What's The Deal With The Patent Bar? - JD Advising
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What’s The Deal With The Patent Bar?

Law school is an experience wrought with exams. There are midterms, finals, the MPRE, and of course, the bar exam. Seems like enough to fill almost any law student’s plate, right? Well, for some law students interested specifically in patent prosecution, there’s an additional exam. It’s called the United States Patent and Trademark Office Registration Examination, otherwise known as the Patent Bar. “Oh great” you must be thinking, “another bar exam.” Well, not quite. Let us explain.

What’s The Deal With The Patent Bar?

What Is The Patent Bar?

First, let’s clarify what patent prosecution is. Patent prosecution involves an attorney drafting, filing, and negotiating with the US Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) to obtain a patent. Patent protection prohibits others from copying, manufacturing, selling, or importing an invention without the creator’s permission. In order for an attorney to practice patent prosecution, he or she must take the patent bar exam.

The patent bar is essentially an exam that tests an applicant’s knowledge of United States patent laws, rules, and procedures. The laws, rules, and procedures are derived from what is known as the Manual of Patent Examination Procedure or MPEP. Similar to the traditional bar exam, applicants must be able to analyze and review hypothetical situations involving patent applications. Patents can be highly technical in nature. The patent bar ensures that attorneys have sufficient technical knowledge to understand, describe, and protect a client’s invention effectively.

How Do I Know If I Can Take The Patent Bar?

Like the bar exam, the patent bar has specific requirements for prospective test-takers. Put simply, there’s one of three ways you can sit for the Patent Bar. The first way is having a Bachelor’s degree in a qualified major. The list of qualified majors is lengthy and generally includes majors in science, technology, and/or engineering. The second way to sit for the patent bar is by having any Bachelor’s degree plus scientific and technical training. The idea here is that even if you don’t have a degree in a particular subject, other training you may have received can still be beneficial when working with patents. The third and final way to sit for the patent bar involves passing the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam. Yes, another exam. As long as you have a Bachelor’s degree and pass the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam, you’re in.

When Should I Take The Patent Bar?

Unlike the traditional bar exam, the patent bar is an on-demand test that can be taken anytime. Of course, the information mentioned above must be submitted to the USPTO for approval prior to accessing the exam. Once applicants submit their application to the USPTO, the USPTO can take anywhere between a week to a few months to send out approval. Once you’re approved by the USPTO, you need to take the exam within ninety days. Many law students opt to take the patent bar during law school. Why? To avoid having to study for and pass the traditional bar exam and then having to study and pass the patent bar. Additionally, students choose to take the patent bar in law school to let employers know they’re eligible to prosecute patents.

How Do I Study For The Patent Bar?

Put simply, there are two primary ways to study for the patent bar. The first is to self-study using the MPEP as your guide. The second and more common way to study for it is by enrolling in a prep course. Most prep courses include roughly fifty to one hundred hours of assignments and study material. If you’re taking the patent bar during law school, this means finding time to squeeze in patent bar preparation. Unfortunately, this might mean giving up weekends, holidays, and some summer break time. However, passing the patent bar while in law school avoids the stress of tackling the bar exam and patent bar at the same time.

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