For many of you out there, going through (or having gone through) a state bar examination…you probably have little to no desire to take another bar. The time, energy…and money. The sleepless nights, pints of ice cream, bottles of wine…it’s all enough to let it slip away chalked up as a bad memory. For others of you not within the “law” track…you’ve had your own difficult road. From graduate courses to other intense life challenges…why would you really want to try your hand at another bar exam?
Well, for those who are up to the challenge and looking for a way to enhance their marketability as an intellectual property (IP) lawyer or as a IP expert agent, the Examination for Registration to Practice in Patent Cases Before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)—or more lovingly (insert sarcastic laugh here) referred to as the patent bar—is probably worth your time and effort.
Why Should I Take the Patent Bar Exam?
The common reason for taking the patent bar exam is that it is a prerequisite in the US to practice in patent prosecution as a patent practitioner. Put another way, a patent prosecutor prepare patents, provide insights and opinions about patents and patent applications, and work with inventors and the USPTO to get patents issued.
Along with making your CV and resume stand out a bit, passing the patent bar can provide a career boost allowing you to practice IP litigation (as an attorney). That said, you do not have to be registered with the USPTO (aka: passed the patent bar) in order to be an IP litigator or be an IP expert. However, registration provides a level of expertise and certification that many firms look for.
Additionally, being an Patent Attorney or patent agent often provides very reasonable work hours, making registration another attractive element.
Who Qualifies to Take the Patent Bar Exam?
So the next logical question (if you are considering taking the exam): Are you eligible to take the exam? The source of all information regarding patent bar eligibility is the General Requirements Bulletin published by the USPTO.
Not everyone is eligible to take the exam. The USPTO limits who may sit for the patent bar to those who possess “the requisite scientific and technical training.” There are four main ways to establish the requisite training:
- Category A You possess a bachelor’s degree in one of thirty-two scientific or technical subjects, including biology, chemistry, physics, and most engineering disciplines. Notably, a master’s degree in one of these subjects is not by itself considered sufficient training. (Part III.A)
- Category B (option 1) You have successfully completed one of the following: (1) 24 semester hours in physics; (2) 30 semester hours in chemistry; (3) 32 semester hours comprising 8 hours of physics or chemistry and 24 hours of biology; or (4) 40 semester hours comprising 8 hours of physics or chemistry and 32 hours of some combination of biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, or, in some cases, computer science. For a course to qualify under this option, you must have received a grade of C- or better in the course and it must be applicable towards a science degree—“physics for poets” won’t do. (Part III.B.i–xi)
- Category B (option 2) You can demonstrate objective evidence of other training, education, or experience that is equivalent to a bachelor’s degree in a Category A subject. (Part III.B.xii–xiv) As several patent law professionals have noted, however, only the extraordinary candidate will qualify under this option.
- Category C You have passed the Fundamentals of Engineering test, which is administered by each state’s Board of Engineering Examiners, and possess a bachelor’s degree in any subject. (Part III.C)
The first option, a Bachelor’s degree in a sciences or engineering or tech field, is the most common (And most direct) way to qualify to sit for the patent bar exam. However, even if your degree is in another subject, you might qualify (or with a little work have the ability to qualify). For example, if you minored in chemistry, you may only need a few more courses to qualify under Category B.
How Do You Apply To Take The Exam?
If you are unsure whether you qualify, the best thing to do is ask. Ok, so WHO do you ask? Well, you can always start with us and we’ll try to be of use in wading through the qualifications. After that though, you can attempt to call the USPTO Office of Enrollment and Discipline to clear things up but we’ve found this can often be a long process that doesn’t lead to direct answers either. So, sometimes your best bet is to post in forums, get as much information as you can, and then submit an application. REMEMBER THOUGH: Once you’ve been accepted to take the exam, you only have a 90 day window to then take the patent bar. So, make sure you plan out your studying plans and consider delaying your application until after you’ve begun to study.
What is the pass rate?
NOT GOOD. The patent bar has an notorious low pass rate (<50%) for the past 10 years. That said, you have a MUCH better chance at passing (especially the first time) using a program like Wysebridge Patent Bar Review.