This video covers the Patent Bar Exam and a career in Patent Law. You’ll learn why you should take the Patent Bar as well as what a career as a Patent Agent or Patent Attorney is like. Discover the requirements for taking the exam. You’ll also learn salary ranges for professionals in the field of patent law.
If you’re here on this site watching this video, I can only assume you’re interested in a career as a patent practitioner. If so, congratulations! This profession is highly rewarding, both personally and financially. It’s also challenging and prestigious.
Basically, it has all the criteria of a fantastic career. But the one thing that probably makes it the most interesting is that not too many people know about it. The field of patent law really is a career only a select few know about and can enter.
So in this video I’m going to cover a little about the career, what it’s like, what qualities you need to become a patent practitioner, the education requirements needed to enter this hot career field, and the salary you can expect to make.
So let’s start first with a little background on patent law.
Depending on who you talk to, you’ll get a different idea as to when the history of patents and patent law began. Many consider the Venetian Statute of 1474 issued by the Republic of Venice to be the start. This statute issued a decree by which new and inventive devices, once they had been put into practice, had to be communicated to the Republic in order to obtain legal protection against potential infringers. The period of protection was 10 years.
Although this was one of the first official instances of patent laws, there’s also mention that ancient Greek cities had reward systems for new inventions as early as 500 BC. According to historians, these rewards included the profits from ‘any new refinements in luxury’ for the inventor for a full year.
So the history of patent law goes back pretty far.
As for here in the United States, the first Patent Act of Congress was passed on April 10, 1790.
And the first patent was granted soon after on July 31, 1790 to Samuel Hopkins for a method of producing potash (potassium carbonate), an essential ingredient used in making soap, glass, and gunpowder.
A lot has changed from 1790, patent law as an industry has grown and adapted and the need for specialized patent practitioners has emerged. New technologies like biotechnology and advances in engineering have only helped to complicate patent rules and regulations.
In fact, there is an entire Manual written concerning just the rules and regulations of patent law, called the Manual of Patent Examining Procedures or M.P.E.P.
And if you can believe it, it’s over 3,000 pages in length.
It’s amazing to think that this single field of law is complex enough that a printed copy of the M.P.E.P. is bigger than the biggest phone book you’ve ever seen.
Is there any wonder why patent law has become a full blown career for many?
At any rate, you’re probably wondering what a career as a patent practitioner is like.
For starters, there are two roads to travel; you can either become a patent agent or a patent attorney. Both these individuals must have the proper background in science or engineering (and we’ll discuss this later on), and both must take the exam known as the Patent Bar exam.
The difference between the two is the attorney has also attended law school, passed the state bars, etc… and is licensed to practice law.
The patent agent does not have this designation, but even without it they can still practice law before the U.S.P.T.O. The main difference is that is where the line is drawn. They can only practice patent law.
So even without law school, you can definitely enter this prestigious legal field, and many do every year.
Whether you decide to become a patent agent or attorney, you will help inventors gain patents on their inventions. Inventors may be in the form of corporations, small businesses, scientists or even the lone inventor working from his or her garage.
Regardless of who they are, you will advise inventors as to whether or not their invention is patentable by performing a patent search (or hiring someone to do it). If it is, you will draft a patent application for them.
A patent application primarily consists of information about the invention. *What is it? How does it work?
There are also drawings and claims. To give you a very general description of the claims, they define exactly what the inventor “claims” he or she has invented.
As a patent agent or attorney, you must rely on your technical expertise to draft the patent application. That means you will need to understand the invention and communicate it to others within the patent application.
Once it’s completed, the application must be sent to the USPTO, where it is examined by a patent examiner. Examiners determine whether or not the invention described in the application will become a patent.
Once the examination process has begun, you will correspond with the examiner and the inventor and make adjustments to the application to the best of your abilities. Eventually, the examiner will either allow the application to patent, or reject it.
So to briefly summarize, a career as a patent agent or attorney will involve a great deal of writing and correspondence between an inventor and the Patent and Trademark Office.
Patent Law is the perfect field for many creative and talented individuals since it requires so many qualities in order to be successful. So aside from the right degree and the willingness to pass the patent bar exam, what does it take to become a patent agent or attorney?
For starters, there is definitely a people-oriented side to patent law since patent agents and attorneys work so closely with inventors. Remember, their hopes and dreams will be riding on the invention and you will need to be there to help them achieve their goals.
Patent agents and attorneys must also have excellent writing skills. Drafting a quality patent application is tedious work that requires the best in written communication.
In addition, a strong background in either science or technology is a must. You will have to be capable of understanding exactly what has been invented in order to write a patent application.
Lastly, as a patent agent or attorney, you should possess a thirst for never-ending knowledge.
