Modern businesses strongly realize the need for protection of their intellectual property, and patenting is one of the most popular tools to do so. No wonder, people are eager to enter the law attorney job market. So, what are the qualifications and requirements that separate you from the patent attorney’s salary?
In brief, there are only two requirements: be licensed to practice law by the Bar Association and be registered to practice before UPSTO. The truth is that it’s much easier said than done.
What Legal Background is Needed?
To become a patent lawyer, you must graduate from a law school and be licensed to practice law by the Bar Association. In other words, you, first of all, must be an attorney. However, even if you aren’t you can still take the USPTO Bar exam and work as a Patent Agent The patent agents’ fees are comparable to those of the attorneys, but the agents cannot represent clients in court. In other words, you can still file and obtain patents but cannot help in case of patent infringements. A lot of law firms with patent attorneys divide these responsibilities and will be glad to hire you.
What is USPTO?
USPTO is the United States Patent and Trademark Office is an agency at the U.S. Department of Commerce that takes decisions on the identification of the intellectual property, issuance of patents, and registration of trademarks. In order to represent clients’ interests in front of the UPSTO, you must pass the registration exam.
Requirements for USPTO Exam
There is a number of requirements, to which you must qualify, even to apply for the registration exam. Here they are:
1. Legal Residence
The proof of legal residence and permission to work in the US is really crucial for the matter.Of course, you can skip this point, if you are a citizen of the US.
2. Moral Character Requirements
You won’t be admitted for registration with the USPTO if you have been convicted of a crime involving a breach of trust, felony or moral turpitude earlier that two years after the end of the sentence or probation. You’ll have to wait for five years if you have been disbarred from any profession or resigned from a license as a result of a disciplinary proceeding.
3. Technical Background
To register with USPTO (and to represent the client in the course of the patent filing and related processes) you must prove corresponding technical qualifications.
One of the most straightforward ways to do that is to get a Bachelor’s or equivalent degree in one of the required subjects in an accredited U.S. or foreign university or college. The full list of subjects is listed at General Requirement Bulletin on the USPTO’s official website and includes Biology, Biochemistry, Electronics Technology, General and Organic Chemistry, Physics and Engineering.
If you’ve got a Bachelor’s degree but your subject is not on the list, there are still two options. You can complete accepted additional coursework such as 24 hours in Physics; 20 hours of Chemistry; or a 32-hour combination of different subjects such as Physics, Biology, Microbiology, Molecular Biology. Botany or Engineering. Having decided to do so, you need to make sure that your courses qualify for USPTO (usually, courses for majors are accepted). The other option is to pass the Fundamentals of Engineerings test held by the State Board of Engineering Examiners.
4. Successful Exam
Once you’ve got the proof of the legal evidence, moral character, technical background and, if available, legal background, you can apply for Patent Bar, or, as it is officially called complete the “Application for Registration to Practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office” and send it to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. After that, you’ll get an admission letter with the unique ID number and registration instructions. At this point, you only need to register for the exam, take and pass it.
Say, you’ve passed the exams and are now a patent agent or attorney.
It’d be great if by that time you are already a member of a legal association that can help you get first patent courses, even when you are still studying.
On the other hand, particularly, if you are just from a law school, it’s a general practice to join some large-scale law firm. In this case, it is usually easier to start with a Junior Patent Attorney position where you can gain some practical experience.
Along with that, the Internet era has brought to the market quite a new phenomenon of dedicated attorney job aggregators, search engines and social networks. There you can find clients and prospects from among large corporations and small start-ups. Moreover, today some of those attorney e-communities, such as Widr, are providing special support programs for new attorneys aimed to help them make their first steps up the career ladder.
Wherever you choose to start, remember the words of the famous inventor and owner of numerous patents Stephen Key, who in his interview to Forbs said that a good patent attorney shall look at the relationship with the client as going into business together and want the client to get successful.