Updated July 7, 2020:

What is a patent agent? A patent agent is a person who has passed the US Patent and Trademark Office's Patent bar exam. This means that the person is legally able to work on, file, and initiate applications for clients who are interested in acquiring a patent.

The vast majority of inventions for which inventors apply for patents involve engineering or science. As a result, the USPTO requires that patent agents have a background in engineering or science before they complete the bar exam. Also, the professional must have attended law school.

How Is a Patent Agent Different from a Patent Attorney?

A patent agent can practice at or with the Patent Office and also with the Trademark Office. This type of work involves advising clients and participating in trials and other legal proceedings.

Patent agents practice law at the USPTO as it applies to patents. However, since the guidelines to become a patent agent are stringent and also require a technical or scientific background, a patent agent may seek employment with an outside law firm or business instead. In this case, a patent agent is chosen over a patent attorney to oversee problems associated with patents and trademarks.

Where Do Patent Agents Work?

A patent agent can work with other companies and law offices or practice as individuals. Of course, the agent can also get a job as a USPTO examiner.

How Many Patent Agents Are There in the United States?

According to the USPTO and statistics relating to the agency, the office has 42,503 agents that are active and registered practitioners. There are over 30,000 patent attorneys and over 10,000 patent agents.

When it comes to the salary of the patent agent, economic reports indicate that the average salary of an agent at a private practice with fewer than five years of experience is well over $90,000.

Patent Agent vs. a Patent Attorney

Patent agents and attorneys are similar and work on the same types of projects and jobs. Both of these individuals must show a proficiency in regard to patent applications and the way they are prepared, filled out, and filed. The proficiency has been shown with the USPTO. When it comes to the legal professionals, only lawyers and attorneys can draft papers, like non-disclosures and contracts. Also, lawyers are the only ones who are able to advise in regard to proceedings that take place in a courtroom.

Many patent attorneys actually start off as patent agents, so they are more than qualified to assist in all of the technical and legal aspects of patents. Since you have the choice between choosing a patent agent or lawyer if you want to draft a patent application, you should look closely at the experience that the individual has in relation to the type of patent that you require. This will help to ensure that the professional is able to assist you.

Experience also means that the agent has worked long enough to garner experience in his field. Three years is often seen as a minimum requirement to be experienced as a patent agent. When choosing a professional, make sure that you ask about his relevant experience, education, and post-graduate work. While less experienced patent agents may be cheaper, they can cost you a lot more in the long run if your application needs to be revamped and refiled.

While these things are true, any person who has been admitted to the patent bar is able to legally represent clients as it pertains to filling out and executing patent applications. This means that you have your choice of professionals when it comes to submitting your application through the examination process.

You do need to think about whether there will be any court matter in relation to your patent application and your patent. If you think that there will be a serious issue that needs to be resolved in court, then it is wise to hire a patent attorney.

What Does a Patent Agent Do?

When you apply for a patent, you are requesting intellectual property rights to an invention. If these rights are granted, other individuals are legally prevented from creating, marketing, or selling copies of your invention.

You can, if you wish, grant others permission to use your invention for a fee. Acquiring a patent can be a lengthy, costly process, particularly if you don't have any experience with the patent system.

The best way to obtain a patent is by seeking assistance from someone who knows the intricate patent process. Patent agents and patent attorneys have comprehensive knowledge of the patent application process, including little-known regulations that can prevent you from acquiring your patent.

Although hiring a patent agent isn't a requirement for applying for a patent, trying to complete the process on your own may result in a rejected patent and a loss of intellectual properties rights. A patent agent is a professional that has learned all of the USPTO's patent rules and ensures they stay up to date on new or altered patent laws.

Patent agents can help you with every step of the patent application process:

  • Filling out the required paperwork.
  • Contacting the patent office whenever necessary.
  • Submitting your application.
  • Dealing with any issues that occur during the patent examination process.

While we wish it weren't the case, it's extremely common for problems to occur with your patent application. When your application is rejected, the patent examiner will send you a notification explaining the reason for the rejection. Patent applications can be rejected for a single issue or multiple problems.

Once you receive a notice explaining why your patent was rejected, you must correct every listed issue before your patent receives approval. Having a patent agent on your side can make dealing with a rejected patent much easier and less stressful. Your patent agent can help you correct the issues that caused the rejection, or can help you argue that your patent should not have been rejected in a Patent Review Board hearing.

The nature of your invention, and the agent you intend to hire, can influence how much you will need to pay for patent agent services. If you want to patent a complex invention with the help of a high-quality patent agent, he could cost as much as $20,000. While hiring such a professional is certainly expensive, you could end up paying a lot more if you don't hire a patent agent.

Patent Agent Job Description and Duties

Hiring a patent agent is a great choice for almost every inventor. With the help of a patent agent, you can determine if you are actually entitled to the intellectual property rights for your invention. Your patent agent can help you search the USPTO database for inventions similar to your own, and if your idea is unique, your agent can help you with the patent application process.

Patent agents also act as an intermediary between their clients and the USPTO. Once hired, your patent agent can make sure that your application has been completed and submitted correctly. They can also help you respond to communications sent from the USPTO, including questions about your invention.

A patent agent must fulfill strict requirements before they can offer their services to clients. First, patent agents are required to hold a bachelor's degree in either a physical science or engineering field. After obtaining their degree, a prospective patent agent must complete three additional steps with the USPTO before seeking employment:

  • Submit an application.
  • Take a test.
  • Complete registration.

While many patent agents are self-employed, others can be hired by institutions such as corporations or universities. A patent agent will perform a variety of services for their client, starting with learning about the invention their client wishes to patent.

After learning about the invention, the patent agent will get to work researching whether the invention is patentable. The agent will look for similar inventions, and may even talk to other inventors to determine if there is anything that might cause their clients' application to be rejected.

Next, the patent agent will complete the patent application and submit it to the USPTO. While filling out the application, the patent agent will try to anticipate any questions the USPTO may have about the invention and any possible grounds for objection.

Some inventors give their agent permission to communicate directly with the Patent Office. If given this authority, the patent agent can answer questions about the application and respond to rejection on behalf of their client.

If you need assistance in creating and executing a patent, make sure to post a job on the UpCounsel 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 of 14 years of legal experience., including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.