8 Facts About Food Patent Agents

Let’s say you came up with a novel way to bake cookies. For example, finding a way to bake cookies in one minute without them being underbaked or unsafe to consume.

Although this might be science fiction, imagine for a minute that it was possible. You were able to design the equipment and it proved to be successful. Wouldn’t you be worried that someone would steal your idea?

One way you could avoid this happening is by filing a patent. A patent according to the World Intellectual Property Organization is an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides, in general, a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem.

If you’re not in the legal space, the patent process could be lengthy or confusing. Many small businesses hire outside consultants to assist them in the process. However, larger companies that file for multiple patents per year may hire a full-time patent agent to help them with the patent process.

Food patent agents help organizations protect their intellectual property and encourage innovation in the industry.

1. Food Patent Agents file patents

A food patent agent handles intellectual property affairs for a company relating to patents. All companies have some sort of intangible assets which includes trademarks, copyrights, industrial designs and patents. Typically, food manufactures will apply for food patents, which cover products and food-related processes and compositions. For example, a patent agent may be hired by a plant-based meat company to submit a patent for a unique plant-based tuna.

Filing a patent is a multi-step process in which the agent goes through the steps of conducting research, submitting applications, providing guidance and processing patent fees. Patent agents have an extensive understanding of the law and patent system.

Food patent agents help companies through the patent process, which includes conducting research, completing applications, providing guidance and assessing patent applications. When submitting applications they use detailed technical, engineering, and scientific descriptions of inventions. As well they ensure that precise language and proper formats are being used. Their expertise comes in handy when even the differences between i.e. and e.g. are important for an application!

Additionally, patent agents are responsible for advising clients on their rights. Patents only cover a certain set of circumstances, so patent owners need to know what they entail. Furthermore, knowing their rights allows them to assess if there is patent infringement by another company. If this is the case they have the opportunity to sue. However, if a patent agent is to represent the organization in court they must be a patent attorney.

In Canada a patent attorney (who are also patent agents) are licensed lawyers while patent agents only have to pass the Patent Bar Exam. As well, they will advise and represent the organization on legal issues concerning patent matters.

Finally, a patent agent will aid in the development of new technologies and products. As part of their research agents will dive deep into the patent databases to determine if there are gaps in knowledge. Through this process they may determine opportunities for potential research routes.

2. Food Patent Agents draft patents

You can’t patent a recipe but you can patent an edible product (e.g., a new and clever food combination) or a food-related process (e.g., manufacturing equipment or cooking method). Patents are government-granted monopolies that provide the patent owner with exclusive rights to a process. It’s typically 20 years from the original filing date.

Patent agents help companies with the strenuous process of filing for patents. The language used in patent applications and claims is carefully crafted. For example, the difference between “i.e.” and “e.g.” comes up in parenthetical differences. There is a difference, so a single word can change the entire meaning of a patent! Patent agents help clients figure out the exact extent of what their patents covers.

3. Food Patent Agents have specialized degrees

It’s a requirement that patent agents have a degree related to the field they will be practicing in. For example, a chemistry patent agent must have an undergraduate degree related to the field of chemistry.

In the case of food patent agents, they typically have undergraduate degrees in chemistry, food science, chemical engineering, agricultural science, materials science, biochemistry or a related field. Many also have advanced-level degrees, such as a master’s or doctoral degree. The courses taught during these programs help agents to better understand scientific inventions, as the courses teach the fundamentals of science. Through this understanding, a patent agent is able to identify if an invention is novel enough to patent.

It should be noted that a law degree is required to be a patent attorney but not a patent agent. After their technical degree a patent agent must pass the Patent Bar Exam. For more information on how to become a patent agent in Canada please refer to the College of Patent Agents and Trademark Agents.

4. Food Patent Agents generally work for larger companies

Patent agents typically work for larger companies as they have enough innovative research being performed to warrant hiring a patent agent full time. For example, larger agricultural companies that work on bioengineering or crop science might hire a full-time food patent agent to assist them in filing patents on new modified crops. Due to limitation in funds it’s more likely that a smaller company will hire a patent agent for consulting. These agents are usually part of a law firm or company that assists in an array of legal offerings.

5. Food Patent Agents monitor the competition

The food industry across the world is competitive and rapidly changing. That’s why food patent agents help companies to monitor and keep an eye on their competition. First, they assess their own company’s assets to see if there is an opportunity to patent something. They will investigate a company’s innovations and patent assets, as patent details must be publicly disclosed. The agent might notice that a competitor has developed a unique piece of processing equipment used to bake cookies. Without copying their idea directly the patent agent could advise R&D on potential new opportunities.

Alternatively, when a patent is filed it must be publicly disclosed to the patent office. This allows everyone to look into the details including competitors. Therefore, companies need to be strategic in what they patent. Patent agent help them to strategize what should and shouldn’t be patented.

6. Food Patent Agents educate and train employees on IP law

What is the difference between a trademark and a patent?

For many the answer is unclear. That’s why it is up to patent agents to come in and assist in training employees on Intellectual Property Law. Food patent agents help to create organizational awareness on how to handle, secure and protect IP within a company.

For example, they might help create guidelines that require employees to enter a clause where they cannot speak about a certain product outside of work. If they do, the company has the potential to sue the company. This is why you might be required to sign non-disclosure clauses when you are hired for a new position.

Overall, they assist employees in knowing the legal scope of the patent when it is granted. As well, keep them up to date with legal developments in the intellectual property field and if those affect the patent owner.

7. Food Patent Agents have an understanding of technological and scientific principles

As mentioned before patent agents need to have an academic background in the patents they are representing. Patents cover new technologies and scientific discoveries. Because the knowledge is specialized and niche the food patent agent has to have a thorough understanding of scientific knowledge.

Therefore, a patent agents continuously learn throughout their careers. They keep up with new patents coming out and the newest research being released in the field. A good way for them to assess their understanding of these principles is by assessing how well they can express highly technical terms in simple language.

8. Food Patent Agents pay attention to details, see the big picture and are diligent

Being a patent agent requires a wide range of skills. However, there are a few that are more essential than others. Important account manager skills include:

    • Attention to detail: Details matter, especially when it comes to being a patent agent When filing a patent one needs to pay attention to using the correct word, phrase or definition. It has to be exhaustive, unambiguous and indisputable. If you don’t like spending time focusing on the details than this career might not be for you.
    • Able to see the big picture: In addition to looking at details, a patent agent also needs to be able to step back and see the bigger picture. Are there other things that could be done as an alternative to filing a patent? How does the company step aside from a legal problem? These are questions that patent GENTS ask when performing their work.
    • Diligence: When it comes to patents and legal proceedings they require accurate monitoring of legal deadlines. They have to be effective at following deadlines and ensuring that they don’t miss them. There are many strict deadlines coming from both the company and the place that they work at.

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