What is a Patent Lawyer?

This article will give you information on the education and preparation you need to become a patent lawyer. You will also get a quick overview of the requirements, degree programs, job duties and licenses you need to help you decide if this is the career for you.


The specialization of patent lawyers is in intellectual property law. They basically work with inventors in the patent process to ensure that the inventor’s work is legally protected.

Essential Information

Patent lawyers specialize in the field of law that governs intellectual property, specifically patents. Their work involves representing inventors during the patent application process. They can also function as litigators responsible for protecting their clients’ rights of invention. Just like other lawyers, they need to complete law school and earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.). Patent lawyers who want to represent their clients before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) not only need to pass their state bar exam for licensing, but they also have to pass the USPTO licensing exam.

Required Education Juris Doctor (J.D.)
Licensure Required in all states; need to pass the state bar exam; in some cases also need  to pass the USPTO exam
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% for all lawyers
Median Salary (2015)* $115,820 for all lawyers

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Patent lawyers are lawyers who have specialized in the field of law responsible for protecting the property rights of inventors. Given that applying for a patent is a complicated procedure, the expertise of a lawyer with relevant training is crucial to ensure that inventors have people to interpret the rules and regulations of the patent process, file documents, negotiate contracts, and provide them with legal representation.

Job Duties

The job duties of a patent lawyer are very clear. A patent lawyer is involved in all aspects of the law dealing with patents and intellectual property rights of inventors. Patent lawyers are also responsible for conducting searches that ensure an inventor’s work has never been presented in the public domain and that it can actually be patented. The patent lawyer is also responsible for drafting, filing, and prosecuting patent applications before the USPTO on behalf of inventors. Additionally, they provide legal representation in cases of challenges to the license of an invention, patent infringement, and also appeal to the USPTO.

Education Requirements

Typically, prospective patent lawyers earn a 4-year degree in a science field such as biology, physics or chemistry or a technical degree in mechanical, electrical, civil or biomedical engineering. Patent lawyers need to complete a law program from an accredited law school and also pass a state bar exam. If they are interested in representing inventors in front of the USPTO, they have to sit for and pass the USPTO licensing exam. This exam is commonly referred to as the “patent bar.” However, if the lawyer has already attained five years of continuous service with the USPTO, the USPTO exam is waived.

According to Worldwide Legal Directories, given the complex nature of patent law, this field of law is always evolving. Continuing education courses are, therefore, required by patent lawyers in order to remain up-to-date with currents laws in the field of patent law.

Employment Options and Outlook

Most patent lawyers (also known as intellectual property lawyers) primarily work with patents, trademarks, and inventions. This is according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) which also reports projected increased job growth for lawyers at 6% between 2014 and 2024. In May 2015, the BLS projected the median annual salary for all lawyers at $115,820.

Employers, including the U.S. federal government, are increasingly hiring lawyers practicing in specialty fields of law such as patent law. This growing trend is in response to addressing the high amounts of patent filings and litigation processes. To shorten the time for processing patent application filings and to improve its overall functioning, the USPTO implemented a strategic plan for the fiscal years 2014-2018. The active recruitment and hiring of patent lawyers is included in this strategic plan.

Patent lawyers are required to complete their J.D. in law school, pass the state bar and also pass the USPTO licensing exams if they want to represent inventors in front of the USPTO. Between 2014 and 2024, the BLS predicts that the job growth for all lawyers will be at 6%. This is fast compared to all other occupations. Additionally, as of may 2015, the BLS projected that lawyers were earning a median salary of $115,820.

Featured Image: DepositPhotos/paulmhill

Posted on March 24, 2023