I'm Tim Gillett I'm 26 and I'm a Patent Examiner. I work at IP Australia, we used to be called the Patent Office, we're in Canberra. Patents are all about Intellectual Property. If someone comes up with a new idea for something – that could be anything; a washing machine, a fridge, a TV, a mobile phone they get intellectual property rights which are kind of like copyright which most people have heard of and they use the patent to pay for all of their research and development costs.
Some of the patents you might have actually heard of that have come through us are baby safety capsules, life saving reels, the rotary clothes line, dual flush toilets.
With patents you need to apply for patents before the invention is published and that's is really where I come into it. In terms of Apple and the iPhone they obviously have patents to cover the actual phone and the hardware of the phone but even things such as how you go about controlling it, how you scroll up and down the screen, how you click on those things to open them, those things can be patented as well.
As an examiner I look at the patent applications and I accept them, I reject them, I suggest changes I should make. I don't need to know in detail every part of their research but all the things I do need to know they put in the application. So they need to describe exactly what their invention is. So for a gesture this would be move your finger over here and then you move your finger over there and this is the outcome of that is. I have a look at that and then I do a search and then I do a search and see if I can find someone else who has done that.
My job does involve looking around of what other people have done. So as part of that we form things called a three person teams and essentially I come up with a strategy for what ever it is I need to find. Now if it is for an iPhone then maybe I need to find this gesture or this bit of hardware and I come up for a strategy for finding that and then I discuss it with two other people to see what they think about searching for it. They may agree with me, they might also have some other suggestions maybe thing I hadn't thought of. Maybe they already know of a particular invention that someone has already come up with that is something I am looking for. So it helps to have a few other people look over my work as well.
For the most part it is a desk job I do spent a lot of time at my desk but that can be fun too, I sit there and listen to music a lot of the time while I am working. I might see a few interesting bits of technology that I have never seen before.
At lunchtime I try to get out and about. Sometimes there is a sports competition that a lot of people at IP Australia participate in. They play ultimate Frisbee and hockey and cricket. When I was younger I wanted to be a lawyer. When I went to uni I did engineering and IT at ANU. When I finished at ANU I didn't know what I wanted to do and I kind of fell into work as a patent examiner. To tell you the truth on the day I started I didn't a lot about it but that is fine because IP Australia teaches you all you need to know about it and they give me all the legal training and what we need.
I am also doing a masters in Industrial Property at the moment while I am here which gives me a bit of an edge. As a patent examiner you have a great career structure. The qualifications you get at IP Australia would take you elsewhere. A number of examiners have gone into other jobs, some people have become a patent attorney. Some people go into commercialisation, big companies they need people to advise them on how to go about protecting their ideas. They have research and development and they need to know how to protect it. Just about everything you have ever seen has been patented at some point.
Some of the really important patents over the years you may have heard of are the Hills Hoist, the Orbital Engine, the Racecam. Patents have been around for a very, very long time. There is a famous scientist everyone has heard of – Albert Einstein. He was a patent examiner amongst many other things he did. I have an engineering and IT degree. You really need those qualifications to understand the technical subject matter you are reading.
Anyone applying for this job, I'd suggest an interest in technical subject matter is good. You'll spend a lot of time around those things and if they interest you that's a good thing.
The best thing about being a patent examiner is the flexibility, I love turning up wearing just casual clothes. I love the fact that we can also essentially work the hours we want so overall I really like my job.