Attorney Versus Agent

PatentLawPic1123As a continuation of the previous posts on patent attorney demographics, I looked at the status of registered US patent practitioners.  As the chart above demonstrates, more recently registered practitioners are less likely to be registered as patent attorneys. 

It is not surprising that a high percentage of recently registered practitioners are agents.  Many current patent agents will eventually become patent attorneys.  In addition, some practitioners never update their status even after becoming attorneys. However, I suspect that those factors do not explain the entire trend.

For those who do not know, an individual can become a patent agent upon passing the patent practitioner registration examination (patent bar exam).  To become a patent attorney, the individual must also be licensed to practice law in at least one US state.

  • Thanks to my research assistant Lawrence Higgins (2L) for helping obtain some of this data.

59 thoughts on “Attorney Versus Agent

  1. 59

    I think the model at big law is to hire more and more agents and to replace experienced associates with tech specialists if possible.

  2. 58

    Thanks for this post.
    I think that this data are very interesting because they show that costs arguments have become very severe in the recent years.

    Do big law firms hire more agents relative to the others smaller sized law firms?

  3. 57

    I think this data is very interesting because it is an indicator of the state of the US economy. As highly trained/paid professionals saw their jobs being exported overseas, they turned their attention to an area of opportunity which is growing–namely intellectual property. As a consultant and expert witness, being a licensed patent agent has some advantages. While it is not extremely difficult to become a registered patent agent, it does require study and effort. And, as noted above, it does provide marketing collateral for consultants as well as open new opportunities for employment in patent licensing organizations. I think this is what drove the rush to become a licensed patent agent.

  4. 55

    This survey and a number of the above commments support the arguments for PTO registration MCLE. Far too many agents and attorneys studied enough to pass the PTO examination but never practiced, or have not practiced for years, and/or never kept up with the many changes in the rules the case law, yet can still can present themselves as fully qualified to give advice and work on patent applications, reissues, reexaminations, interferences if they so choose.
    Also, the PTO had formally announced more than three years ago that it would provide new registration forms for inactive and retired status, with clear rule requirements for reinstatement to active status, if desired, but never did.

  5. 54

    T: “Interesting that some firms place such a big emphasis on this certificate”

    I find that hardly anyone knows what it is.

    T: “Where does one obtain this certificate?”

    There are various programs offered. Here are a couple. I’m sure there are others that might fit your schedule better. But I would recommned you get your employer or potential employer to pay for it if they really care about it, sort of like a bar exam expense.

    link to

    link to

  6. 53

    I think part of the trend of fewer patent attorneys coincides with the slowing and downturn in the economy and the substantial increase in legal salaries in 2006. I think it is a result of clients being unwilling to pay the rates of charged by many large firms. In addition, I think clients have realized that for routine prosecution tasks, patent agents are just as qualified as patent attorneys if not more so. There are of course situations, such as e.g. opinions, which should be left to a patent attorney.

    At most firms, most patent agents are at a lower rate than even a first year associate. Having been an associate, I was always surprised why a client would want to pay the higher rate of an associate for prosecution.

    I have a hunch that the increase in patent agents is also a function of people trying to gain more qualifications as the economy slowed down.

  7. 51

    Sarah, if you are under some misapprehension that most patent agents work under supervision of an attorney, then forget it right now, because that isn’t how it works, even in a law firm (unless it’s a rather odd one). Agents and associates report to the partners, of course, and that’s it, with the obvious exception of those still in training, who may be either agents or attorneys. I suspect that you are a patent attorney with your own solo practice, right?

  8. 49

    TINLA IANYL – thanks for the info. Interesting that some firms place such a big emphasis on this certificate… Where does one obtain this certificate?

  9. 48

    I said paralegal to Atty. Then I said the Paralegal to an Atty. is similar to a Patent Agent to his Atty, as a Paralegal is to her Atty. Boss.
    Myopic, Yah you are!Pick on someone your own size.
    Hahahah that might be hard shorty.

  10. 47

    ent agents that become patent agents early in their lives and have excellent skills eventually go to law school and become patent attorneys (primarily for the higher income).

    I urge patent agents considering this pathway to do the math regarding certain undeniable trends, e.g., the increases in law school tuition, the lost income during law school, the increasing minimum billables required of associates, and the increasing amount of time and difficulty it takes to become a partner.

