Recently it has come to my attention that there is a WikiHow page titled How to Study for the Patent Bar. I have been teaching a patent bar review course for the Practicing Law Institute since 2000, so I am something of an expert on the patent bar examination. I know a thing or two about how aspiring patent practitioners can and should proceed to study for the exam. I can tell you definitively that if you follow this Wiki advice you are guaranteed to fail!
The other principle lecturer in the PLI patent bar review course, and course creator, John White, put it like this: “If a person really follows this advice, they will be our student after 2-3 failed attempts. They will also be an emotional confused confidence lacking wreck!”
Hopefully we have your attention. You absolutely must be very careful when choosing which advice to follow. While free resources are tempting because the price is right, relying on what is free is a recipe for disaster on the patent exam.
Beware Bad Advice
It is hard to imagine that anyone seriously interested in trying to become a patent practitioner would follow advice found on a Wiki page. Who knows if the author and those who have edited the page know anything about the law, patents or the patent bar exam itself. Still, I thought I might take an opportunity to point out exactly why the advice on WikiHow makes you destined to fail.
First, there are 10 steps to passing the patent bar exam listed. If you actually followed the advice given you would probably need to spend in excess of 2,000 hours studying, much of it completely wasted. You still wouldn’t be likely to pass either.
In step 1 the author suggests that the would-be patent practitioner read all of the U.S. patent laws and rules. I wonder if the person who wrote this knows that patent litigation topics are not tested on the patent bar examination? I would guess not because if they did why would they suggest reading all the U.S. consolidated patent laws? The U.S. patent laws contain vast amounts of information that has never been, nor will it ever be, tested. So why spend time studying things that won’t be tested if the goal is to pass the exam and obtain a registration number?
Step 3 is to read the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP), apparently from cover to cover. Obviously the author is unfamiliar with the text of the MPEP, or its length. It is almost laughable when the article says: “Read the manual carefully and make sure that you understand everything you read.” Oh… is that all there is to it? Well that is easy enough, right? Yeah… right up until you realize that the MPEP when printed out would drawf the size of the phone book from Los Angeles County, California! Furthermore, there are a great many topics in the MPEP that are simply not tested. Still further, there are topics within the MPEP that are emphasized while others are of far less importance. Treating the MPEP like everything is equally important for the exam is not only a recipe for failing the exam but is also quite ridiculous. Excepting that you can read the MPEP and understand everything without guidance is naive in the extreme.
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Step 4, in part, recommends using the My Patent Bar website, which is extremely dangerous. The information provided on My Patent Bar comes from those who are also studying for the exam or who have taken the exam, some having passed and some having failed. I have reviewed My Patent Bar at times and find the information there to be confusing, misleading and sometimes flat wrong. For example, there have been numerous individuals report that they saw a particular question on appeals. They recount the question and gleefully proclaim the answer so others can be informed. The problem is they ALL are getting this question wrong! The problem is they are relying on Chapter 1200 of the MPEP to get the answer, which is out of date. The appeals rules were updated at the end of 2011, but Chapter 1200 of the MPEP has not been updated to include that information. The new appeals rules are tested, making Chapter 1200 of the MPEP rather useless for exam takers. This tidbit of critical information is not mentioned in the WikiHow. For more on this, as well as the question involved, see: New Rules, Old MPEP Make for Difficult Study.
Step 8 contains perhaps the most ridiculous suggestion given in the Wiki article. It is recommended to the reader that they should download the free PTO Patent Bar Exam Review Package from CNET. If you navigate through to the CNET page you see that this package of information is current as of 2006. Simply stated, if you study from this packet you will fail! There have been numerous and significant changes to the patent laws and rules since 2006. You simply cannot pass the patent bar examination using materials this old.
Not convinced yet because free is a hard price to beat? Well, the CNET package explains that it contains MPEP 8th edition revisions 1 and 2. Why would you ever want to even consider the 8th edition revisions 1 and 2 when you will be tested on the 8th edition revision 9? Revision 9 was published August 2012. Revision 1 was published February 2003 and revision 2 was published May 2004. Why would anyone who is at all serious use materials that are a decade old to take an exam that is constantly being updated and refreshed with new materials? If you study the wrong MPEP edition you have absolutely NO chance to pass the patent bar exam.
Finally, despite all of the bad advice that is presented, the most damaging aspect of the WikiHow advice is what it fails to say. Since April 2011 the USPTO has been continuously updating the patent bar exam, and has already announced that it will be updated again effective January 2014. There are many things that are tested that are not yet a part of the MPEP. For example, take a look at the Source Materials for the Registration Examination. If you are unfamiliar with the America Invents Act and the implementing final rules you really have little chance to pass the exam.
