A detailed description of how to become a patent agent

Who is a patent agent?

A licensed agent of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, whose job is to advise and assist an inventor for getting patent or applying for a patent is known as a patent agent. Their main function is assisting an inventor for filing a patent application and all works associated with such filing. They help the applicant in search of prior art, completion of all paperwork involved in the course of application, and also to work on revising of rejected patent application.

The USPTO is of the opinion and prefers that for completion of the complex procedure of patent application an applicant should always take the help of a patent agent. A patent agent can perform many duties like representing an applicant in the USPTO. The patent agent, unlike a patent attorney, is not capable of appearing in the patent infringement court on behalf of the applicant.

The question is, how to become a patent agent and this article will help to understand the procedure in an easier way.

Difference between a patent agent and patent attorney:

A patent agent’s function may coincide with that of a patent attorney’s but there is a hairline difference between a patent agent and a patent attorney. A patent agent is a cheaper option when it comes to filing a patent application to the USPTO in respect to a patent attorney. The patent attorney will cost the inventor more bucks for just filing an application in which a patent agent is a specialist. But there are some functions which a patent agent cannot perform. An agent cannot represent a patent applicant in the patent infringement court, which a patent attorney is the only capable of.

Qualification required for becoming a patent agent:

The primary educational criteria for becoming a patent agent does not require attending law school or clearing the state bar examination. Any bachelor’s degree holder or even higher can be a patent agent. The USPTO has set a qualifying examination which is like a patent bar exam. If a candidate successfully clears the examination he is automatically registered with the USPTO as a patent agent.

The qualification of an aspiring patent agent is very much relevant because the patent granting procedure requires an agent’s expertise in science and technology.  The person applying should have documented evidence that he has studied and is knowledgeable enough in all physics, chemistry, mathematics and biology. This requirement is very crucial to judge an invention and help the inventor in the application for grant of a patent. Any person who has a degree in any other subjects must have had some scientific training or any other additional courses, the failure of which will make him incompetent for appearing for the patent bar exam.

A patent agent may be in the profession before appearing or while appearing for the patent bar examination and may also hold a PhD degree. The only requisite is knowledge of science and technology or from such relevant profession.

The pattern of the examination conducted by USPTO:

The examination conducted by USPTO focuses on judging the applicant’s knowledge about federal rules, patent laws, regulations, patent procedure and ethical guidelines. The questionnaire includes 100 questions of MCQ pattern, which is divided into two groups of 50 question each with a time limit of 3 hours for each group. The examination is conducted in two halves, the first session in the morning and second in the afternoon. The examination is conducted all the year round so the applicant can appear any time feasible.

Disqualifying ground for the patent bar examination:

After all discussion on how to become a patent agent, the points of disqualification should also be mentioned. Any person convicted of a crime or has completed a sentence for crime within two years are held incompetent for appearing in patent bar examination. For such person proof of reform and rehabilitation also does not apply.

Any person who lacks a good moral and has been debarred from their profession due to such reason are ineligible to appear for the examination.

The USPTO is the deciding authority as to the final selection of the candidates. Any unsuccessful candidate may reappear for the examination provides they are not disqualified for the above mentioned reasons.

Hope this will give a clear idea on how to become a patent agent and make it a profession.

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