  11. 46

    Agents are less attractive to law firms, because all law firms set the hourly billing rate of the most experienced agent to be $25 less than that of the greenest unregistered attorney.

    But that billing rate is a decision they make, right? They’re not required by law to bill agent time at any particular rate.

    If the economy doesn’t support a higher billing rate for agents, that’s a whole other story. But I’d be surprised if such cost-conscious clients would be willing to pay a “patent attorney” an extra several hundred an hour to do the exact same work, just as I’d be surprised if people would pay $600 an hour for babysitting or lawn-mowing just because a lawyer is doing it.

  12. 45

    The fabeled “biotech certificate” is one of those things that some big companies make their employees get. When they are looking for a patent attorney, the one with a biotech certificate can be more attractive. I’m a EE/CS type, and even I have one of these certificates. A big client filing patents on in silico research systems and methods basically requested it, and I and a biochem coleague spent our vacations getting doing gels, blots, PCR, cloning, and DNA sequencing.

  13. 44

    This is what I have observed in my 20 years of practice:

    Patent agents that become patent agents early in their lives and have excellent skills eventually go to law school and become patent attorneys (primarily for the higher income).

    Patent agents that become patent agents later in their lives often choose to remain patent agents because the higher income is not sufficient incentive for them to dedicate three years of their lives to more school.

    Patent agents with mediocre skills, no matter when they become patent agents, remain patent agents.

  14. 42

    Interesting how the latter comments are more considered. As for 10 Years and The Man Who Watches, I’ve got a little list.

    FWIW, the official position of the USPTO is that they do not notice any difference in competency between patent agents and patent attorneys. Individual examiners may hold differing views, but I sincerely doubt that most have any idea whether the person they are dealing with at any given time is an agent or an attorney.

    As for the AIPLA, they once used to be the APLA, and in 1963 they filed an amicus curiae brief in Sperry v Florida, in aid of the Florida bar’s failed attempt to stamp out patent agents. They are now trying to recruit agents as non-voting members, but they need to do more penance than that to earn our forgiveness.

    Agents are less attractive to law firms, because all law firms set the hourly billing rate of the most experienced agent to be $25 less than that of the greenest unregistered attorney. Thus, the saving in salary is overshadowed by the lower billing.

  15. 41

    “one can also become registered as agent (or attorney) without taking the registration exam by working as a USPTO Examiner for four years or more.”


    I would note that this is true if the USPTO waives the exam requirement for the former examiner. It’s rare, but I know of at least one instance where the USPTO refused to waive the exam requirement for a former examiner.

  16. 40

    Not sure how it is with other art units, but in Biotech I would guess most agents have a Ph.D. (including me).

    Of about eleven agents that I know, only three do not have a Ph.D. Four of the eleven agents (two with a Ph.D. and two without a Ph.D.) have gone on to be attorneys so far. The majority of the agents do not intend to become attorneys at this point (very tired of school after that Ph.D…)

    IMHO, it’s easier for a Ph.D., with or without a J.D., to understand the sometimes very nuanced science and to talk with the inventors who are Ph.D.s or M.D.s because we were trained in the same academic world.

    IMHO, as an agent, it’s not hard to read case-law. I was trained in a law-firm and the first time the lawyer supervising me asked me to read a case and to IRAC it, I realized that the analysis was similar to the analysis done when critically reading any scientific article.

    To paraphrase what several people have previously said, there are good and bad agents and there are good and bad attorneys.

    I remember a story one of the other agents (a Ph.D.) told me when she was applying for a job in a lawfirm. The attorney interviewing her asked what good was her Ph.D. as she did not have a “biotech certificate.” She wasn’t sure what a “biotech certificate” was but could only surmise that it was a certificate that a person received after some training in laboratory procedures i.e., it was to certify that a person had learned some techniques so that he/she can work in a lab as a technician. The attorney did not realize that in science people with Ph.D.s supervise such technicians. Needless to say, my friend knew that she would never be appreciated by that lawfirm and cut short the interview.

  17. 39

    I would bet that the graph of the average budget for preparing a new application would closely follow this same curve.

    In fear of patent work being shipped to India, firms hired agents and “technical experts”. The combination has driven budgets to half of what they were fifteen years ago.

