The Office of Enrollment and Discipline (OED) of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), has announced that the patent bar examination, which is sometimes called the patent registration exam or patent agent’s exam, will be updated again effective early April 2013. No date certain has yet been announced by the OED, but based on the previous updating of the exam when new rules became effective on September 16, 2012, it can be expected that the patent bar exam will be updated sometime during the first week of April.
This next patent bar exam update will be extremely significant for those who will be taking the exam after it has been updated. OED explains that the next update of the patent bar will usher in the testing of the final phase of implementation of the America Invents Act (AIA), which will become effective March 16, 2013. “All aspects of the AIA have now made their way onto the USPTO Exam,” says John White, creator of the PLI patent bar review course and an attorney with Berenato & White.
Indeed, the so-called first-to-file rules are the final element of the AIA to be implemented and could lead to an examination that is up to one-third new material. How is this possible? First-to-file rules and law changes the 35 U.S.C. 102 in a fundamental way. This means that the very definition of what is prior art will change. That has implications for novelty directly and non-obviousness indirectly.
Since April 2011, the United States Patent Bar Examination has been a moving target. For many years the exam was static, largely remaining the same. Numerous repeat questions would be asked from administration to administration and changes to the law not tested. In fact, it was nearly 5 years before the USPTO started testing changes to the law of obviousness mandated by the U.S. Supreme Court in KSR v. Teleflex, which was difficult to imagine since the law fundamentally changed and impacts nearly ever application filed.
Enter David Kappos. As Kappos was setting out to redefine the USPTO he also made time to have his team update the stale patent bar exam. The first updates of the patent bar examination in some time were unveiled in April 2011, and with every new Federal Register Notice the exam is being updated to test the latest law and newest rules.
There does, however, remain a problem associated with studying for the patent bar exam. The Manual of Patent Examining Procedures is not up to date, and in places it is significantly out of date. That can make studying for the patent bar a daunting task for those who attempt to do it on their own. Without the guidance of a course that can pull everything together it is quite possible that a student will study the wrong material out of the MPEP, even believing they are about to get a question correct because the answer is included in the MPEP. A case in point will illustrate.
We just wrapped up our last live Patent Bar Review Course for 2012. We were in San Francisco for the past few days, once again teaching a room of would-be patent attorneys and patent agents. This group now has the task of studying the Phase 2 implementation of the America Inventors Act, which went into effect on September 16, 2012 and started to be tested on October 2, 2012.
In the little more than a month since AIA Phase 2 became testable we have already heard from a number of our Patent Bar students who have taken the Patent Exam since the USPTO added AIA Phase 2 to it. The good news — in addition to our usual exemplary pass rate — is that the sample questions we prepared for all the supplementary materials, from KSR and Bilski all the way through AIA Phases 1 and 2, are very, very predictive of the questions you’ll see on the actual Exam. Student after student has told us that if you can handle the questions we have added to Patware (the “AIA Phase 2 Mini-Exam” was just recently added), you can handle all the questions the USPTO will ask you on the Exam.
WASHINGTON — As part of a wider effort aimed at stakeholders fully benefitting from the sweeping reforms of the America Invents Act (AIA), the U.S. Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced today that it has updated a critical examination for applicants seeking to practice in patent cases before the Office.
The updates ensure that newly registered patent attorneys and agents are fully qualified in the most current patent laws, rules and procedures, and final rule packages that took effect September 16, 2012—one year after President Obama signed the historic bipartisan AIA into law.
“By requiring practitioners to have a keen grasp on all of the latest changes to patent laws and processes, we are helping ensure that deserving new innovations get to the marketplace faster and more efficiently,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos. “The updated exam announced today means more entrepreneurs can more quickly patent ideas, which will help boost the economy.”
As you may have already heard, effective — October 2, 2012 — the United States Patent and Trademark Office will be adding a significant volume of newly testable material to the Office’s Registration Exam (i.e., the “Patent Bar Exam”). Specifically, the USPTO has added six new testable documents to the Patent Bar Exam, with these newly testable documents coming in the form of six Federal Register Notices. All of this is thanks to the America Invents Act (AIA). See AIA Phase 2 Implemented.
Does this mean that the Patent Bar will become more difficult? The answer to that question isn’t a simply YES or NO. So let’s break this down into two different questions. (1) Will the questions be more difficult on the Patent Bar Exam? (2) Will it be more difficult to pass the Patent Bar Exam? While exam questions likely won’t get more difficult, it would be naive to believe the Patent Bar will not become much more difficult with the addition of complicated new rules that only add to the legal and regulatory rules administered by the USPTO.
