What is a Patent Agent?
In the United States, a patent practitioner may either be a patent attorney or a patent agent. “Patent agents” are individuals who are not an attorney but are registered to practice before the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO). A patent agent may represent the inventors named in a patent application before the USPTO. A patent agent must pass the USPTO registration examination often times referred to as the “patent bar.” To become a patent agent, an individual must be an engineer, scientist or have another science based major.
Patent Agent Qualifications
To become a patent agent, an individual must have the following qualifications:
1. Engineering or Science Degree; and
2. Passed the USPTO Patent Bar Exam.
A patent agent is not required to be an attorney or licensed in any state.
What a Patent Agent Can Do
Both patent agents and patent attorneys can perform the following patent services:
- Patent searches;
- Provide patentability opinions;
- Prepare and record a patent assignment;
- Prepare, file and prosecute patent applications with the USPTO.
What a Patent Agent Cannot Do
A patent agent is unable to perform some legal services that a patent attorney can provide. For example, a patent agent cannot provide the following legal services:
- Advise a client regarding patent infringement;
- Represent a client in patent litigation;
- Provide an opinion of validity of another party’s patent;
- Appeal to the Federal Circuit;
- Prepare a patent license;
- Trademark searches;
- Trademark applications.