  18. 38

    Sara Mcpherson:
    You think a patent agent is like a paralegal ? You need to get some help with that myopia. I suppose if you saw your paralegal throwing out a piece of paper, then a paralegal is like a cleaning person.
    Do your paralegals draft and prosecute patent applications ? I presume not.
    In many countries one does not need to be a “regular” attorney to be a P.Atty and they do quite well representing their clients – with help at first from other P.Atty’s/Agents and then often completely on their own.
    I, like many of my colleagues, am not a US or EP P.A. but we keep up on the P-Law in our own countries (and in other countries) and draft P-applications appropriate to both jurisdictions (full disclosure/enablement,etc); and do very well drafting responses to OA’s there.

  19. 36

    Curious, over 12 years of examining, I have not seen a difference in competence between attorneys and agents.

    Roger, the requirements for registration changed for former examiners as of July 2004. In order to be promoted to grade GS13, examiners now write a 50-question examination in order to get a “certificate of legal competency and negotiation authority”. The Office regards that as equivalent to the registration examination (37 CFR 11.7).

  20. 35

    Denis, you are playing with bad data. I think that you will find that many practitioners that are listed as Agents are actually attorneys. If you identify all agents in Illinois and then search registered attorneys in Illinois, you will find that many of the Agents are actually now attorneys.

    When I passed the bar, I requested a change of status from the PTO and received a nice little certificate that identifies me as a patent attorney. But the PTO still identifies me as an Agent on its website.

  21. 34

    Status as patent agent or patent attorney is completely irrelevant to one’s ability to adequately represent a client before the USPTO. Number of years and diversity of experience in the patent field does. Who would you rather have on your side, a patent attorney with 2 years of experience under his belt, or a patent agent with 25 years experience inside and outside the agency, having worked on both sides of the aisle? There are many excellent patent attorneys and many failures in the profession. There are many excellent patent agents and many failures in the profession.

  22. 33

    I think we’re seeing 2 shifts.
    1. Changing the afternoon portion of the exam to multiple choice, which occurred somewhere around 1997; and
    2. Changing the frequency of administration of the exam from once a year to …. every day. When was this change made?
    But I seriously doubt all agents are actually currently working in patent prosecution. It took me a good 2 years to find a patent prosecution job after becoming an agent because I lacked any practical experience.

  23. 32

    Is the fact that the general public has become more aware of patents relevant? Maybe more engineers are now aware that they are allowed to take the patent bar.

  24. 30

    “And I thought an Agent is somewhat equal to a Paralegal in a Patent Office? No?”

    While I can’t speak for all firms, here, an agent is somewhat equal to a 1st or 2nd year associate. A first year associate has just as much knowledge about patent prosecution as someone who just passed the patent bar – both need significant training to learn to draft applications and responses – but the work we do is the same… 1st year associates aren’t counseling large clients and doing intakes, nor are they designing large portfolio strategies. This may be different at boutique firms, however.

  25. 29

    I work for a large corporation. Until a few years ago, the position “patent liaison” was used non-attorney patent practitioners whose duties and expectations depended on what group they were in. In my group (R&D), we typically worked with the scientists and engineers to define the invention, drafted the spec and claims, provided input to the assigned attorney during prosecution (often essentially drafting the response), and were expected to pass the registration exam but not given signatory authority as patent agents. Most of us had many years of research experience with the company. Liaisons in business groups typically did less patent preparation work and often didn’t have to take the exam.

    Starting a few years ago, there was a shift in philosophy toward requiring all liaisons to eventually pass the exam and have (and use) signatory authority. This frees up more of the attorneys’ time to do work that an agent can’t do and gets more out of the liaisons.
    We also have ongoing continuing ed (formal and informal) to keep up-to-date with current decisions and get tips from the attorneys on how to deal with various situations. We still mainly assist attorneys but have small dockets of our own as well and attorney mentors.

    And I don’t feel we are being used as “patsies” for the attorneys.

  26. 28

    “Could some of this be attributed to law students taking the patent bar during law school these days?”

    I’m a 4th year evening student, and many of my colleagues are agents – probably 10%-20% of my class (we’re an IP-heavy school). Similarly, at my firm, about half of the agents are in law school.
    Bear in mind that this would only be at most a 4 year trend, however… Someone who got their number back in 2001, if they were in school at the time, would surely be an attorney by now. While I’m sure some agents never bother to update their status with the PTO, I would think that’s on the order of 2-3%, rather than the 30-40% we’d need to see for this to be the full explanation.

