Choosing Between a Patent Attorney and Patent Agent
Inventors and manufacturers who wish to apply for patent protection at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) are often faced with a representation dilemma. The USPTO authorizes two sets of professionals to represent clients during the patent application process-patent attorneys and patent agents.
Since both sets of professionals can render the desired service, which of them should a prospective patent applicant hire? The answer depends on several factors, including the extent of services they both offer.
Continue reading to learn more about patent agents and attorneys, their scope of operations, and their differences to help you make an informed decision.
Who Is a Patent Agent?
A patent agent is one who has been trained in a technical field such as engineering and has passed the patent licensing exam administered by the USPTO.
Many patent agents are people who decide to pursue a career in patents after obtaining technical degrees and working in their respective fields for a while.
The job of a patent agent is to help clients obtain legal protection and secure full ownership rights over their invention through the patent application process. They can file patent applications at the USPTO, receive and respond to correspondence and pursue the application to its logical conclusion.
Who Is a Patent Attorney?
A patent attorney is a lawyer who has attended law school, been admitted to a state bar, and passed the USPTO patent bar exam.
Many of these lawyers have some technical education that enables them to understand scientific or technical areas relating to the client’s inventions. Thus, patent attorneys often have both legal and technical knowledge and skill.
With their qualifications, they can represent inventors throughout the patent application process. However, the role of patent attorneys goes beyond helping clients with a patent application. Lawyers can also offer legal advice about patents and other related intellectual property rights. They can represent clients in court for patent infringement cases and prepare the paperwork required for patent licensing, including contracts.
Patent Attorneys vs. Patent Agents: Differences and Similarities
Both patent agents and attorneys are authorized to engage in patent prosecution and trademark prosecution before the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Both of them can draft, execute, and file patent applications on behalf of their clients. Further, both are required to have a degree in a technical field.
However, while both patent attorneys and patent agents can handle patent applications, patent agents cannot practice law, provide legal advice, or represent clients in patent infringement matters before the court. Thus, if an inventor also needs ancillary legal advice for a business-related matter connected to the patent, such as whether the invention also requires copyright protection, a patent agent cannot advise on the same.
Patent agents also cannot draft patent-related legal contracts, such as non-disclosure agreements related to intellectual property for their clients, since they are not licensed to practice law.
In a nutshell, the major distinction between a patent agent and a patent attorney lies in the scope of their services. While patent agents have their uses, a patent attorney can do all that a patent agent does and much more.
Should I Hire a Patent Agent or Patent Attorney?
Though both types of patent professionals can help clients obtain patents, patent agents are likely to charge a lesser hourly rate than patent attorneys. However, with complete confidence in the invention’s commercial potential, cost shouldn’t be the only deciding factor.
A well-protected invention can generate great revenue in the long run. On the flip side, a great invention that does not have the strongest protection possible may easily be bypassed by competitors who can easily create a similar design by working around weak patent claims.
Inventions can take years of research and hard work to create. Therefore, it is natural for an inventor to seek the strongest protection possible for their invention. Hiring a patent attorney will ensure that your application is prepared in accordance with existing legal principles and regulations.
Patent lawyers have years of knowledge and skill obtained from a technical degree, legal education, and law practice experience at their disposal. This means that they are more likely to do things better. On the other hand, patent agents do not have the same knowledge and document drafting skills, making the applications they file more likely to have errors. In many cases, patent lawyers may be called upon to fix the errors made by an inexperienced agent. But you do not have to get to this point before consulting an attorney. You can save yourself the stress by working with a lawyer from the beginning.
Patent attorneys offer a wide range of services, so you may not need to seek out several professionals to deal with your related issues. You can think of them as your one-stop shop for patent-related issues and, in some cases, intellectual property protection.
Furthermore, patent attorneys are held to the highest standards of confidentiality under the ethics of the legal profession. This benefits you in several ways, and you can rest assured knowing that your invention can not be published without your knowledge, at least not without breaching the attorney-client privilege.
Working with a California patent attorney can help you address each aspect of patent protection and maintenance for your invention. Consider hiring one today.
Get Help From an Experienced Patent Law Firm
We have an international team of dynamic patent professionals at the Evergreen Valley Law Group, including senior-level patent attorneys and engineers. With their combined experience and knowledge, our law firm provides comprehensive patent services to both domestic and international clients from our offices in California and India.
Contact us today if you have questions about protecting your invention from illegal use. Let us help you get started.