Missed Opportunity to Prevent Abuse of Trainee Patent Attorneys

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In Israel, in addition to written and oral exams, trainee patent attorneys have to work for two years full-time or the equivalent number of hours part-time doing at least half a job training under a licensed patent attorney with at least three years of post-qualification experience him or herself.

The Israel Commissioner of Patents Asa Kling has issued an updated Circular rregulating the training of such trainee patent attorneys. Those attempting to qualify should familiarize themselves with the requirement.

There are a number of licensed professionals that take on trainees, give them work on an ad-hoc basis and provide little training. Some of these pay the employees on the basis of a percentage of the collected billing but first deduct training costs in the form of the hours of those higher up in the pecking order. The would-be patent attorneys are not explained the system before they start. I suspect that the system is illegal anyway. The trainees are university graduates that often have higher degrees. Those that fail to thrive in the system often join the ranks of non-licensed practitioners, often quick and dirty sub-standard patent services in an attempt to earn a living.

Although, strictly speaking, this is an employment issue, I think it is a shame that the commissioner has not taken the opportunity to regulate payment of trainees to ensure that they are guaranteed a minimal number of hours of work and are paid minimally a salary equivalent at least to the minimum wage. Beyond this, so long as it is not abused and that both sides understand the deal, I suppose that the percentage-of-billing model is not inherently unfair. if employers can’t commit to paying a minimal salary and providing training, they shouldn’t be allowed to take on trainees.

The payment should be as salary NOT as subcontractor. People are entitled to work conditions that meet minimal legal standards. The work of trainees should be in the office so that the trainees see all aspects of the business, rather than working from home drafting applications, only.

Furthermore, I believe there should be a complaints mechanism so that mentors that abuse their position can lose the right to have trainees.

As usual, feedback and comments are welcomed.

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