    That said, this might explain the additional trend that starts in 2006. For example, the figures for 2010 are around 60% agents… but if Dennis revisits this in 2014 or 2015, I’d bet that many of us current agents will be attorneys.

  27. 27

    TMWW: Patent agents, as a general rule, have very little training in how to read case law and statutes. As a result, they usually are completely oblivious to the vast information that must be brought to the attention of an examiner. … In short, I believe that patent agents are used as patsies, because they are ignorant of the duty of disclosure responsibilities.

    See, I’m of the opposite opinion. I find attorneys can get too caught up in the fun of being lawyers, and they forget that their primary role is to be patent agents. They would rather argue than persuade. They would rather appeal than compromise. They often cite “vast information” in the form of caselaw and boilerplate that examiners probably ignore, and attack technicalities in the rejection rather than addressing its substance.

    And don’t get me started on disclosure requirements. I haven’t seen more than one or two lawyers on this board who understand them. Lawyers disclose based on ignorance and fear, precisely because they’re aware of the caselaw, and they give almost no thought to how the disclosure requirement can help their client get a better patent.

    In short, don’t hire a lawyer when your goal is to reason with people. You’ll probably do much better at the PTO by hiring an ex-examiner who understands how to talk to examiners.

  28. 26

    I think 1996 is when the PTO took a break from offering tests every six (MOL) months so it could gear up for PCT test items. The lag between taking the test and being admitted to the bar would explain the 1997 break. (I also think that when testing resumed is when they quit testing on drafting claims.)

  29. 25

    To The Man Who Watches,

    I bet you $1,000,000 that I as an agent am a better patent practitioner then you are as an attorney.

    You pick a $100,000/year client and I get to pitch my services to them. Similarly, I will let you pitch your services to a $100,000/year client of mine. Whoever can get the others client just won $1,000,000 over ten years.

    If you have real gonads I will let you go against me with European clients for 1,000,000 Euros!

  30. 23

    Yah I wonder do Attorneys treat their Paralegals like that? I thought the Paralegal is to an Atty. what a Nurse is to a Doctor. And I thought an Agent is somewhat equal to a Paralegal in a Patent Office? No?
    Explain it to me then.

  31. 22

    econ – I think the dip in 2007 is the result of the hiring push at the PTO. I would venture to say that a large number of the agents are examiners, or ex-examiners. Considering that once examiners get a registration number they never lose their registration even if they leave and do something else. Therefore, the total number of agents increases while the total number of practicing agents probably hasn’t increased much.

    For those of you that think agents are worthless or lower-tier human beings(as it sounds from several posts), then I can virtually guarantee a) that you have a horrible business sense and b) that you are probably a lot worse attorneys than you think you are.

    If you group people’s ability in to agents and attorneys then you were probably the kid in law school that thought you were better than everyone else but couldn’t understand why you were never in the top of your class. There are some crap agents floating around, as well as some crap examiners sure, but surprisingly enough there are an equal number of crap attorneys.

    Look around in your firm, if you think all of the attorneys are better than all of the agents, then you should fire your hiring partner/HR people or more realistically realize that you are one of those crappy attorneys. My advise, fix it or quit… the world needs less baseless judgmental people like you!

  32. 21

    “do examiners notice a difference in the quality of work they receive from attorneys and agents”

    “In general, yes there is a noticeable difference.”

    are you suggesting you check to see if the reg no on a submission belongs to an agent or an attorney?

    an excellent use of your (oft bemoaned, with or without gnashing of teeth) highly limited time for examining an application. not only that, but if you believe your assertion that the quality of work from attys is higher than that of agents, this strongly suggests you’re biased coming out of the gate and not objective when evaluating the merits of the submission in front of you.

  33. 20

    As there are no fees or CLE’s to keep your registration, I wonder how many agents are not practicing and took the bar as a precursor to jobs that may or may not have materialized. I took the patent bar several years ago for that reason. I expected that after passage I would easily get a high-paying job in a large firm or legal department, and they would pay for law school. When that didn’t happen, I started the slog toward law school and am only now starting my practice.

    I wonder how you could catch those numbers though. The PTO releases attorney or agent of record – maybe there is a way to cull that data against the list of those registered to figure out how many attorneys and agents have never filed anything.

