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What is a Patent Agent?

The follows is a description of differences between a Patent Agent and a Patent Attorney. You are welcome to read DIVIDE & EXPLOIT, which is a guide to help you determine if you need a Patent Agent or a Patent Attorney.

What is a Patent Agent?

  • The United States Patent Agents and Patent Attorneys are licensed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and are registered to practice in patent cases before the USPTO.
  • The United States Patent Agents and Patent Attorneys are considered equally qualified to provide U.S. patent procurement services on behalf of their clients before the USPTO.
  • The United States Patent Agents and Patent Attorneys are considered equally qualified to provide international patent procurement services for international patent applications under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).
  • The United States Patent Agents and Patent Attorneys must make the same solemn oath to uphold the laws and rules of practice of the USPTO, including a strict Canon of Ethics.
  • The United States Patent Agents and Patent Attorneys must have passed the United States Patent Bar Examination, which is a very rigorous examination that tests their knowledge of patent laws and rules.
  • The United States Patent Agents and Patent Attorneys must have a university degree in an approved technical field (e.g., Engineering, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, etc.) in order to qualify to take the United States Patent Bar Exam.
  • One of the differences between a United States Patent Agent and a Patent Attorney is that a Patent Agent does not represent clients outside the jurisdiction of the USPTO.

To make matters a bit more confusing, different countries or regions of the world have different standards of what really qualifies as a “patent attorney.”

For example, did you know a qualified European patent attorney practicing in patent cases before the European Patent Office (EPO) may not qualify as an “attorney” in the United States?

The general requirements to become a European Patent Attorney are generally the same as those who wish to practice in patent case before the USPTO, similar to a United States Patent Agent. The European Patent Attorney must have a technical degree and must pass the European Patent Bar Exam.

This means that in terms of education and expertise, most European Patent Attorneys are in general equal to the United States Patent Agents. It is just that the European Patent Office calls them “Patent Attorneys” instead of Patent Agents.

Of course, in order to be called an “attorney” in the United States, a person must attended law school and pass a regular State bar exam.

However, in general, there is usually nothing taught in most U.S. law schools about patent practice that would help law students to pass the Patent Bar Exam or to help them prepare and prosecute a patent application. Therefore, there really is no advantage to using a United States Patent Attorney for representations in patent cases before the USPTO.

To make matters even more confusing, some United States Patent Attorneys practice patent law before the USPTO only, and do not represent clients outside the USPTO.

This is just like the practice of a United States Patent Agent, but of course, with a much higher fee structure. (Patent Attorney charges are generally almost double or triple the cost of a Patent Agent).

There are also United States Patent Attorneys who only represent clients before a court of law, but do not represent clients before the USPTO.

In fact, some United States attorneys practicing litigation or contract law may or may not even have passed the United States Patent Bar Exam. Therefore, some of these attorneys may not even be able to represent a client before the USPTO.

Patent Law Agency, LLC addresses patent agents or patent attorneys as “patent practitioners” in order to reduce confusion for our Japanese, European, South American, Chinese, and other non-U.S. clients who visit Patent Law Agency, LLC web site.

Regardless of the confusion however, the good news is that inventors can use both Patent Agents and Attorneys to reduce overall intellectual property protection costs using what we call DIVIDE & EXPLOIT.

Contact Patent Law Agency, LLC today at 1.818.248.1465 for a free, no obligation initial consultation.