The best advice given by the WikiHow page is the last piece of advice: “PLI offers one of the most recommended live and home study Patent Bar review courses…” That is true, and why you should seriously consider taking the PLI course if you are interested in passing the first time!
What Should You Do?
So how do you study for the patent bar examination? If you were to take the PLI course I teach you would spend about 50 hours taking the course and then you should spend between another 100 to 125 hours studying. Our course is designed as an immersion course that will bring you up to speed on the topics, concepts and issues you need to know and are most likely to be tested on. After the course focus shifts to learning how to handle exam level difficulty questions you will receive on exam day.
To accomplish this we have what we refer to as Patware software, which mimics the computer interface you will encounter on exam day. We have many hundreds of exam level difficulty questions, including questions that cover all the newly testable materials since April 2011, with new questions and copious model answers and explanations being added all the time.
That is critical because when someone tells you to just study from the 2003 released exams they aren’t doing you any favors. Yes, those exams need to be taken and studied, but by now the exam you will take will focus on material designated as newly testable since April 2011. And think about it for a minute, the seminal case of our generation — KSR v. Teleflex — which fundamentally changed the law of obviousness, was not decided until 2007!
Spending time reading the MPEP is not a bad idea, but reading it cover to cover as suggested by WikiHow is ridiculous. There are chapters and sections that are clearly more important than others. Similarly, it may make sense to spend time reading some rules in the Code of Federal Regulations, but many are not tested.
The best strategy to pass the exam includes taking a patent bar review course and then charting a path post course that takes into account your strengths and weaknesses. Simply reading 5,000 or more pages of information and believing you will “understand everything you read” is fanciful at best.
For more information on the patent bar exam please see:
- Everything You Need to Know About the Patent Bar Exam Sep 26 2013
- Patent Bar Exam: MPEP Search Strategies Aug 30 2013
- Beware Patent Bar Exam Study Advice Jul 27 2013
- USPTO to Update Patent Registration Exam April 2013 Jan 30 2013
- Patent Bar Blues: New Rules, Old MPEP Make for Difficult Study Jan 11 2013
- The Latest Intelligence on the Updated Patent Bar Exam Nov 06 2012
- USPTO Updates Registration Examination for New Patent Practitioners Oct 04 2012
- Patent Bar Exam Refresh: PTO Now Testing New Materials Oct 01 2012
- USPTO Changes Format and Links to MPEP Sep 15 2012
- Legal Jobs: Patent Job Market Shows Signs of Improvement Jun 14 2012
- Becoming Patent Bar Eligible: What Courses are Acceptable? Jun 07 2012
- Buyer Beware! Counterfeit Patent Bar Review Courses on eBay May 08 2012
- Vote for Chance to Win FREE PLI Patent Bar Review Course Dec 12 2011
- PTO Updates Patent Bar Exam to Test AIA & Appeal Rules Dec 06 2011
- Patent Reform and Patent Bar Review, What You Should Know Oct 25 2011
- Patent Bar Exam Craziness, Do You Know How Long a Month is? Sep 14 2011
- New Look Patent Bar Examination Continues to Evolve Jun 07 2011
- Top 10 Reasons to Take the PLI Patent Bar Review Course Apr 17 2011
- USPTO Updates Registration Exam for Patent Practitioners Apr 11 2011
- USPTO Announces Impending Update to Patent Bar Exam Jan 13 2011
- PLI Patent Bar Review Summer Tour 2010 May 23 2010
- PLI Patent Bar Review New Live Course at Santa Clara May 24-28 Apr 23 2010
- USPTO Announces Live Administered Exam Schedule for 2010 Mar 22 2010
- PLI Patent Bar Review Spring/Summer Tour 2010 Mar 16 2010
- What a Soon to be Patent Agent Learned from Googling Himself Feb 28 2010
- Does My Degree Qualify Me to Take the Patent Bar? Oct 13 2009
For information on this and related topics please see these archives:
Posted in: Gene Quinn, IP News, IPWatchdog.com Articles, Patent Bar Exam, Patent Bar Review, USPTO
About the Author
Gene Quinn is a Patent Attorney and the founder of the popular blog IPWatchdog.com, which has for three of the last four years (i.e., 2010, 2012 and 2103) been recognized as the top intellectual property blog by the American Bar Association. He is also a principal lecturer in the PLI Patent Bar Review Course. As an electrical engineer with a computer engineering focus his specialty is electronic and computer devices, Internet applications, software and business methods.