  34. 19

    Hi Dennis, looks like there are two structural breaks in the trends in these data – one about 1997 and another around 2007… did you try to fit a line and test for such breaks? Any hypothesis about what might have driven the 1997 break that led to the downward trend from what had been, from the beginning of your series, a flat line around 90%? That was about the time that associate salaries started to inflate wildly. 2007 has a ready macro-economy explanation.

  35. 18

    So I can imagine an equilibrium developing, between the number of attorneys and agents, which will mirror the balance between partners and non-partners in law firms in other jurisdictions.

    Actually Maxie, one would expect quite the opposite. An equilibrium indicates an underlying stability, and as most acute observers would note, the base line assumptions and underpinnings of patent systems have lacked that stability for some time.

    There is something to be said for the ability to read and understand case law (the contra example of course being 6), and the ability to be flexible to the fact that IP is in fact in flux (and not ruthlessly mired in old and outdated (mis)conceptions, ala Ned).

  36. 17

    The whole subject, how a user of the patents system finds the “right” representative, is very interesting. I suspect that, as with many other things, there is a spectrum of human behaviour, with Japan at one extreme, and California at the other. Whereas Japanese choose a law firm, and put all their trust in the firm as such, Americans choose an individual lawyer, who will carry the responsibility for the interests of the client.

    But both sorts of client trust their chosen representative to delegate downwards to the level of sophistication relevant to the task in hand. The need for delegation is universal, and the personal capabilities one needs in an assistant are universal. So I can imagine an equilibrium developing, between the number of attorneys and agents, which will mirror the balance between partners and non-partners in law firms in other jurisdictions. As the content of patent applications becomes ever more specialised and esoteric, should we not expect to see, in the leading US patent law firms, ever more technology specialists and agents.

  37. 16

    The situation in the US is very different from that in other countries.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but in the US a regular attoreny at law cannot specialize in patent law without also being an agent, which requires a science or engineering degree.

    In many other countries, however, an Attorney-at-Law can practice opposite their patent office. They do not need special licensing and may (and often are) technologically incompetent, though they may be familiar with a wide range of case-law, not just patent related.

    I believe that in the UK, one does not need to be licensed at all to represent someone opposite the patent office.

    In Israel, there are 45,000 attorneys-at-law and maybe 400 patent attorneys (essentially patent agents, having specialist patent licenses but not requiring a law degree). There are maybe a dozen, like me, that have law degrees as well. I never bothered to get licensed as an attorney-at-law, as to practice patent law, I don’t need it. It adds little value, and would prevent me from being a patent in a patent attorney firm with other patent attorneys who are not licensed to practice law.

    As with everythign else, there is a wide range of standards and competences amongst licensed practitioners, and not everyone reads case-law regularly, not even those who have legal training. Occasionally one suspects that the attorney drafting an application did not understand the technology. This is more likely to happen with lawyers. Poor English is a problem for some native-born Israeli practitioners, regardless of whether they have come the legal or scientific route, and obtaining protection in the US is generally more important than in the local patent office. I assume that the basic skills are the same everywhere, and are more important than the formal training.

    A more detailed analysis correlating pendency periods, robustness in court and the like of applications drafted and prosecuted by the two types of practitioners would be of interest though.

    Incidentally, earlier this week, the Israel Commissioner of Patents issued a stern warning against non-licensed practitioners, and, he considers giving advice regarding patents and helping filling in forms, noth for filing in Israel and abroad (presumably meaning on-line filing of provisionals in the US) is illegal under Israel law for residents of Israel who are not licensed in Israel. This presumably includes registered US agents and attorneys domiciled in Israel. See

    link to

    on the IP Factor

  38. 15

    The firms I have worked for do NOT hire agents because of the liability an the lack of insurance. They only hire attorneys.

  39. 13

    He asked me how I did it and I said look at my bald spots.

    If you’re job is causing you to lose your hair, it’s probably a good idea to look for a new one.

    Just a thought.

  40. 12

    let’s face it, the patent practitioner’s examination is not very difficult compared to examination in other areas.

    Is that why the pass rate for the exam varies between 30% and 60% (and that 70% to 40% number that FAIL includes a substantial number of attorneys who have passed a state bar)?

    because they are ignorant of the duty of disclosure responsibilities

    Who runs your legal insurance department – we need to have a little chat. Obviously you are in trouble if you are hiring patent agents who are ignorant of any of the active responsibilities of the job.

