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What’s the difference between a patent agent and a patent attorney?

What is a Patent Attorney?

A patent attorney is an attorney who is registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“Patent Office”). This typically requires going to law school, passing a state bar exam, and passing the Patent Bar Exam. The Patent Bar Exam is administered by the Patent Office and tests the rules governing the procedures of drafting and prosecuting a patent application before the Patent Office. In order to sit for the Patent Bar Exam, an applicant must have graduated from college with an applied science degree or have completed a certain number of applied science credits in college. In a majority of cases, applicants are engineers, computers science majors, physicists, chemists, or biologists.

“A patent attorney is an attorney who has passed both the Patent Bar Exam and a State Bar Exam.”

What is a patent agent?

A patent agent is a person who has studied for and passed the Patent Bar Exam. Because of the requirements that must be met to sit for the Patent Bar Exam, a patent agent is usually an engineer or scientist who has passed the Patent Bar Exam. It is often the case that patent agents are engineers that have chosen to go into patent prosecution but have not gone to law school. These individuals are highly capable in drafting and prosecuting patents, so I would not over look them in your search for a patent professional.

Should you care as an inventor?

Maybe! Both patent agents and patent attorneys are qualified to draft, file, and prosecute your patent application. A patent attorney will likely charge a higher hourly rate than a patent agent because of their additional qualification (passing a state bar exam). When looking for someone to prepare and prosecute a patent application, we suggest choosing an attorney or agent based on their experience level, their technical area of expertise, and the reputation of the law firm they are associate with.


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