A patent agent or Patent Attorney (as it is known in a few jurisdictions), is someone who is allowed to prepare, file, and prosecute patent applications before the Patent office.1 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.2
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 26th 2020.3 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.
Paper I 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). In relation to time, this accounts to 50 questions overs 120 mins with an average 2.4 mins per question.4 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. The time management will be put to test in paper II, 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. 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 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 pattern exists. 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.