    Your comments indicate to me that you really do not work with agents, nor have a clue about what you are talking about. Agents are specialized service professionals who are fully licensed to practice law in a very particular area. We task, and supervise, agents to the same general level as new associates.

  41. 11


    As a patent agent, I agree with you nearly 100%. Patent agents are ignorant for a number of reasons including lack of CLE requirements and general second class status in the patent world. Most are ex-examiners and have a “I used to work there, therefore I know the rules” attitude also.

    Though organizations like AIPLA have recently reached out to agents, I imagine agents can not afford expensive AIPLA courses at gorgeous resorts and dislike being shunned at the events by the folks in power suits anyway. As you know, an agent bills at a much lower rate so therefore those educational/networking opportunities are that much more expensive in real dollars too!

    It takes a lot of work to stay up to date with current patent law. Without a firm forcing you to stay up to date, what is the drive for a comfortable agent at a corporation surrounded by non-patent people? They already know more than everyone around them and as you said, ignorance is bliss.

    Speaking for myself only, I know I am 100% incapable of representing an inventor. I knew the MPEP for one day 10 years ago and now my number is advertising material only. And technically, it should not work as that either since actual testing on claims for the patent exam disappeared well before my time.

  42. 10

    The Man Who Watches,

    Wow, you have obviously only been exposed to a certain breed of patent agent (apparently the clueless kind). There are indeed many who provide patent preparation, prosecution, and counseling services without any assistance from patent attorneys, and who are quite well-read on case law.

    Just as there are many kinds of attorneys, there are many kinds of agents. Some are employees of big companies like IBM, or of the government, and some work in larger law firms for the reasons you mention. And others are working toward becoming attorneys. But there are also some (I imagine many), such as myself, who are well-versed in patent law including the case law, and who independently serve their clients (and who have no plans for a late-in-career law school stint).

    In some cases, agents bring a breadth and depth of technology background not normally found in patent attorneys (although there are those attorneys who do have extensive backgrounds, to be sure), and because these independent agents focus exclusively on patent law and its basis (invention), they are not distracted by other fields of law or any effort to become a broader “IP attorney” or a litigator. So an experienced independent agent is in a good position to be well above the norm in depth of knowledge of patent practice in the PTO.

    I have known agents such as you describe, but your generalization is ungenerous and ill-advised.

    Brian Galvin

  43. 9

    I think that the reduction in the percentage of registered patent attorneys is basically premised upon two major situations. Firstly, the patent practitioner’s examination is adminstered very often. Many of these agents are recent graduates and, let’s face it, the patent practitioner’s examination is not very difficult compared to examination in other areas. The second reason is that law firms and companies are more likely to hire patent agents, because of the cost benefit. The cost benefit comes in two areas. Firstly, the are just less expensive salary-wise. Secondly, they pose to threat to the law firm that hires them, because they will never become partner.
    Then there is the other reason. Patent agents, as a general rule, have very little training in how to read case law and statutes. As a result, they usually are completely oblivious to the vast information that must be brought to the attention of an examiner. Moreover, they often believe that because they are working under an attorney that the attorney bears the brunt of the responsibility. In short, I believe that patent agents are used as patsies, because they are ignorant of the duty of disclosure responsibilities. You know what they say, ignorance is bliss.
    I can recall the first time that I informed a patent agent of the need to cite Office actions in related cases, i.e., the Dayco Products issue. Then I informed him of the need to cite Notice of Allowances. He had been working on a portfolio of several hundred related cases and no one had told him of the need to undertake these activities. I had never seen a guy so stressed in my life. He asked me how I did it and I said look at my bald spots. This practice is extremely stressful.

  44. 8

    Could some of this be attributed to law students taking the patent bar during law school these days?

  45. 7

    “do examiners notice a difference in the quality of work they receive from attorneys and agents”

    In general, yes there is a noticeable difference. Though length of time spent on the application and lack of knowledge of the subject matter of the invention is much more noticeable regardless of whether they’re an attorney.

  46. 3

    Unless the rules have changed, one can also become registered as agent (or attorney) without taking the registration exam by working as a USPTO Examiner for four years or more. There are limits to the art units one could practice in for the first couple years if one takes that route.

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