Page published on 23rd October 2023
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“From courtroom drama to passionate discourse in the board room – no, this isn’t an episode of Suits but my internship at the IP department at Viatris!”
– Afifa Adeel, Summer of IP alumnus
During the summer of 2023 our Careers in Ideas team coordinated a programme of outreach activities and events, under the Summer of IP banner. They included introductions to the basics about IP and the careers available here, some more specific events to showcase particular types of career, and opportunities such as taster sessions and work experience placements from IP sector employers.
We asked participants to tell us about their Summer of IP experiences, what they learnt and what they enjoyed the most. We’re publishing the resultant blog posts on our website News and Features page throughout the autumn. Today’s is from Afifa Adeel, a former science teacher who’s considering a move into the patent profession. She’s provided a wonderful report of a work experience opportunity she enjoyed with an in-house IP team at Viatris.
My Internship at Viatris IP: Insights and Experiences
From courtroom drama to passionate discourse in the board room – no, this isn’t an episode of Suits but my internship at the IP department at Viatris!
This summer, I had the privilege of interning in the IP department at Viatris, a global healthcare company. Venturing into the heart of intellectual property (IP) within a prominent healthcare company for a five-day internship was a journey that surpassed all expectations.
The internship kicked off with a comprehensive overview of key intellectual property rights, including patents, trademarks and copyright. Understanding how each type of protection intersects with the pharmaceutical industry was an enlightening introduction that laid the groundwork for the days to come. We looked at the basics of patent drafting and amendments, and understood how patent protection allows the owner to monetise and capitalise on their ideas.
I and another intern had the privilege of meeting the brilliant minds behind the company’s IP strategy, gaining insights into the intricate balance between protecting innovation and fostering scientific advancement. The day’s discussions centred around the significance of patents in the pharmaceutical field, learning how they encourage innovation while balancing accessibility to life-saving treatments.
The subsequent days were dedicated to exploring the complex patent landscape in the pharmaceutical sector. We delved into patent strategies, learning how IP experts analyse the patent landscape for potential opportunities and challenges. The significance of timing, scope and geographical coverage in patent strategy was brought into sharp focus. We were also treated to a whirlwind tour of patent litigation involving a flurry of Post-its and questions aplenty.
Beyond the legal sphere, we also gained insights into the roles of supporting departments in the pharmaceutical sector. From research and development to regulatory affairs, learning how these departments collaborate to ensure IP aligns with product development and compliance was fascinating. We attended a meeting where patent strategies were discussed in light of changing regulations (for example the long-awaited and newly sprung Unified Patent Court), demonstrating the ever-evolving nature of the patent industry.
For me, the highlight of my internship came on the fourth day when we attended online oral proceedings at the European Patent Office (EPO). Witnessing attorneys passionately presenting their cases, engaging in legal discourse, and defending their clients’ IP rights was an absorbing experience. Observing attorneys present their arguments underscored the strategic prowess required in patent advocacy, and showcased how a day’s debate can be had on the smallest detail. Inexplicably, we found ourselves rooting for a side, momentarily deflated when “our” side lost! The day highlighted the ever-changing nature of IP law and led to interesting discussions on how case law shapes decisions at the EPO.
On the final day we had the opportunity to present on an IP topic to senior members of the team. Sharing insights on the legal concept of the “person skilled in the art” (PSA) and the impact of AI on our understanding of the PSA was both a challenging and a rewarding experience.
The PSA is a fictional person(s) of average skill, average ability and uncreative to boot – pushing aside thoughts of my husband. This task reinforced my understanding of these intricate concepts while sharpening my communication skills. The ensuing discussion highlighted the need for an agile and responsive IP industry as we step forward into new territory with the advent of AI and machine learning.
As I reflect on my five-day journey, I’m struck by the depth and breadth of the IP field within the pharmaceutical industry. From grasping key IP rights to immersing myself in patent strategies, witnessing EPO proceedings, presenting my insights, and hearing about people’s divergent career paths: every experience added a layer of understanding to the intricate world of IP.
I had no idea what to expect going into the internship and sharing the experience and a geeky interest in EPO proceedings with another intern was fantastic. The warm and welcoming environment encouraged us to ask as many questions as possible, and I felt very much at home during my time there.
This internship has provided me with a practical appreciation and insight into the world of intellectual property. As a career changer, this was a great opportunity for me, and I am grateful to Charlotte, Erwin and others at Viatris for their guidance during the week.
We were also incredibly lucky to be entering the fray at a time when the Summer of IP programme was introduced. The various events, both in-person and online, have been invaluable in unravelling the world of IP and understanding the various roles and career paths within it. My experience at Viatris has ignited a passion to continue exploring this fascinating intersection of law and science, and I look forward to the challenge that awaits in securing a trainee position.
Our thanks to all the IP professionals and organisations who helped to make Summer of IP a success, and in particular to the legal department at Viatris for providing such wonderful work experience opportunities for Afifa and her co-intern.