What Is a Trainee Patent Attorney?

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  • Written By: Terry Masters
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 22 February 2020
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The title of trainee patent attorney is commonly used in countries that have a special training track and registration process for patent attorneys that does not require them to obtain a general legal education. Instead, the country has adopted a qualification and certification program for patent practitioners that includes on-the-job training, classroom education and standardized exams. The trainee typically works at a patent firm under a training contract while pursuing certification and becomes a registered patent attorney after satisfying all qualifications.

Patent practice is a particularly complex legal arena that requires specialized scientific knowledge that falls outside of the law. Practitioners need to know intellectual property law, but they also need to understand the mechanics behind the inventions that are being considered for special protection to be able to make a case that the inventions are unique. Attorneys that practice patent law must have outside specialties in hard and applied sciences, such as biology, physics and engineering, to be able to work effectively with patent applications and defend patent rights.


The European Union, Australia and Canada, among other countries, have segregated patent attorney training from other types of legal education because of the interdisciplinary knowledge needed to practice patent law effectively. These countries have set up a training track and certification program that allows people to focus on patent practice specifically, without the burden of learning other areas of the law. Finishing the training program and passing the exams qualifies the trainee to practice patent law but not to practice law generally.

A trainee patent attorney in these countries is a person who has officially undertaken the training program to become certified in patent law. In most instances, the person must have an undergraduate academic record that emphasizes one of the sciences and have completed a certain number of course hours with a minimum grade point average. He then applies for entry into a training program at a patent firm. If he is accepted, he starts work as a trainee patent attorney under a written training contract.

Work as a trainee patent attorney lasts from two to four years, depending on the country. The training position satisfies the experience requirement for certification. Trainees also complete requisite coursework and take qualifying exams while working. Once the trainee patent attorney has satisfied all certification requirements, he is listed as a registered patent attorney with the authority to practice patent law in the jurisdiction.


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