As a founder, you know how hard it can be to develop an innovative product. And protecting that innovation with intellectual property is almost as difficult.  If you want your idea to make it off the ground, you need an expert on your side. That’s where a patent agent can come in.

Every patent practitioner in the US must pass the USPTO patent bar exam.  To qualify to take the USPTO patent bar exam, the USPTO requires the wannabe patent practitioner to have a science or engineering background, not a law degree.  If you pass the patent bar and you have a J.D., then you become a registered patent attorney.  If you pass the patent bar and you don’t have a law degree, then you become a registered patent agent.

Essentially, a patent agent can do everything that a patent attorney can do, other than represent you in court.  And working with a patent agent can provide additional business advantages too.

Patent Agent vs. Patent Attorney

The most obvious differentiator between a patent agent and a patent attorney is the ability to practice law beyond patent law. Whereas a patent agent can advise you on matters of patent law, only an attorney can represent you in legal matters beyond patent law.  For example, while a patent agent can help you navigate the process of obtaining an issued patent, you’ll need a patent attorney if your patent becomes the subject of a lawsuit.

As another distinction, many patent agents transitioned into a career in patent law after they’ve had experience working as scientists or engineers and/or pursuing a masters or doctorate degree in a science.  That means patent agents are usually subject matter experts in specific technical areas who also happen to have legal training.

For most inventors, though, the biggest difference is the price. Patent agents are far cheaper than a patent attorney even though they can fulfill all of the same duties related to the process of obtaining patent protection.  Whereas good patent attorneys at big law firms easily charge $600 to $1,000 per hour, an experienced patent agent can be had for half of that.

What Can Patent Agents Do?

As mentioned above, patent agents can take you through every step of the way through the patent application process, in the same exact way a patent attorney will do.  At the start of the process, for example, they sit down with a client to discuss the client’s idea. From there, they talk them through their IP protection options and what the process will look like.

Once the client agrees to move forward, a patent agent works with you to compile and assemble all the necessary components of your patent application.  When the patent application and formal documents are ready to go, a patent agent can file it for you, and help you make your case in discussions with a patent examiner until you have an issued patent in your hands.

Also, even though a patent agent cannot represent clients in court, many patent agents have experience with litigation support.  This means an experienced patent agent can have perspectives they can bring to working with clients that go beyond just writing patent applications.

What’s the Advantage of Working with a Patent Agent?

Not to knock on the great patent attorneys out there, oftentimes technical startup founders find they can “talk shop” more easily with a patent agent with relevant technical experience.  A technical founder can sometimes have a hard time relating to a patent attorney who may have gone straight from an engineering undergraduate program to a law school, with no work experience as an engineer.  

Additionally, patent agents with technical work experience frequently also have knowledge of the product development process and business knowledge.  The extra knowledge beyond patent law often allows patent agents to relate better to their client’s innovation and business model, thus bringing a more comprehensive perspective to creating a patent portfolio and saving the client a lot of time and money.

Regardless of whether you choose to work with a patent attorney or a patent agent, it’s important to select a patent professional who communicates well, understands your innovation, asks relevant questions, and appreciates how your innovation fits within the context of your overall business.  You’re going to spend a lot of time with your patent professional. Consider finding someone, whether a patent attorney or patent agent, who can best guide you in crafting the IP framework that supports the future of your big idea.

At Patents Integrated, we aren’t patent attorneys. We’re not business consultants. We’re so much more than that. We’re patent agents who pull from multiple disciplines to help innovators create successful IP strategies that will serve them for years to come.

If you’re ready to turn your invention into a reality, we’re here to make it possible. Click here to get started.