Updated July 7, 2020:

What does a patent lawyer do? This is something you've probably asked yourself, especially if you've ever thought about getting a patent for your invention. This type of attorney specializes in obtaining protection for your intellectual property (IP). He or she will examine the invention, guide inventors through the patent application, and actually obtain a patent on the invention.

When a person wishes to become a patent lawyer, he or she first enters into an apprenticeship. Law school alone does not provide enough understanding of how to formulate a patent application. Just because a person has passed the bar does not mean that they know how to write a patent application.

Patent lawyers work in the special field of intellectual property law and specialize in patents. They represent inventors in the patent application process and can act as litigators to protect their customers' rights to the invention.

In addition to passing their state examination, to earn a license as a patent lawyer with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), they need to pass the USPTO license exam.

If you want to know how to write a patent application, it takes many hours of work with an experienced patent lawyer. In fact, most lawyers do not know about patent law. A successful business should always hire a lawyer who specializes in patent law, and they should avoid compromising quality by doing so.

The main responsibility of patent lawyers is to execute the patent rights of the client. The patent lawyer must be licensed by the USPTO and to be a successful patent lawyer requires a background in science or technology, as well as a J.D. degree.

Requirements for Patent Training

The following are requirements when training to become a patent lawyer:

  • Potential patent lawyers typically earn a four-year degree in a field of science such as chemistry, biology, or physics or an engineering degree in electrical, civil, mechanical, or biomedical engineering.
  • Patent lawyers must complete a law program from an accredited school and pass the state examination.
  • Since a patent lawyer will represent inventors before the USPTO, he or she must pass the USPTO license exam, commonly known as the patent bar.
  • In cases where a lawyer has reached five years of uninterrupted service with the USPTO, the license exemption is waived.

This complex field is always changing. If a patent lawyer continues to practice in the field, this expert is required to be up-to-date with applicable patent laws.

What to Look for in a Patent Lawyer Firm

Patent lawyers are certainly not plentiful. In fact, companies that choose to serve small businesses and individuals do not always offer the best service. Patent law firms often give them a junior patent lawyer with insufficient experience. If firms have a senior lawyer, the lawyer will likely not have enough supervision over the junior lawyer.

These are typically large and medium-sized patent application companies that focus on corporate customers. So when small businesses or individuals approach these large firms, they may not get the attention they deserve and need. It is important to obtain the proper attention because when a patent application is poorly written, it can be useless and potentially harmful, and can cause an illusion of protection.

How Do You Select the Correct Patent Lawyer?

To do respectable patent work, you need to have a good technical understanding. A qualified patent lawyer needs to have the rare ability to explain, clarify, and simplify. Writing a good patent application requires the marriage of expansive legal and technical knowledge with the ability to clearly and concisely explain complex concepts in a way that can withstand challenges from the nation's leading patent attorneys.

Background on Patent Lawyers

A patent lawyer, also known as an intellectual property lawyer, represents people who wish to get a patent and be assigned a number of exclusive rights as an inventor. Patent lawyers:

  • Prosecute and write patent applications
  • Advise and deal with infringement on patents and patent applications
  • Need to have the technological expertise to represent a business successfully and with a thorough understanding
  • Need to adhere to the newest scientific developments

The American Bar Association (ABA) states that the job of an intellectual property lawyer is highly rewarding with opportunities for learning about the newest technologies, working with inventors and startups, and addressing the challenges of this always-changing legal area.

How to Become a Patent Lawyer

To become a patent lawyer, you must complete the following:

  • The first thing to do when becoming a patent lawyer is earning your bachelor's degree in a field of science that has been accepted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
  • To prove technical skills, candidates must submit a B.Sc. of chemistry, engineering, biology, or a related area.
  • After earning a bachelor's degree, the next step is to become an actual patent lawyer before completing a Juris Doctor (J.D.) program for an accredited law and graduation license.
  • You must complete the application described by the USPTO.
  • Once the application is approved and the patent lawyer passes the exam, they become a registered patent lawyer.
  • Those who have the necessary professional qualifications and pass the exam, but do not obtain a diploma, can still work in the same capacity as patent lawyers.

Earning Potential

Patent attorneys earn between about $212,735 and $291,628 annually according to June 2020 data from Salary.com. The median annual salary for this type of lawyer is $253,324. The variance is based on experience, specialty, physical location, and other factors.

