In 2004 the United States Patent and Trademark Office modified the way it administered the Patent Bar Examination, moving from a test given either once or twice a year in paper form at a variety of locations across the United States, to a computerized examination administered on demand. While the Patent Office maintains control over the development and content of the examination, a private sector entity, Prometric Inc., administers the examination. Notwithstanding, however, the Patent Office has administered the examination live and in paper form at the USPTO campus in Alexandria, Virginia twice a year. This live testing is generally viewed as an accommodation to those who for a variety of reasons cannot, or prefer not, to take the exam in computerized format. This year individuals seeking registration before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (Office) as patent attorneys and agents can take the exam at the USPTO on July 13 or July 14, 2010. The deadline for applying to take the exam in person at the USPTO is Friday, May 14, 2010.
The USPTO administered examination is given only at the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Virginia. The USPTO administered examination is NOT given at any other location. Those wishing to take this exam must submit an application, along with the appropriate application fee and the $450.00 examination fee and all necessary showings required by 37 CFR § 11.7(a) and § 11.7(b).
Applications filed on or after Friday, May 14, 2010 will not be considered for the July 2010 examination. A timely filed application is one that is received in the Office on or before May 14, 2010, or mailed on or before May 14, 2010, in full compliance with the certificate of mailing provisions of 37 CFR § 1.8 or 37 CFR § 1.10. It is important to note that a mere postmark on an application-containing envelope is not sufficient to meet the deadline. Inasmuch as applications must bear applicant’s original signature, 37 CFR § 1.4(e), they may not be filed by facsimile or electronically. If you are going to attempt to become a patent attorney or patent agent you should certainly consult the certificate of mailing provisions mentioned above, which you will need to know to pass the exam and will become an important part of your practice. Following the rules means when papers are deposited in the mail they are deemed filed, but you should still try and get your application in early if at all possible.
Due to limited seating and the uncertainty of the number of persons applying to take the examination, it is possible that not everyone will be able to take the examination on the same date. Thus, the first group of approved applicants filling the available seats will be scheduled to take the examination on Tuesday, July 13, 2010. The next group of approved applicants will be scheduled to take the examination on Wednesday, July 14, 2010. Applicants granted admission will be assigned a testing date for the first available date until all test dates are filled. The Office of Enrollment and Discipline (OED) will notify applicants of their scheduled examination date.
The USPTO administered examination will use paper examination booklets, mark-sense answer sheets, and the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) furnished by the Office. For further information and the application form, consult the General Requirements Bulletin. A printed copy of the General Requirements Bulletin is available from the OED for a prepaid fee of $15.00 per copy.
Given that I have been teaching the PLI Patent Bar Review course for over 9 years I am typically asked whether it is better to take the exam via computer administration or via paper as administered by the USPTO. Given that the paper exam is given only in Alexandria, Virginia on several days in July it is far less convenient, which must be considered. You will need to spend at least 150 hours studying for the exam over about an 8 to 10 week period. Any less, or if you stretch out the time over which you study and passing is not extremely likely. Thus, for the vast majority of individuals being able to select the date you take the exam is extremely beneficial, providing you with flexibility to fit in time for study around your life and professional commitments.
Additionally, if you take the exam in computer format you will be able to use the electronic PDF provided on the computer at the testing center. Like all PDF documents, the electronic MPEP will allow for searching using the familiar FIND command. If you take a paper exam the MPEP will be provided for you, so you will not be able to tab it, mark it up or bring other notes like you could prior to 2004. You also won’t be able to rely on the electronic search feature either, so there are no advantages to taking the paper exam, and possible important considerations that counsel against it.
While the last time the Patent Office released Patent Bar Examination results is well over 3 years ago, over the preceding decade some 30,609 administrations of the exam, with 16,266 individuals passing the exam and becoming either patent attorneys or patent agents, which corresponds to an overall pass rate of 53.1%. See table below.