If you've always been interested in the patenting and licensing process, you may have considered attending law school and becoming a patent attorney. However, the current employment statistics for law school graduates in many markets can be sobering, and, if you're more passionate about the nuts and bolts of patenting than the legal procedures, you may be reluctant to invest three years and tens of thousands of dollars toward your degree. Instead, you may want to consider becoming a registered U.S. patent agent. Read on to learn more about the duties and powers of a registered patent agent, as well as what you'll need to do to pursue this career path.
How can you become a registered patent agent?
Unlike the process of becoming a patent lawyer, becoming a registered patent agent should require no more higher education than a bachelor's degree. However, you will need to pass a written exam and fulfill the other requirements as set by federal law – from good moral character and reputation to competency in advising patent applicants and pursuing claims before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Many in the patent field are drawn toward applicants who have some scientific or technical background; because so many patent applications are for specialized types of software or engineering prototypes, the ability to break down and easily explain highly technical information to those without a scientific background is crucial. If you don't have much undergraduate experience in the sciences, it may be worth taking a few refresher courses (or checking out some practice exam questions) to ensure your scientific knowledge is up to snuff.
After you've done the requisite research and preparation, it will be time to take your registration exam. This is a 100-question exam that can be administered by computer, and you should have your results available shortly. Those who have worked for the USPTO in the past and have demonstrated knowledge of patent laws and procedures may be waived out of the exam, but most others will be required to take and pass it before being able to practice before the USPTO.
What will a day on the job look like?
Patent agents perform a variety of different tasks to assist inventors and firms in the patent process. Depending upon the volume and demand in your area, you may be assigned to one specific client (usually a larger one with multiple applications) or spend your time working with multiple clients to help them organize the documents and exhibits they'll need to complete their patent application. You'll also spend time preparing your own statements explaining the purpose and utility of the new invention and why the issuance of a patent may be justified.
For more information about registered patent agents and patent strategy, talk to a company like RB Consulting, Inc.