Patent Bar Review Courses
|Written by Gene Quinn
President & Founder of IPWatchdog, Inc.
Patent Attorney, Reg. No. 44,294
Zies, Widerman & Malek
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Posted: November 17, 2008 @ 6:07 pm
UPDATED April 11, 2011
I am frequently asked by students and aspiring patent attorneys or patent agents whether they really need to take a patent bar review course, or whether they can simply forgo taking a course and study on their own and pass the patent bar exam. The short answer is that if you want to have any realistic opportunity to pass the patent bar exam you really should be taking a patent bar review course of some kind to assist with your preparation. This is now more important than ever given that effective April 12, 2011, the Patent Office has updated the patent bar exam. See USPTO Updates Registration Examination.
Now being tested is MPEP 8th edition revision 8, as well as miscellaneous other laws and rules, including KSR v. Teleflex Guidelines, Bilski v. Kappos Guidelines and the 112 Guidelines, none of which are currently in revision 8 of the MPEP 8th edition. In fact, because the Patent Office has not released old exam questions since 2003, those old exam questions are now obsolete and those wishing to acquire old study materials will be in for a rude awakening when they sit down to take the exam. Simply stated, old materials and old exam questions will not assist you in your effort to pass the patent bar exam.
Merely deciding to take a patent bar review course is, unfortunately, not enough. For better or worse, not all patent bar review courses are created equally. It is important to choose a course that will give you the best opportunity to pass the first time. The patent bar exam is a very difficult examination, so the goal is to pass the first time and then never look back.
Before you consider trying to study for the patent bar exam yourself and without taking a review course you need to factor into your thinking that not everyone can even take the patent bar exam. In order to qualify to take the exam you need to have either a scientific degree in a hard science or field of engineering, or have accumulated enough credits in science or engineering courses to demonstrate to the Patent Office that you have the technical expertise necessary to render meaningful technology based assistance to inventors who are seeking to patent their innovations. For more detailed information on qualifications to sit for the patent bar examination see Who Can Take the Patent Bar?
The next thing you need to consider is that the pass rate for this examination is typically in the range of 50%. So those who can take the examination are largely scientists and engineers, many with Masters Degrees or PhDs, yet the pass rate is only about 50%. This is telling. The group of individuals who qualify to sit for the patent exam are not, as a whole, a group of people who are accustomed to failing a standardized exam, yet the prospects of passing the exam are only 50-50.
Finally, you need to know a little about the pass rates for those who take patent bar review courses. I have taught for years for the PLI Patent Bar Review Course, the premiere patent bar review course available today, and this course typically teaches about one-half of all those who take the exam on a yearly basis. The pass rate for those who take the live version of this course is generally around 89% and the pass rate for those who take the home study version is roughly 87%, with both percentages reflecting first time takers. I have personally never spoken to anyone who has taken the course and did not ultimately pass the exam, so eventually everyone who takes this course passes. This particular course has become largely a home study course, with about 60% of those taking the course purchasing the home study version and not attending live lectures. So that roughly translates into a first time pass rate of about 88%. So if half of the people taking the examination take this course and pass the first time at a rate of 88%, what does that mean for those who do not take the course given that the historical pass rate is approximately 50%?
Before you can truly answer that question you need to further realize that there are a number of other patent bar review courses, all of which provide some level of preparation that is undoubtedly better than no professional preparation. If you have the requisite scientific background to take the exam you undoubtedly realize that this means that the pass rate of those not taking a patent bar review course is extremely low. Even if you assume that the course I teach for is the only game in town, which is not accurate, the numbers would suggest a pass rate for those who do not take a patent bar review course at about 15%. Given that we know there are other courses that presumably offer a pass rate higher than what could be accomplished on your own without any assistance, it seems logically certain that those who take the exam without some kind of professional patent bar review course have little or no realistic chance to pass the exam.
How is this possible? The patent bar exam is a tremendously difficult exam. You will be tested on the contents of the Manual of Patent Examining Procedures, which is a book roughly the size of a telephone book for a major metropolitan area. What a review course can and does do is help you focus on those concepts most heavily tested and understand how to work through questions, manage time and develop strategies that will help you get answers to several questions that you have absolutely no clue about. So if you had an ulimited amount of time to take the exam, and an unlimited amount of time to prepare for the exam, you could do it yourself. Unfortunately, neither assumption is realistic. That is why patent bar review courses have developed to streamline your study, focus you on the topics that are most important, and give you the edge necessary to make taking the exam a one time affair. That is why spending the money for a competent review course is likely going to be one of the most wise choices you can make on your journey toward becoming a patent attorney or patent agent.
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About the Author
|Eugene R. Quinn, Jr.
President & Founder of IPWatchdog, Inc.
US Patent Attorney (Reg. No. 44,294)
B.S. in Electrical Engineering, Rutgers University
J.D., Franklin Pierce Law Center
L.L.M. in Intellectual Property, Franklin Pierce Law Center
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Gene is a US Patent Attorney, law professor and the founder of IPWatchdog.com. He is also a principal lecturer in the top patent bar review course in the nation, which helps aspiring patent attorneys and patent agents prepare themselves to pass the patent bar exam. Gene’s particular specialty as a patent attorney is in the area of strategic patent consulting, patent application drafting and patent prosecution. As an electrical engineer by training his practice primarily focuses on software, computers and Internet innovations, as well as electrical and mechanical devices. Gene has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the LA Times, CNN Money and various other newspapers and magazines worldwide.