stuff. They are the people creating the new case law and driving (through industry lobbying) the few changes in policy that occur.

    The academic grounding in the law provides and excellent foundation, hence the value of courses such as the QMW Masters, prior to moving into practice. Providing individuals stay up-to-date (not simply speed-reading the CIPA journal and attending the odd CIPA webinar) they are unlikely to benefit from the knowledge of the more-recent QMW graduate or IP PhD entering the profession.

  24. In response to the specific points made in the comment of 13:23 about problems that need solving in IP which academics are not addressing, perhaps the way forward is to list those problems and bring them to the attention of the academic community. We presently don't seem to have a way of doing that. If the UKIPO, for example, drew up a list of 'IP Problems' (similar to lists of famous maths problems) that may be a place to start.

  25. As a scientist, I was always reading peer-reviewed journal articles. As a patent attorney I do not.

  26. The IP professional (non-academic), on the other hand already knows their stuff. They are the people creating the new case law and driving (through industry lobbying) the few changes in policy that occur.

    Apologies in advance (since I will certainly hurt your feelings), but that is complete guff.

    What you are suggesting is that somehow science PhDs bring new thinking to practice, that science practitioners are ignorant of and cannot discover for themselves. But that IP PhDs cannot do the same, because IP practitioners are omniscient.

    I don't believe anyone is suggesting that IP PhDs are the only source of knowledge or innovation in the field, and certainly no one is suggesting that science PhDs are the only source of new drugs or technologies. I think it follows, in a logical sense, that practice and academia are symbiotic, and complement each other. It doesn't bear scrutiny to say otherwise when we can see academic references in policy development documents.

  27. Why should my feelings be hurt by a contrary opinion?

    1st. I never said or implied: "that science practitioners are ignorant of and cannot discover for themselves"

    I wouldn't say such guff because it is clearly guff. However, it would be naive to deny that new blood is of great benefit to an established industrial research department and it would be a pretty poor quality research group that didn't think so. Protectionist, maybe, as many places are (IP departments in particular), when confronted with more knowledgeable and able individuals.

    2nd. It is more than complete guff to suggest IP practitioners are omniscient, and so, yet again, it something I would not say or imply.

    I agree that in science academia and industry are complementary. I don't see the same in the IP field, or more specifically patents. As a research scientist in industry, the work of academia was of great import. I have been a patent attorney for a while now and I can't say the same about this profession. Reasoning all given above.

    A recent IP law change made reference to a number of literature sources to support the need for change, one of which I was instrumental in researching and drafting (oddly enough missing my name as co-author), but this was done from within practice, not academia, and it covered the effects of the law on everyday practice within industry. IP academics have no experience in such industries so they cannot appreciate the effects in practice.

    Of course, with my background in IP and industry, I would make a good IP academic for focusing on real-world issues and driving policy change. Are there vacancies for such an individual?

  28. I shall take the lack of replies regarding vacancies for a useful role as a no.


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