Patent Agent FAQ

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What is a patent agent?

A patent agent is an individual who has passed the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Patent Bar, and is registered with the USPTO to prepare, file, and prosecute patent applications on behalf of his or her clients. Because most inventions are based on science or engineering ideas, the USPTO requires a patent agent to possess a background in either science or engineering before taking the Patent Bar. The Patent Office’s requirements can be found here.

How is a patent agent different from a patent attorney?

A patent attorney has graduated from law school and has passed both a state bar and the USPTO’s Patent Bar. In addition to practice at the Patent Office, a patent attorney can also practice before the Trademark Office, advise clients about contracts, and participate in courtroom trials, inter alia. A patent agent often comes to the legal field with significantly more technical education in either science or engineering. Although a patent agent practices only patent law at the USPTO, because of greater technical expertise, and equivalent ability to practice before the USPTO’s Patent Office, many law firms and legal departments prefer to hire patent agents instead of patent attorneys.

Where do patent agents work?

Patent agents have many options. Patent agents can work for a law firm or in the legal department of a major corporation or technological start-up. Additionally, they can practice as an individual, or work as a patent examiner at the USPTO. See more information on patent agent careers.

How many patent agents are there in the United States?

As of November 2013, the USPTO’s enrollment statistics indicate 42,502 active registered patent practitioners, including 10,864 patent agents and 31,638 patent attorneys.


What is a typical salary for a patent agent?

The American Intellectual Property Lawyers Associations' "Report of the Economic Survey 2013" reported that the average income for a patent agent at a private firm, who had less than 5 years experience, was $92,250, with a 1st to 3rd quartile range of $55,500 to $126,250.