Patent Attorney

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Related roles: Patent Lawyer, Patent Prosecutor, Patent Litigator, Intellectual Property Counsel, Patent Consultant, Patent Portfolio Attorney, Technology Lawyer, Innovation Attorney, Patent Specialist, Patent Rights Manager


Similar Titles

Patent Lawyer, Patent Prosecutor, Patent Litigator, Intellectual Property Counsel, Patent Consultant, Patent Portfolio Attorney, Technology Lawyer, Innovation Attorney, Patent Specialist, Patent Rights Manager

Job Description

Patent attorneys obtain and/or renew patents on behalf of  inventors and companies. They also advise and represent clients on patent infringement issues and other areas related to intellectual property rights.

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Working with self-driven and inspiring inventors
  • Being a crucial part of the innovation process
  • Very intellectually stimulating work
  • Getting to see products of the future before most of the public
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities
  • When applying for patents:
    • Conduct research to ensure the invention in question is not already patent-protected by another inventor, as well as verify the scientific and legal accuracy of the inventor’s claims
    • Draft, file, and submit patent applications to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
  • In addition to filing applications, patent attorneys:
    • License the patent to other companies, after it has been approved by the USPTO
    • Represent clients in cases of patent infringement
Skills Needed

Soft Skills

  • Interpersonal skills: communicating effectively and building a strong professional relationship with the client
  • Time-management and organization skills

Technical Skills

  • Analytical skills: analyze large amounts of information quickly and efficiently
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Research skills
  • Oral and writing skills
  • Extensive and current scientific and technical knowledge
  • IT skills
Different Types of Organizations
  • Law firms (most common place of employment)
  • In-counsel for companies and/or universities
  • United States Patent and Trademark Office
Expectations/Sacrifices Necessary
  • Working long hours to hone the craft
  • Years of education and training that require significant commitment
  • Pre-career, holding a 1-2 year apprenticeship role entailing long hours and a relatively lower starting salary
Current Industry Trends
  • Background in a STEM field
  • Proficiency t in technology, i.e. the language of science and math
  • Keep up-to-date on trends within law and technology
  • Social media and digitization is becoming very pervasive within the legal industry
    • E.g. Law firms will sync data to a cloud in a bid to go paperless, enable access to more powerful searching tools, etc. Furthermore, attorneys have to be very careful in terms of what they publish on social media for public view.
What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were young...
  • A love for tinkering in high school, which led to the technical aspect of their training
  • A passion for reading and writing often leads to a legal career
  • A love of learning
  • A need to address  groundbreaking topics and develop a familiarity with them in a short amount of time
Education and Training Needed


  • Patent Attorneys are lawyers who specialize in intellectual property. They often earn an bachelor’s in a science or technology field before going to law school to earn their JD (Juris Doctor) 
    • Prior to applying for law school, lawyer hopefuls must take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), unless the school accepts Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) scores
    • The LSAT is an online, remote-proctored exam that consists of multiple choice questions in the areas of reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning. There’s also a written essay portion
  • An American Bar Association-approved law school can take 3 years if going full-time and up to 5 if going part-time
  • All graduates must take what is called a bar exam. Every state has its own rules for this two-day test. The National Conference of Bar Examiners offers details
  • The Multistate Bar Examination takes 6 hours and has 200 questions
  • Most states also require passing the 200-question Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination
  • In addition to passing the bar exam, Patent Attorneys must also pass a registration exam to “represent clients before the US Patent and Trademark Office,” per Investopedia
    • The patent bar exam features 100 multiple choice questions and is offered via a computer-based test delivery system (though USPTO does offer physical proctored testing at its Virginia office on occasion)
    • Note, this is a notoriously difficult test, with a less than 50% pass rate for the past several years!
    • USPTO offers a tutorial to help test takers understand what to expect
  • Patent Attorneys may also need to take Continuing Legal Education courses
  • After gaining a few years of work experience, attorneys can apply for various board certifications to enhance their credentials 
Career Advancement
  • Encouraged to  take CLE (Continuing Legal Education) patent law courses, usually offered by state bar associations as well as the American Bar Association
  • Board certifications offered by state bar associations and other professional organizations, and usually require some years of experience working a patent attorney
  • Join professional organizations or participate in seminars related to their field of expertise
  • Some links to patent law organizations:
Things to do during high school/college
  • In high school, hone your speaking and writing skills and participate in activities that offer leadership or management experiences 
  • Prep for college with plenty of STEM classes as well as speech, English comp, debate, philosophy, psychology, ethics, and business
  • Participate in STEM-related clubs and activities and learn about intellectual property rights 
  • While doing your bachelor’s, prep for your J.D. by taking political science, history, law, English, or related topics
  • Look for opportunities to hone your public speaking skills and powers of persuasion 
  • Decide if you can attend full-time or will need to go part-time due to work or other commitments
  • Consider which learning method works better for you — in-person, online, or hybrid. There are pros and cons to all options!
  • Join professional organizations like Phi Alpha Delta or student clubs that help you learn and network
  • Look for internships that might turn into jobs one day, if you play your card right!
  • Work closely with your academic advisors so you stay on track and graduate on time
  • Study hard for all classes as well as exams like the LSAT, bar exam, or USPTO registration exam
Typical Roadmap
Patent Attorney Roadmap gif
How to land your 1st job
  • ​​​​​​Actively seek a summer apprenticeship or summer associateship program with a law firm or STEM company while in law school; oftentimes such an experience can translate into employment at the firm/company post-graduation. 
  • Work with your school’s program or career center to locate and apply for jobs. Many schools work closely with law firms that recruit graduates! 
  • Attend job fairs, a career office, on-campus recruiters, etc, offered at law school
  • Perform to the best of your ability during any internships. Sometimes interns are offered positions contingent on their graduation and passing the bar exam
  • Even if a firm where you intern doesn’t hire you, their references to potential employers can make a difference
  • Let your network know ahead of time when you are graduating and the timeframe you want to start working
  • Post your resume on employment portals like Indeed, Glassdoor, and Martindale
  • Make certain your resume is impactful, compelling, and error-free. Think of it as a work sample, a preview of the kind of attention to detail you give your writing
  • Check out New England Law’s How to Write Your Law School Résumé with No Legal Experience
  • Seek prior approval from professors and relevant supervisors to list them as references or get letters of recommendation from them
  • Hone your interview skills by reviewing Harvard Law School’s Interview Questions
  • Read news about the patent industry. Be ready to discuss insights about trends and changes during interviews
  • Practice mock interviews so you can present yourself as capable and confident
What it really takes to make it and succeed
  • Success in this field requires a real passion for learning through working with inventors who will teach you about the latest and greatest projects they are working on
  • Understanding how business tool fits in the overall value for a company
How to Find a Mentor
  • Use search engines to  find law firms and companies that are conducting business in areas you are passionate about
  • Names of professionals working in these organizations is usually published with their contact info
  • Reach out to these professionals and see if they are willing to spend just a couple of minutes with you to talk about their career
Plan B
  • Entrepreneur (for example, with a startup)
  • Employment law and contract law
  • Working within a university on licensing of the technology developed, rather than acquisition of the patents
  • A An in-house position working for a company to directly counsel the decision-makers on actions to take regarding protection of intellectual property


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