You will be right on the cutting edge of research and development and will always be exposed to new and exciting discoveries!
Patent Bar Requirements
As I stated previously, you do not need to be a lawyer in order to meet the requirements for the Patent Bar Exam. However, in order to qualify for the Patent Bar, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree in one of the specified fields of science or engineering.
An individual with a law degree, but without the proper education or training in science or engineering will not meet the Patent Bar requirements. Check out the official USPTO website in the link below this video for further information regarding the specific requirements.
The patent bar requirements will usually be met if you have a degree in one of the following fields:
Computer Science(Must be from an accredited program)
Also note that you may still meet the Patent Bar requirements without one of the listed degrees. Instead, you may qualify based on college coursework you have completed. In fact, one of the following sets of coursework may be substituted for one of the degrees listed above:
24 hrs physics, or …
8 hrs chemistry or 8 hrs physics (must be sequential and include a lab) + 24 hrs of biology, botany, microbiology or molecular biology, or …
30 hrs of chemistry, or …
8 hrs of chemistry or 8 hrs of physics (must be sequential and include a lab) + 32 hrs of chemistry, physics, biology, botany, microbiology, molecular biology and engineering
Please do remember that the USPTO has the final say as to whether you may sit for the patent bar or not. They do update their application requirements from time to time so you’d be better off going straight to them as the source for the official requirements.
Now that we’ve covered a little about this career and the requirements for getting started, let’s go over the salary ranges…
According to research on PayScale.com, the average pay for a Patent Agent is between $67,000 and $102,000 a year.
If you contrast the average range with the average pay for those in science and engineering fields, you will see that a career as a Patent Agent is usually more lucrative. By as much as $20,000 to $30,000 more per year.
And keep in mind that if you choose to take the Patent Bar exam and become a Patent Agent, you may decide at a later date to attend law school. Once you meet the criteria for an attorney, then you will be able to change your status with the USPTO from Patent Agent to Patent Attorney.
Further research on PayScale.com shows that the average salary of a patent attorney is around $108,000. In a survey conducted by the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA), the average patent attorney’s salary was much higher than those reported by PayScale. According to AIPLA, the average salary of their members (all patent practitioners) was over $180,000 a year.
At the top of the pay scale are partners in private firms who reportedly earn about $300,000 a year according to statistics by the AIPLA in a survey of its members.
Associates in private firms will make considerably less. The AIPLA reports that its associates earn an average of $125,000 a year during their first year. PayScale reports that the average starting salary for a patent attorney with between 1 and 4 year of experience is $81,000 to $137,000 a year.
Keep in mind that you do need a background in science and engineering to become a patent attorney. For this reason, many attorneys lack the credentials to practice patent law, which is one reason why the field is more in-demand than many other legal areas of practice.
A Bachelors degree in science or engineering will meet the criteria to take the patent bar exam, but in all reality, many firms will expect a higher degree (i.e. graduate work) along with experience. In addition to writing and prosecuting patent applications, as a patent attorney, you may also prepare for infringement cases and offer legal advice concerning litigation.
As you can see, patent practitioners, whether agents or attorneys, earn a high salary.
Now one thing that I should mention is that even if you don’t practice patent law, passing the patent bar exam can aid you in your career. If you’re currently working as an engineer, gaining a patent agent designation will only help your resume stand out. So by passing this exam, you may be able to find more work as a scientist or engineer and to find it faster.
In addition, it may also help you in your current position. We have many clients who pass the patent bar exam and then gain a substantial promotion.
The thing is, as an engineer, or a scientist, you’re often working on a project that may eventually be patented by your company. If you know the ropes of the patent process, you can play an even more integral role in helping your company achieve their goals.
Gaining the designation as a patent agent can help you stand apart from your colleagues. You’ll have the skills to understand existing patents and to help coordinate efforts to work with a legal team when it comes time to apply for the patent application, as well as many other activities.
So passing the patent bar exam can have far reaching advantages for you even if you don’t plan on giving up your current career path as a scientist or engineer. And the nice thing is you don’t have to go back to school and spend thousands of dollars on tuition to open the door to this exciting and lucrative profession.
All you have to do is pass a single test. So if you’re an engineer or scientist and you meet the requirements to take the patent bar exam, it can be well worth your time and effort.
And obviously, if you plan to enter the field of patent law head-on by becoming a patent attorney, or you have plans to gain a position as a patent agent, then passing the patent bar exam is inevitable. You’ll want to pass it as soon as you can so you’ll be eligible for the best positions, which are usually in law firms or corporate offices, as they become available.
Now that you know a little about the career, we’ll cover the exam itself in the next video and some tips on passing it. See you in the next video!
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