I am a patent attorney. Many, may be all, of the online readers will instantly get what I do for a living. Make no mistake, despite all the evil stories about patent attorneys floating around on web, I love my career. I am fond of it. However, the actual trouble comes when I have to explain my job to my fellow countrymen. Unlike US, Europe, Canada and other developed countries/regions, the word ‘patent’ is largely unknown to the masses in India. Given the thoughtful socialist upbringing and nurturing of the Republic of India, whosoever knows the word ‘patent’, one cannot miss frowns appearing on their at-peace and near-salvation physiognomy when they hear about my profession. Whenever I tell about my profession to those who do not know about the word ‘patent’ [those I meet, not that I get on a podium to address a crowd of millions regarding my profession] they baulk, they squint, they sit down, and think, and then ponder for hours on what the hell do I do?
Some dismiss my profession with laughter and ridicule, like I am a jester in a court, only with a better sounding title. Some give a smug smile like I am doing something banal and totally nonsense. Some nod their head so vigorously in agreement that it feels they take my profession to be something where I am not remunerated generously and are sympathising with me. Some folks simply steal glances in a fear of looking stupid, and not knowing the latest in-vogue but niche profession of the world. Some folks baulk like I am running a drug cartel. Some folks are genuine, they want to ask, learn and may be get involved.
But the most gruesome trouble arrives when I have to explain it to my parents. I don’t think they know what my career is all about. And the ghastlier trouble comes when my parents are explaining my profession to the parents of a prospective matrimonial match. The sight of my mother struggling to explain a girl’s mother [over phone] about the profession of her son, and the thought of the struggle that the girl’s mother is undergoing to understand my profession on the other side of the phone is simply hilarious to say the least. I have attempted to explain my profession in various aphorisms [by yours truly] and brief statements to many. Some are:
1. I am thought (or idea) police [a la George Orwell’s Thought Police of 1984; only non-secretive with a Non-Disclosure Agreement signed with attorney-client privileges and no Big Brother to report to and ‘expose’ your ‘thoughtry (as in treachery)’ to him]. I protect your ideas, that spring up from your random thoughts and help enforce your rights on them in a court of law.
2. I am a technical lawyer or legal engineer.
3. This, I say to my engineer clients [it keeps them happy] – I am an engineering infidel who converted to psuedo-legal profession, and dirtied and contaminated his fine engineering intellect to help fellow engineer brethren in protecting their ingenuity.
4. I am a patent attorney. I deal in science and technology. I do not take civil and criminal cases. End of story.
5. This, I say to some “passionate” inventors who are not really inventor, who want to invent for the love of inventing something, not for the love of solving a problem: I am your bubble breaker, your hangover-remover coffee, a punch-in-face to bring you to reality, a non-soothsayer who brings you down to earth from the heights of your lofty ideas. For example, you have made a five-legged chair. You think it is something brilliant. Your friends encourage you to talk to a “patent lawyer”. And then I come into picture and tell you how ridiculous your idea is and break your little bubble, remove your hangover and punch you in the face [only figuratively].
6. To some intelligent folks, who know science and a bit about patents, I say this:
I am a legal-assistance-composition [or apparatus, depending on the client] in matters of science and technology, to protect your intangible intellectual and scientific ingenuity and wits which you have now reduced to a tangible technological advance possessing novelty, inventive step and industrial utility; said legal-assistance-composition comprising a technically advanced academic degree, a few years of dedicated training in an arcane area of law, a few of disgruntled hours with you, your invention, your invention disclosure, along with some thoughtful reveries of yours on how your invention will “change the world”; and a happy realisation that your said wits and ingenuity so reduced in the tangible technical advance may be patentable.
After listening to above patentspeak, they stop bothering me. Ahem!
7. To a technically unskilled fellow, who are curious and only know about “IT” or “Computer” or “Software” jobs [well, there are so many of them], I have to get down to brass tacks like: Ok dude, for example you have developed a new pizza, which one can not only eat but also drink when faced with acute shortage of time, or you have developed a bathing tablet that removes the ablution ceremonies from our lives, or you have developed a bread which one can eat only if the one is hungry, else it will refuse from being eaten and thereby saving calories and all such whacky ideas that your little mind can think of, I study the science behind them, check their patentability, and protect it from copying by others, so that you don’t go around lamenting how you came up with this million dollar idea but you couldn’t make any money because it was copied.
8. To my parents: “Your son is a patent attorney”. To this my parents say, you changed your “line” and swerved from the path in which your were academically trained and educated. To this, I retort,” Your son is a patent attorney”.
And much more ! I sometimes wonder on how I would explain my profession to my wife in future. I am not some gold smuggler of Mumbai, or gambling mafia don of New York, or drug cartel leader of Africa or a godfather of a remote Sicilian village, yet I will have to “explain” my profession to her, so that she can take pride in what I do and not baulk, or squint or steal glances when amongst her friends, with her friends assuming that her husband is actually a smuggler or godfather. But I am sure, I will come up with a brilliant definition of my job for her. That will be blogged about when that happens.