Let’s go back to the first question about the questions on the Patent Bar. Once upon a time the Patent Office administered the Patent Bar Exam once or twice a year to thousands of would-be patent attorneys and patent agents across the country. The October 2003 exam was the last exam administered in this way. The USPTO changed the examination to an on-demand examination that is prepared by the Patent Office, but administered by Prometric. Because questions are randomly served from the database and no two people take the same exam the Patent Office had to normalize exam difficult someway, so they scored questions on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of difficulty. This ensures that each person gets an exam that the Patent Office deems to be of the same level of difficulty. Thus, the new material will be fit into the database and appropriately evaluated. There will not suddenly be questions of 11 or 12 level of difficulty. So in this respect each question will not be more difficult, at least from the Patent Office perspective.
Earlier today, while working on revamping the PLI Patent Bar Review Course, I needed a citation to the MPEP and an associated Code of Federal Regulations cite. It was as this time I noticed there has been a change to how the MPEP is presented on the USPTO website. Perhaps others have noticed and this is not news, but it is the first time I’ve encountered an issue finding information in the MPEP from the USPTO for a very long time.
One of my responsibilities is to write exam level difficult questions for the newly testable material, which will be tested starting October 2, 2012. This means questions relative to the changes in the rules of practice effective September 16, 2012. This requires me to not only write the questions, but also create model answers. We strive not only to explain generally what the right answer is, but to also provide a greater opportunity for learning, which requires detailed explanations.
It was at this time that I realized that the USPTO has reclassified the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure, changing the URLs where sections were located previously, making them unfindable if you use a search engine. In some instances my search even leads to “Page Not Found” errors when searching on the USPTO website itself.
Many law firms are starting to contemplate the new business opportunity that will arise on September 16, 2012, when the new post grant review procedures are ushered into effect thanks to the America Invents Act. The next wave of changes in patent law go into effect on September 16, 2012, which is one year to the day that President Obama signed the bill.
Section 7 of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act changes the name of the current “Board” from the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. The AIA also dictates that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board members will include the Director, Deputy Director, Commissioner for Patents, Commissioner for Trademarks, and Administrative Patent Judges. The duties of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board are to: (1) Review adverse decisions of examiners upon an application for patent; (2) review appeals of reexaminations pursuant to section 134(b); (3) conduct derivation proceedings pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 135; and (4) conduct inter partes reviews and post-grant reviews pursuant to chapters 31 and 32 of title 35, United States Code. The AIA further requires that each appeal, derivation proceeding, post-grant review including covered business method patent review, and inter partes review shall be heard by at least 3 members of the Board, who shall be designated by the Director.
Over the last week the news has been all over the Internet in blog after blog after blog. According to NALP, the Association for Legal Career Professionals, the employment rate for 2011 law school graduates is the lowest in 18 years. See Law School Grads Face Worst Job Market Yet. As if that news wasn’t bad enough, the NALP announcement went on to explain that less than 66% of law school graduates from the Class of 2011 are employed in jobs that require bar membership. That means that over 0ne-third of law school graduates from the Class of 2011 are either back in school, working jobs that did not require them to go to law school in the first place, or they are simply unemployed.
“For members of the Class of 2011, caught as they were in the worst of the recession… the entry-level job market can only be described as brutal,” said James Leipold, NALP Executive Director. “When this class took their LSATs and applied for law school there were no signs that the legal economic boom was showing any signs of slowing, and yet by the time they graduated they faced what was arguably the worst entry-level legal employment market in more than 30 years.”
For those who want to represent inventors or companies in their pursuit to obtain a U.S. patent it is necessary to take and pass the Patent Bar Examination and become either a Patent Attorney or a Patent Agent. Not just anyone can take the Patent Bar Exam. In order to qualify to even take the Exam it is necessary for the individual seeking to take the test to demonstrate to the USPTO’s Office of Enrollment & Discipline (OED) that they: (1) Possesses good moral character and reputation; (2) Possesses the legal, scientific, and technical qualifications necessary for him or her to render applicants valuable service; and (3) Is competent to advise and assist patent applicants in the presentation and prosecution of their applications before the Office. Generally speaking, the main hurdle for most who are unable to sit for the Exam is the scientific/technical qualification requirement.
Those applying to take the Patent Bar must demonstrate to OED that he or she possesses the scientific and technical training necessary to provide valuable service to patent applicants. The General Requirements Bulletin sets forth the particulars for most situations, and divides qualifications into three distinct categories that define what the applicant must provide OED — Category A, Category B and Category C. With Category A having a Bachelor’s Degree in a specified field is enough to qualify. Under Category B you need a certain number of credit hours, but you must also have a Bachelor’s Degree, which means that college students are not eligible to sit for the Patent Bar Exam until they have graduated. Category C allows other relevant technical background to suffice, but those allowed to sit for the exam under Category C are few and far between, and one would have to wonder how easy it would be to obtain employment without at least some scientific coursework at a college or University level.
