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What is a Patent Agent?

A patent agent, also known as a patent practitioner, is an individual licensed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to provide advice and assistance regarding patent applications. These professionals may also help applicants with the relevant paperwork and documentation required in order to file a patent application. Although patent agents are registered to practice with the USPTO and have passed the Patent Bar Exam, they cannot give advice in all business-related legal matters. In other words, patent agents can provide technical advice when it comes to applying for a patent, but they are not lawyers and therefore are not authorized to provide legal advice.

Key Takeaways

  • Patent agents, or patent practitioners, are professionals licensed by the USPTO to give technical advice and assistance regarding patent applications.
  • Since patent agents are not licensed attorneys, they cannot provide professional legal advice.
  • Both patent agents and patent attorneys can help prepare and file patent applications on behalf of other individuals.

Patent Agent vs. Patent Attorney

While the terms “patent agent” and “patent attorney” may sound similar at first, there is actually a significant difference between the two roles. On one hand, patent agents hold a technical degree and have passed the Patent Bar Exam through the USPTO. On the other hand, patent attorneys have graduated from law school and have passed the State Bar Exam in addition to the USPTO Patent Bar Exam.

Since patent attorneys are authorized lawyers, they are able to advise individuals in relation to contracts and can practice in court. Patent attorneys may also play a significant role in trials regarding patents, such as in patent infringement cases. In most cases, patent attorneys cost more than patent agents. This is due to the fact that patent attorneys hold a legal status that often comes with a higher price tag. Ultimately, the costs of both patent agents and patent attorneys heavily depend on the experience, training and skill of the individual.

Alternatively, patent agents do not have a law degree, but they do possess a great deal of knowledge when it comes to the technical aspects of patent applications. They often have a background in either science or engineering that allows them to better understand certain patent applications. While hiring a patent agent may be cheaper than working with a licensed patent attorney, it is crucial to keep their legal limitations in mind. Patent agents cannot draft contracts, represent clients in legal proceedings, or perform any other legal action. 

Bottom Line

Patent applications can become overwhelming due to complicated terminology and extensive paperwork. Fortunately, certain licensed professionals can help you seamlessly navigate the patent application process. Both patent attorneys and patent agents can provide helpful guidance when it comes to applying for a patent. Nonetheless, there are major differences between the two roles that should be acknowledged before embarking on your patent application journey. The choice between a patent agent and a patent attorney ultimately depends on what you need them to accomplish. For example, if you need someone to draft a non-disclosure agreement on your behalf, you should consult with a patent attorney. However, if you have a question regarding a technical aspect of a patent claim, you may want to ask a patent agent.

For assistance in all things patent-related, contact one of our intellectual property attorneys today.

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