What does a Patent Agent do?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

A patent is government-sponsored protection given to an inventor that disallows others from producing, using, or selling an invention without permission during a designated period of time. A patent agent is a specially qualified person who has received recognition from a government agency, like the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), as having met the qualifications to be able to prepare and file patent applications, as well as process them. This person may be an attorney as well, in which case, he or she would be called a patent attorney and have extended capabilities. A person can do this job without being an attorney, however.

Individuals and companies can apply for a trademark by going through the US Patents and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Individuals and companies can apply for a trademark by going through the US Patents and Trademark Office (USPTO).

A patent agent negotiates patent agreements, as well as drafting them, and prepares documents for processing and filing. He or she may liaison with both product developers and their legal team to make sure filing is done properly.

In the US, the agent may use the USPTO's patent electronic filing system (EFS-Web), a web-based tool for submitting applications and documents to the office. The use of this tool also makes it possible to track pending applications and the progress of a patent application, but it requires knowledge of the forms and documents that work with it, how to set up a web browser to interface with it, and keeping up with new versions.

A patent agent may also be involved in prosecution or may contribute to the long-term management of a client’s patent portfolio. In the latter case, this individual may work with developers, the business team, other agents and patent attorneys. In addition to a thorough knowledge of USPTO rules and the Manual of Patent Examination Procedure (MPEP), the individual may be required to know the rules, regulations, and documents associated with the International Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).

Someone who works in this field may also be involved in related areas, including intellectual property (IP) issues, trademarks, and issues related to non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and licensing. A patent agent may also be involved in patent review committee management, publication review, and invention disclosure review. Interference practice and opposition practice may also come into play.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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Discussion Comments


Do you need to have a patent agent sign a NDA? Or are they held to confidentiality as attorneys are? Please advise. My concern is, could they steal my invention?


I am a legal consultant who works in intellectual property. I would welcome the chance to speak with either a patent agent or attorney.


While patent agents typically don't have the fancy marble and free donuts found in expensive law firms, they do nevertheless the same job of preparing and prosecuting patent applications before the USPTO. U.S. Patent Agent

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