Brian Olion worked as a patent examiner before going into private practice as a patent attorney, and he compares the value of his background to a restaurant customer who has worked as a server themselves: They can have patience for the other side’s perspective, especially when things go wrong. Olion said he sees patent attorneys sometimes try to strong-arm examiners because many examiners don’t have a background in law.
“What I used to see when I was a patent examiner are people trying to litigate through you instead of working with you, so I typically take more of a cooperative approach,” he said.
Olion added even when he thinks an examiner is wrong about whether something is patentable, he knows just throwing the law book at them probably isn’t the best approach. “Ultimately it’s beneficial for you, the patent office and the examiner to get an allowance because they get credit for allowances. The client’s happy on our end and, ultimately, the USPTO gets money.”
At Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, Olion specializes in patent procurement in financial technology, or “fintech,” such as payment processing systems and software security programming. Olion majored in electrical engineering for his undergraduate degree at North Carolina State University. The USPTO requires patent examiners to have some kind of math, science or engineering background.
“They’re looking for people who can understand technology more than the law,” he said. He did get his engineering degree with an eye for pursuing that field.