Preliminary Results on Patent Law Survey.

I recently posted a survey on Patently-O titled “Why Patent Law?”. The introduction to the survey indicated that was “designed primarily for patent law professionals” and focuses on why individuals chose patent law as a career rather than working primarily in their technical areas of expertise as engineers, scientists, or developers.  This post includes some preliminary results on the demographics of the 939 survey responses that I received.  I am working on compiling responses to the lone long-form question outlined above.

The vast majority of responders self-identified as US Patent Attorneys (67%) followed by US Patent Agents (12%). 


The most common asserted area of technical background in my survey was electrical engineering (33%). 


The Clifford-Field-Cavecchi dataset (CFC) indicated a lower proportion both electrical engineering professionals and a Software/IS professionals. CFC reported on “electrical fields” and “computer fields” which should, theoretically, be broader than my “electrical engineering” and “software or information systems.” (See graph at right.) I believe that there are several explanation for my findings.  First, CFC make the assumption that an individual’s technical background is equivalent to their college major.  My survey was more flexible and allowed individuals to indicate their technical background without providing documentation from an accredited institution. Second, the CFC data is more than four-years-old. During the interim, it is likely that EE/Software experts have entered the patent law field at a greater rate than other technical experts. Finally, it may also be true that EE/Software patent professionals read Patently-O and respond to Patently-O surveys as a greater rate than do other technical experts.

Attorney and Agent Technical Experience: According to my survey, US patent agents are likely to have more technical expertise than their patent attorney counterparts.  Namely, patent agents are much more likely to hold a PhD or equivalent (38% of responding patent agents listed a PhD compared with 13% of patent attorneys) and tend have many more years of “hands-on technical experience before focusing on patent law” (patent agents indicated 10.0 years of technical experience on average compared with 4.7 years for patent attorneys; medians of 9 and 3 years respectively).  The final chart below compares patent agent and patent attorney pre-patent-law technical experience.



19 thoughts on “Preliminary Results on Patent Law Survey.

  1. 19

    The story is very interesting and useful tips.The chat explain for Professional status,Technical Background,and Technical Experience is very easiest method and interesting chat.Thanks….. Thank a lot of infor…..

  2. 16

    I really enjoyed your post. Thank you for sharing.Thanks for the info. A great find. It’s hard to find good articles these days. This one is really good. Great article. Thumbs up for this post. Thanks.

  3. 15

    IMHO, all patent professionals are merely failed scientists/engineers. Woe unto us.

    It’s a good thing your opinion isn’t worth much.

    And doncha know that those who fail go to teach, not to practice in a different and equally challenging area?

  4. 14

    Wow a PhD has more technical expertise than a person with a BS. Let me look at that for a moment.
    BS = Bull Sh_t
    MS = More of the Same
    PhD = Piled higher and Deeper.

  5. 12

    007- No. The curves are cumulative. The atty curve is higher because it starts out higher, that is, with more having “0” years experience.

  6. 11

    A bar chart giving the percentage of each type of professional who had that number of years experience probably would have been easier to grasp, though.

    The easiest to grasp probably would have been 100% minus Dennis’ graph.

  7. 10

    > If patent agents tend have more technical experience,
    > shouldn’t they be represented by the upper curve?

    No, the graph shows cumulative experience – the steeper the curve, the more people there are at lower experience. So, looking at 9 years for example, about 80% of attorneys had less than 9 years technical experience, but only half of all patent agents had less than 9 years (or, inverting it, only 20% of attorneys had more than 9 years and half of agents had more than 9 years).

    Maybe it’s easier to understand if you look at the extreme – if all patent attorneys had two years or less experience, their curve would go to 100% after two years, then be flat at the top of the chart. The flatter slope of the agent curve means that there are more agents with more years of experience.

    A bar chart giving the percentage of each type of professional who had that number of years experience probably would have been easier to grasp, though.

  8. 9

    The frequency was based on all respondents I guess, most being attorneys.

    No, it’s a cumulative plot. Think of it as the integral of the plot you expected to see. A plot that increases faster indicates that more of the population has less experience.

    For example, the 6-year “Attorney” point shows that 75% of attorneys have 6 years of experience or less, whereas the 16-year “Agent” point shows that 75% of agents have 16 years of experience or less.

  9. 8

    One point that needs to be considered in the classification used in the CFC study is that, in most universities, computer science and electrical engineering were not separate fields until about 15-20 years ago. (A visit down the street to the dpmt of EE and a conversation with their historian would show this.) The scientists that developed LISP at MIT’s AI Lab were EEs or other. (LISP is a language developed for AI.)
    Same hold for patent attorneys. one of the best attorneys I know in tems of computer science applications has degrees on physical science and mathematics but as an engineer at DEC, she was on the LISP Standards committee.
    In view of that, the sepaaration between EE and computer science has to be re-evaluated.

  10. 7


    Another statistic that would interesting is how many former examiners have become patent agents/patent attorneys now versus the past. My dad started out as a patent examiner during the 40’s before becoming a patent attorney 11 years later.

  11. 6

    In Canada most of the patent lawyers or patent agents have mechanical engineering background. Electrical and computer is somewhat a rarity. However, in leading law firms one could find any imaginable background set of degrees.

  12. 5

    >>Arti Rai omfg,

    I can’t imagine anything good coming from her.

    And, 6, get a life.

  13. 2

    Interesting study but I don’t understand this chart. If patent agents tend have more technical experience, shouldn’t they be represented by the upper curve?

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