Patent Lawyer Roles

A patent lawyer will assess whether inventions are new and innovative and, therefore, are entitled to patents. Trained in the development of patents and intellectual property, patent lawyers help individual inventors and companies through the process of patenting an invention and then act to enforce the rights of the invention when patents are violated.

Patents are granted by the government and give inventors the right to prevent other parties from using or copying their invention for 20 years. You may not use the title "patent lawyer" unless you are qualified and are admitted to the patent lawyer register. Most patent lawyers are patent consultants, and there are also registered trademark lawyers.

What Does A Patent Lawyer Do?

A patent lawyer submits applications for protection of all types of intellectual rights, both national and international. A patent lawyer also provides advice, contradictions, cancellations, cancellation differences, difficulties, and third-party objections. The main duties include:

  • A patent lawyer handles the management of intellectual property (monitoring deadlines, payment of fees, etc.).
  • A patent lawyer handles prosecution and defense of violations against an intellectual property attack (in collaboration with legal experts).
  • A patent lawyer can assess the intellectual property rights of third parties and mitigate risks.
  • A patent lawyer can investigate the state of the invention and patent.
  • A patent lawyer deals with the official registration or transfer of intellectual property rights.
  • A patent lawyer advises on contract-related issues, in particular, licensing is one of the tasks of the patent lawyer.
  • The patent lawyer is the focal point for the legal protection of intellectual property rights.
  • Patent lawyers advise customers on inventions, designs, trademarks, expertise, and on how to protect software products and plants.
  • Patent lawyers represent clients before the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property, the European Patent Office, and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
  • Patent lawyers work in support of any related application and exam process for the relevant authorities.
  • Patent lawyers rely on their worldwide contacts with foreign consultants and other patent lawyers.
  • Patent lawyers coordinate application and exam processes abroad.

What to Expect When Working as a Patent Lawyer

As a patent lawyer, you may be overwhelmed and overworked in a private practice, even if colleagues are available to help. The work can be very overwhelming, which can be due to inflexible deadlines and work on multiple patent applications for more than one customer at a time.

Becoming a patent lawyer is an excellent career choice, but it may be challenging to get into the field as an entry-level lawyer. The work is based mainly in the office, while traveling to meet customers is normal, because they want to patent a product or process that can more easily be demonstrated on site.

Most patent lawyers work a regular 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday schedule, but overtime hours may be required.

Do You Need a Patent Lawyer to Get a Patent?

It is not required to have a patent lawyer to obtain a patent. An inventor can file a patent on behalf of themselves for the invention. However, it is not a good idea due to the difficulty and legality of obtaining a patent.

Creating a patent can be difficult. You don't only need to accurately and efficiently describe the technicalities of your creation, but you also need to protect your valuable IP by ensuring that you express how your invention is different from existing inventions in your industry. Patent law is very technical. Even if an invention is easy, writing your own patent can be pretty risky.

For example, if you are patenting a prototype for a 3D printed item in a specific material, your patent will only prevent others from making similar objects out of that material unless you state otherwise. A patent attorney can make sure that all your bases are covered when it comes to patent protection.

If you still want to write your own patent without a patent lawyer, it is a good idea to use a professional patent writer. It costs a lot less than what you would pay a lawyer to draft a patent application and provides you with many of the same benefits.

In addition, you can draft your own preliminary patent application and submit it. Preliminary applications give you a 12-month grace period to create an actual patent application. Preliminary applications lack many formalities that are included in a patent application. The temporary application grants the inventor more time.

How to Find a Patent Lawyer

Multiple online tools for inventors, such as UpCounsel, make finding a patent lawyer a little simpler. Google makes it possible to search and find any patents issued through the patent office. Each issued patent or patent application gives an overview of the lawyer who wrote it and the company the lawyer works for. Begin by finding lawyers who draft patents in the field your invention is in.

Look at the requirements of the patent. The value of most patents comes out of their requirements, so find a lawyer who has a broad knowledge of these requirements and understands the specific, meaningful language found in patents. As the inventor or company with the invention, you are welcome to call other similar businesses and ask if they would recommend a specific lawyer.

Contact the patent lawyer and ask questions. If you are concerned with the cost, ask for a quote before the lawyer actually starts any work. If you are worried the lawyer doesn't have enough expertise and experience to understand your invention, you should clarify with the lawyer first. You are the expert of your invention, so find an expert on your patent.

If you need help with a patent application or finding a patent lawyer, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.