LLM graduate Chen-Yun Weng (LLM 2023) found patent law after beginning his career focused on physics. In this Q&A, learn why he chose USC Gould School of Law’s Master of Laws program and what advice he has for current students.
Q: Why did you choose to pursue your degree at USC Gould?
A: After several years of practice as a licensed attorney in Taiwan, I felt eager to learn more and obtain an advanced degree in law. It has been a valuable experience to study law and explore life with my family in Los Angeles. USC’s law school is a cohesive, small community compared to other law schools in Southern California and boasts strong job outcomes for its graduates.
Q: What sparked your interest in law?
A: With a master’s degree in physics, I began my career as a product engineer in the LED lighting industry. To my surprise, a significant part of my job involved performing patent analysis to assist our legal department in ensuring that our new designs didn’t infringe on existing patents. This task was complicated by the collaboration among leading players in the LED industry through patent portfolios and cross-licensing agreements. This experience opened my eyes to navigating intellectual property (IP) law and ultimately sparked my interest in pursuing a career in law.
Q: Can you tell us about your current work in law?
A: I currently hold the position of a patent agent (with limited recognition before the USPTO) at The Wang IP Law Group, P.C., a small firm specializing in IP and business law. In this role, I gain practical experience by assisting a patent attorney in various procedural and substantive patent matters, with a particular focus on patent prosecution and patent portfolio management. As part of my responsibilities, I conduct inventor interviews and conduct thorough searches of relevant patent documents to clearly distinguish proposed inventions from prior art. I also draft patent applications and respond to office actions during patent prosecutions. Additionally, I conduct preliminary patent infringement analyses under the supervision of a patent attorney.
Q: What is the most memorable experience or learning from your USC studies?
A: At USC, I expanded my knowledge and skills in patent law by taking courses such as Patent Law and Patent Drafting and Prosecution. I had the privilege of participating in the 2023 National Patent Application Drafting Competition (NPADC), administered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), where our USC Gould team placed second in the nation. It was one of the highlights of my time at USC. Collaborating with JD students in the patent competition was invaluable; their ideas and dedication offered brilliant insights into effective problem-solving. Special thanks to Professors Brown and Melnik, as well as USC Gould, for sponsoring our trip to Washington D.C.
Q: How has your degree from USC Gould given you an advantage in your career? What do you want to do next?
A: My LLM from USC Gould has significantly enhanced my career prospects. The degree has positioned me as a highly educated professional in the eyes of my employer, instilling confidence in our clients. I plan to return to Asia for work after my Optional Practice Training (OPT) ends and hope to utilize my knowledge and experience in patent law.
Q: What advice do you have for students who may be interested in following a similar path to yours?
A: Here are my thoughts and advise for students:
1. Embrace diverse education
Embracing diverse educational backgrounds can enrich your perspective in law. My transition from physics to law provided unique insights and skills that have enhanced my legal career. Explore different courses and activities that align with your interests for a well-rounded approach to legal problem solving.
2. Stay open to new opportunities
Be open to unexpected career opportunities, as they can lead to fulfilling paths. For example, after graduating this past May, I took and passed the patent agent exam administered by the USPTO. This achievement was instrumental in securing a position related to patent prosecution in Los Angeles. Consequently, I have had more time to stay here and prepare for the California Bar exam in February 2024. Notably, I chose a distinct path by focusing on the patent agent examination instead of immediately pursuing the California bar after graduation. This decision has proven to be both meaningful and rewarding, shaping my current career trajectory.
3. Invest in ongoing learning
Pursuing advanced degrees and specialized courses, such as those offered at USC Gould, can greatly enhance your knowledge and skills. Perseverance and adaptability are key to meeting the challenges of a legal career.
Learn more about the 1-Year LLM degree.