INTERVIEW: ARYAN WEISENFELD, PATENT EXAMINER
Aryan Weisenfeld is originally from St. Louis, Missouri, where he graduated from high school in 2004. After enrolling at Washington University in St. Louis, not quite sure what direction to take, he chose biology as a major after taking classes related to genetics and neuroscience. He was involved in the executive committee of club sports, as well as the captain of the racquetball team. As graduation approached in 2008, Aryan was still undecided about what career path to take, considering law, medicine, or pursuing a PhD in biology. After learning more about what law school entailed, as well as career paths within law to make use of his biology degree and stay connected to the scientific community, he enrolled in law school at WashU.
While in law school, Aryan served as a staff editor for the Jurisprudence Review, during his 2L year, before spending his 3L year as an extern for a patent firm in Alexandria, Virginia, and then completing a study abroad program at Korea University before graduation.
After graduation, Aryan was hired by the U.S Patent Office (USPTO) in Alexandria where he has been ever since. Aryan’s roles at the Patent Office have included tasks relate to patent examination, review of junior employees work product, and delivering trainings and presentations related to patent law rules and statutes. He is currently working on a master’s degree in computer science.
Describe a day in the life of a patent examiner.
One of the best parts of my job is that my day is very flexible. I can essentially start and end my day at my own choosing, so long as during any given two week period, I complete the work assigned and hours required. When I was focusing on examining patent applications, I would get to work, sort through my docket, and pick up a new case to analyze. This would consist of reading the application to understand what the invention was, as well as performing searches to become more familiar with the relevant technology, and see if any other similar inventions are out there. After this, I would write a response (an “Office Action”) to the applicant, which would address compliance with relevant patent statutes. These days, I am doing what is called a ‘Detail’ assignment, which is a career development opportunity to do something different. In my case, most of my work now focuses on training newer examiners, as well as reviewing their work and attending meetings with them. While my day is far less flexible (on any given day, I have to sit in on 3-5 meetings with junior examiners), it is very rewarding to be able to explain not only how to do the job, but why what we do is important.
What initially attracted you to this field?
Being a biology major, I wanted something that would keep me connected with the scientific community and allow me time to keep up with the latest technological advances. After researching several career paths, including the alluring world of corporate law, I saw patent law as being a nice blend between applying regulatory guidelines and helping to advance innovation. I completed an externship at a private law firm where I saw firsthand how much science knowledge and research was necessary to adequately advance prosecution of inventors’ applications. The USPTO, in particular, is also a great place to work with a highly collegial environment, and supervisors who support you and want you to succeed. It also affords the possibility of working in other parts of the Office which deal with any aspect of patent law you can imagine.
What are some of the rewards and downsides of this area of law and the legal profession?
The good parts vastly outweigh the downsides. The work is flexible, engaging, and cutting-edge. There are very few other areas of law where you constantly get to review new ideas and inventions, and are constantly learning about not only law, but technology, too. Patent law offers the ability to do regulatory work, such as enforcing statutes, as well as litigation if cases need to be argued in front of a judicial body. To be honest, I do not see many downsides to a career in patent law – and even the law profession in general, while many will speak of the demanding hours, as long as you know what type of person you are, you will be able to find a job that is the right fit. If you are someone who likes to work long hours, then you will have several big law firms to pick from, but if not, there is no shortage of small to medium-sized firms that do quality, interesting work, and are comprised of smart, caring people. The same goes for governmental bodies.
Do you have any advice for undergraduates pursuing this body of law and the legal profession?
My advice would be to learn as much about science and technology as possible. This is obviously useful and necessary for a career in patent law, but it also is a desirable quality for pursuing other legal fields because law, like science, requires analytical thinking. Any major will be helpful to your future, but I find most aspiring attorneys pick a political science or government major because they think it is the closest to law. While this might be true, and definitely pursue that major if it is what interests you the most, do not close off other majors as they can provide you with skillsets that will make you a great attorney.
Aryan is happy to answer questions and is reachable by email at email@example.com.Tags: 2019, Law, Newsletter, November