A Patent Agent is someone who helps an inventor or innovator to file for and obtain a patent for their invention so that others are prevented to use it in any way. According to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), with a patent, the inventor gains the intellectual and property rights, thus making it illegal for anyone else to make, sell, or use the invention without the inventor’s permission.
Patent Agents are registered to practice before the USPTO and represent the inventors (who hired them) before the USPTO while applying for the patent. Applying for a patent is not an easy process. It requires a thorough understanding of all the formalities and relevant paper work, and an in-depth knowledge of the different other aspects involved in the process. This is where a Patent Agent can help inventors by performing the following tasks:
Most inventors do not have time to follow the entire process and therefore prefer to choose the services of a Patent Agent for a quick, convenient solution.
There are a lot of similarities between a Patent Agent and a Patent Attorney. Both are required to have some formal education in science, computers or engineering. Both are required to be registered to practice before the USPTO. Both are eligible to prepare, file and prosecute patent applications on behalf of their inventor clients before the USPTO. No wonder, people often use the terms interchangeably.
However, it is interesting to note that both are not the same. There is a basic difference with respect to their capacity to practice law. A Patent Attorney has graduated from law school and has passed the state bar for registration to practice law in that state. On the other hand, a Patent Agent has only passed the USPTO’s Patent bar and is not an attorney. This difference renders Patent Agents in not being eligible to perform legal services which a Patent Attorney can easily do.
Here is a list of such legal services:
A Patent Agent aspirant is required to obtain the following qualifications:
1. A Bachelor’s degree in fields such as computer science, electronics technology, biology, chemistry, pharmacology, physics and several other engineering programs that are recognized by the USPTO
2. Must pass the USPTO examination often referred to as the “Patent Bar” in order to be registered to practice before the Office. The examination is conducted by Thomson Prometric nationwide, once in a year at a physical location determined by the USPTO.
It is important to note that a Patent Agent does not need to be licensed in any state or become an attorney in order to practice before USPTO.
The average annual salary of a Patent Agent with less than 5 years of experience has been reported to be around $92,250 by the American Intellectual Property Lawyers Associations’ Report of the Economic Survey in 2013. The top 10% were earning $126,250 and the lowest 10% around $55,500.
Some of the important factors affecting the salary of a Patent Agent are industry, company size, experience, location, and education.
Patent Agent aspirants are required to maintain an exceptional track record in academics and also need to be willing to go through years of education and training. The path to become a professional in this field entails years of experience.
There are several options available for Patent Agents. They can choose to work for a law firm or in the legal department of a big corporation or a promising technological company. Working as a patent examiner at the USPTO is also an option. Many Patent Agents also prefer to work as self employed professionals having independent practice.
There are also Patent Agents who aspire to become Patent Attorneys down the line after gaining some years of experience in patents as agents. All they would need to do is obtain a law degree and pass the State bar. With this new addition to their qualification, they will be able to help their clients with even legal issues related to patents such as infringement cases, patent validity, etc.