IPWatchdog.com has once again been selected by the Journal of the American Bar Association as one of the top 100 legal blogs. The voting has now begun to crown the top blog in 12 different categories. IPWatchdog.com is in the IP Law category.
On November 23, 2011, the Office of Enrollment and Discipline announced that the Patent Bar Examination, typically referred to simply as “the registration examination” by the Patent Office, will be updated on or about January 31, 2012.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office will update the content of the patent registration examination to cover two new rules issued September 26, 2011 that relate to the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act. These new rules permit prioritized examination of patent applications (Track I) and revise the standard for granting inter partes reexamination requests. Additionally, the patent registration examination will also include questions concerning the November 22, 2011 rules governing practice in ex parte appeals before the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences.
As with most presentations to inventor or entrepreneur groups things quickly moved into answering questions from the audience, who then dictate where we spend our time. On the other hand, my presentation to the law students at Duquesne and Pitt were remarkably predictable. Whenever I travel to speak at law schools I inevitably get asked questions about what students should be doing to (1) set themselves up in a position to be hired; and (2) how to ultimately land a job. With that in mind I thought it might make sense to do a primer on steps that can be taken in order to find a legal job.
No doubt you have heard about the new law that is upon us in the land of patents; it’s in all the papers and on all the blogs. The America Invents Act was signed by President Obama on September 16, 2011, and marks the largest single re-write of U.S. patent law ever. Even the 1952 Patent Act pales in comparison because that was almost completely a codification of existing case law that had developed over the decades. America Invents, however, embarks upon a new path and leads us into the great unknown in many respects.
Those preparing to take the patent bar exam or contemplating sitting for the exam at some point in time in the future likely don’t want to hear that U.S. patent law is heading into the great unknown. How can you be expected to take a pass the patent bar examination under these circumstances? First: Relax. You do not have to unlearn or forget what you are currently learning, or soon will learn, for the patent exam or for your practice life after you pass the exam. That being said, the sooner you do take the patent bar exam the better off you will be!
This morning I am sitting in the back of the conference room at PLI headquarters inNew York City. Today is day 1 of the PLI patent bar review course. John White is at the podium and going through some preliminary matters, eliciting appropriate laughter at times from the audience. Everything is fine and fun at this early morning hour, but that will soon change. After this preliminary segment we will roll up our sleeves and begin to charge through the rules and procedures that govern practice before the Patent Office. Don’t get me wrong, I do honestly believe this course is a great course, and our pass rate is extremely high, but at the start of every new class I wonder how in the name of all that is holy will we be able to make sense for these patent newbies of what has become a hopeless mess of regulatory chaos. The America Invents Act will only make matter worse, but that is another story for another day.
Thinking about what lies in front of these students is mind numbing. Even more mind numbing is that every year there are many individuals who will attempt to pass the patent bar examination without even taking any review course. What are these people thinking? Obviously, they are thinking that if they could get through a science degree surely they can get through 1 multiple guess exam. Those who have taken the exam know the danger inherent in this thinking, but how could it be possible that the rules of practice at the Patent Office have become so ridiculous and counter-intuitive? In fact, as I have told the several thousands of students I have taught over the years, the more ridiculous and counter-intuitive the more likely it will be on the exam! Scary, huh?
The United States Patent Office is now offering the patent bar examination in electronic format, and that means that the way you study for the exam needs to change. In the past test takers were permitted to bring in with them any materials they wanted except for old exam questions. The ability to bring practically anything into the examination lead to people tabbing the Manual of Patent Examining Procedures, creating detailed and easy to use outlines, and bringing easy to follow flow charts and tables. Gone are these days, but when you do take the examination you will be provided with an electronic copy of the Manual of Patent Examining Procedures, so at least a part of your study needs to be centered around familiarizing yourself with search techniques and strategies that have a chance of success come exam day.
I have been teaching the PLI Patent Bar Review Course since March 2000, so I know a thing or two about how to help students pass the exam. Recently I published 5 Tips for Passing the Patent Bar Exam. What follows is a sequel to that article; more specifically an additional 5 tips for passing. If you are inclined to implement these tips and strategies be sure to integrate them into your practice and not for the first time on exam day.
How to Write a Patent Application is a must own for patent attorneys, patent agents and law students alike. A crucial hands-on resource that walks you through every aspect of preparing and filing a patent application, from working with an inventor to patent searches, preparing the patent application, drafting claims and more. The treatise is continuously updated to address relevant Federal Circuit and Supreme Court decision impacting patent drafting.
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