A common question confronting students interested in the intellectual property law field is whether one needs to take the patent bar exam in order to be an intellectual property lawyer.

The answer turns on the definition of intellectual property lawyer. Intellectual property includes patents, copyrights, trademarks, and related matters. It includes prosecution (securing protection), litigation, and the rendering of advice. One definition of an intellectual property lawyer is "anyone who does any of these things". By that definition, one need not take the patent bar exam to be an intellectual property lawyer. Simplified, the patent bar exam is only necessary if you want to be able to represent inventors before the U.S. Patent Office. If one plans only to do trademark or copyright work, or only to do patent litigation (and not prosecution), the patent bar exam is not required.

On the other hand, a student who wants to be able to handle all types of intellectual property law cases, including patent prosecutions, will want to take the patent bar exam. Note that a student does not have to be a licensed attorney at the time of the exam, and in fact, some professionals think that it is wise for a student interested in practicing patent law to take the exam long before graduating from law school.

To be eligible to take the patent bar exam, one must have earned a bachelor’s degree in any one of the following areas of study:

Or have the following:

More detailed information about the exam (locations, format, cost, duration, annual deadlines, etc.,) can be found at a United States Patent and Trademark Office

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