Patent Agent vs Patent Attorney
Patent prosecution is the interaction between applicants (clients) and their representatives (agents or attorneys), and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) with regard to an application for a patent. When it comes to patent prosecution practice before the USPTO, there is virtually no difference between patent agents and patent attorneys, as both are able to perform the same functions. Both patent agents and patent attorneys have taken and passed a difficult patent bar examination (having a fairly low pass rate) in order to be registered and licensed to practice before the USPTO. Additionally, both patent agents and patent attorneys are required to have a minimum amount of technical education in science or engineering, and have demonstrated a minimum competency in the requirements for preparing, filing and prosecuting patent applications before the USPTO.
The primary difference between patent agents and patent attorneys involves their capacity to practice law outside of the boundaries and scope of the USPTO. A patent attorney has attended law school and has taken and passed a state bar examination for registration to practice law in one or more states within the United States. A patent agent is not a lawyer and therefore cannot provide any legal advice outside of the boundaries or scope of patent prosecution before the USPTO, including advice on patent licensing, patent infringement or matters concerning trademarks. Patent attorneys can draft contracts, non-disclosure agreements or represent you in legal proceedings involving State or Federal courts, whereas a patent agent cannot. Many knowledgeable, talented patent agents are very capable of preparing and successfully prosecuting high-quality, top-notch patent applications. The level of success in preparing and prosecuting high-quality patent applications before the USPTO typically depends more on a practitioner's knowledge, experience, talent and work ethic, and not so much on whether the practitioner is a patent agent or a patent attorney.