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.