Intellectual Property Services | June 2020

How to become an Intellectual Property analyst

For most people, the phrase “intellectual property” calls to mind a string of high-profile and often bizarre disputes over who came up with an idea first. Whether it’s the Icelandic government taking on its supermarket namesake, two forgotten authors alleging that The Da Vinci Code was their idea or a German inventor seeking credit for the Walkman long after it had become obsolete, intellectual property cases have provided their share of headline-grabbing stories over the years.

In reality, however, protecting intellectual property is about much more than laying claim to inventions or notions – it’s about employing a diverse range of skills to help all types of businesses innovate, grow and continue moving in the right direction. Companies are routinely measured by an archaic and out-dated accounting system. There is a huge discrepancy between a company’s book value and its market value. It is estimated that 80-85% of business value is intangible assets, off balance sheet, only 15-20% of business value is actually recorded in the financial reports. We live and operate in a global economy where knowledge has value. By identifying valuable intangible assets and possible pitfalls, intellectual property analysts use their creativity, foresight and meticulous eye for detail to make the kind of recommendations which can truly seal a business’s future. In the process they forge for themselves a highly rewarding and fulfilling career.

If you’re approaching graduation and seeking a career path that combines your specialist academic skills with real talent and initiative, in which every day is unpredictable, then working as an intellectual property analyst could be the job for you. Because of its varied nature there are a number of potential routes into the industry, including disciplines like engineering, design and sciences. While you may never have considered it before, read on to find out what makes this fascinating profession truly unique.

What is intellectual property?

In its broadest terms, intellectual property refers to any creative work that can be treated as an asset or a physical property. This could be an idea, an invention, a name or otherwise, and intellectual property rights are sought and put in place in order to protect such assets from being copied. Under UK law, there are five main areas into which intellectual property rights can fall.

Copyright

This applies to recorded works such as literature, film, art and music. It gives the author ownership, prevents unauthorised usage or exhibition and allows the author to take legal action in case of plagiarism or infringement.

Trademark

This is a device which identifies a particular product or organisation. It can be a name, slogan, symbol or otherwise and is registered for use within a particular territory.

Designs

A design protects the visual appearance of a physical article, surface decoration, GUI, computer icon, or the like.

Patent

A patent protects a process or product, preventing its unauthorised usage. Also valid in the territory in which it is issued, it can take several years to be granted.

Trade Secret

This can be a secret formula or design which has economic value because it is the key to a lucrative product. Famous examples of trade secrets include the recipes for Coca-Cola and KFC.

What does an intellectual property analyst do?

The work of an intellectual property (IP) analyst revolves primarily around patents, but applying for these is only one step in a complex process which varies for every client. Anybody using the services of an IP analyst needs to first understand what assets they have which are worth protecting, so research and strategic work is undertaken by the IP analyst in order to achieve this. From chemicals and foodstuffs to electronics and consumer products, an IP analyst’s work can cover a huge range of areas.

This research also encompasses finding out what existing similar patents could present competition, by examining them in minute detail. An IP analyst’s knowledge informs their consultations with the client on what research and development (R&D) projects are worth investing in and what patents are worth applying for. They can also suggest alterations to products or the total abandonment of a project, meaning that the work of an IP analyst can have a direct impact on a company’s fortunes.

What skills do you need to be an intellectual property analyst?

In order to be a successful IP analyst, you will need:

  • An ability to understand and handle complex data
  • An eye for both small details and the bigger picture
  • Technical knowledge that can encompass design and engineering
  • An enquiring mind and the ability to learn quickly and understand incredibly complex technological processes
  • A sound understanding of the legal landscape around intellectual property
  • The ability to work closely with other departments in a business such as R&D and product marketing
  • The initiative to proactively seek out new opportunities for clients
  • The organisational skills to work alone, manage your own workload, juggle multiple projects and complete tasks to deadlines driven by the client
  • The confidence and people skills to work in a client-facing role, dealing with people from many different backgrounds
  • An ability to work discreetly and sensitively on highly confidential projects
  • Excellent written and spoken communication skills

What qualifications do you need to become an intellectual property analyst?

IP analysts come from a wide range of academic backgrounds. Qualifying to become an IP analyst is less about ticking particular boxes in one subject than it is about having relevant experience which can be practically applied. For this reason, while a thorough knowledge and understanding of intellectual property law is essential, most IP analysts have undergraduate degrees in STEM subjects such as engineering, design and technology, physics, biology, chemistry and mathematics.

One of the aspects that makes IP analysis an exciting and appealing career path for STEM students who are not sure what they want to do with their degree is this level of openness and accessibility for people with a broadly relevant background. Most IP analysts begin at a junior level and work their way up, either within an IP analytics firm or as an in-house analyst for one company.

What is the difference between an intellectual property analyst and an intellectual property lawyer?

There is some crossover in the work of IP lawyers and IP analysts – for example, both may engage in the preparation of a patent application. However, much of an IP lawyer’s work is in the resolution of disputes and conflicts over intellectual property, while an IP analyst is involved in long-term business strategy before any legal protection is applied for or granted.

What can you earn as an intellectual property analyst?

Depending on the company you work for, your level of specialism and the area of the country you work in, the starting salary at junior level in IP analysis is between £20,000 and £30,000 per annum. However, there is scope for this to increase significantly as you progress in your career – and the more you specialise, the more lucrative a career in IP analysis can prove to be.

What career progression can you expect as an intellectual property analyst?

The beauty of working in IP analysis is that you can choose the extent you wish to specialise – if you work for an IP analytics firm, you will deal in a wide range of industries and products across your career. However, if there is a role or industry that particularly suits your interests or qualifications, you may wish to become an in-house IP analyst, specialising in just one area. Throughout your career you will have the opportunity to progress into management and leadership roles if you wish to.