How and Why to Clear the Patent Agent Exam in 2020?

How and Why to Clear the Patent Agent Exam 2020

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A common myth about the Patent Agent Exam: Do I need a background in Law to clear the Patent Agent Exam?

This article sheds light on who can become a patent agent and puts to rest any myth about taking this exam. One common myth about the patent agent exam, it is a competitive exam exclusive for someone with a law background.

For starters, Patent law is the only law practice, which is at the interface of science/technology and law. In essence, someone with a technical background in Science, Engineering or technology can become a patent professional. There are two routes to becoming a patent professional, one via the regular law school while the non-law route involves becoming a Patent Agent.

Who is a Patent Agent?

A Patent Agent or Patent Attorney in a few jurisdictions, is someone who is allowed to prepare, file, and prosecute patent applications before the Patent office.1, 2

Who can become a Patent Agent?

Here is the roadmap for you to become a patent agent. In order to become a patent agent in India, one has to be a citizen of India, completed 21 years of age, with a degree from Indian Educational institution in the field of science, Engineering, or technology and also passed the patent agent examination conducted by the Indian patent office. Alternatively, someone who has worked in the patent office as an Examiner or as the Controller for not less than ten years can take a direct route to becoming a patent agent without appearing for the exam.3

History Of the Indian Patent Agent Exam

To understand the pattern of this exam, Indian patent office (IPO) has conducted 15 exams, starting from 2000. The frequency of this exam has been sporadic and continues to remain so. There have been years when the exam was conducted twice in the same calendar year, 2007 and 2008. For the last exam, conducted in October 2018, notification was issued not earlier than 4 months prior to the exam. As I write this, the patent agent exam for the year 2020 has been announced for June 28th 2020.4

The Pattern of the Patent Agent Exam

This exam carries two papers, Paper I and Paper II, followed by Viva-voce.2 For a few years, this exam was subjective and for the last two years, Paper I is objective (100 marks), testing the understanding of the Patents Act, and Paper II (100 marks) is subjective with situation based questions and drafting a model patent application. The candidate will be called for viva voce (50 marks), if the scores are minimum of 50 in both the papers. And finally the candidate will be declared as a patent agent if the aggregate is sixty percent (including Viva score) of the total marks.3   It is hard to compare the format of patent agent exam over the years, but the pattern was same for 2016 and 2018 exam, and likely to remain the same for this year too.

Patent Agent Exam Pattern

Attempting Paper 1 of the Patent Agent Exam

Paper 1  was objective for the last two years and the candidates had 2 hours to finish 3 parts, which includes Part A (60 marks, 30 multiple choice questions), Part B (10 marks, 10 true/false based questions) and Part C (30 marks, 10 multiple options questions with at least more than option correct).5

In relation to time, this accounts to 50 questions overs 120 mins with an average 2.4 mins per question.

No Negative Marks

Based on my experience in preparing for and clearing the exam in 2018, and having asked many people, there will be sufficient time to finish this paper. Since there are no negative markings, the candidates must take time to select options and preferably revisit questions for which they are not sure of the answer at first glance.

Please note, time saved for answers at a first glance, is a time gained for the hard ones and it is prudent that they select options, which they are absolutely sure and move on to others for effectively managing their time.

Attempting Paper 2 of the Patent Agent Exam

The time management will be put to test in Paper 2, which will be conducted as a separate session, on the same day. This paper includes Part A (20 marks, 4 questions), Part B (30 marks, 3 questions), and Part C (50 Marks, 2 questions). All the questions must be answered except for Part C, wherein two out of four has to be answered, one question for drafting a title, abstract and two claims, while the other question involves drafting a complete specification, whereas Part A and B covers situation based questions based on the Patents Act, 1970. 

Cite Appropriate Sections & Rules

It is highly recommended that appropriate sections and rules have to be cited wherever the situation demands, unless you are not sure about the sections or rules. It is hard to devise a strategy for Paper II and it is up to the individual to understand their strengths and work accordingly.

Figure 1: Chapter wise split in marks for the exams conducted in 2016 and 2018
Figure 1: Chapter wise split in marks for the exams conducted in 2016 and 2018

Analysis of Paper 1 of the Patent Agent Exam conducted in 2016 and 2018

Figure 1 shows analysis of Paper 1 for the exam conducted in 2016 and 2018.[4] It shows chapter wise split of marks for both the years. It is evident from the chart that marks are split equally across the chapters, and specifically Chapter 4 of the Patents act carries at least more than 10% weightage for the two consecutive years. The reason for this analysis is not to show few chapters are more important than others but to see if there are any patterns that exist. It is safe to assume that there are few important chapters like Chapters 1, 3, 4, 8, 19, 20, and 23 and other chapters where marks are split equally.

Why should you apply for the Patent Agent Exam now in 2020?

There are approximately 4000 patent agents in India with a population of 1.3 billion people, which roughly translates to 1 patent agent for every 3.5 lakhs people. This clearly shows the scarcity of Patent agents in India compared to 10,000 patent agents in the USA, which translates to 1 Patent agent every 32000 people. This can be accounted to lack of awareness as a career option or no demand in the market place to churn out Patent agents. In my opinion, with increasing innovative demands from the marketplace coupled with the startup boom currently happening in India, and increasing awareness in Intellectual property, this will only increase the demand for patent agents. The salary for patent agents ranges from anywhere between 5 lakhs/annum up to 20 lakhs/annum commensurate with agent’s experience and skill. So, who suits this profession, someone who has an aptitude for learning new technologies, ideas and who thoroughly enjoys writing. The most important aspect for this job is communication, which constitutes an important skill set for a patent agent. 

As a patent agent, one can practice as a private consultant or a freelancer or in a law firm, or in an industry or in academia Intellectual property management cell.

References:
  1. Sections 125 to 132 of the Indian Patents Act, 1970, http://ipindia.nic.in/writereaddata/Portal/ev/sections-index.html[]
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent_attorney[]
  3. http://ipindia.nic.in/writereaddata/Portal/ev/sections/ps126.html[][]
  4. http://www.ipindia.nic.in/writereaddata/Portal/Images/pdf/2020-02-24__1_.pdf[]
  5. http://www.ipindia.nic.in/Patent-Agent-Examination.htm[]