More on the Patent Attorney Rolls

by Dennis Crouch

The USPTO Office of Enrollment & Discipline’s list of registered patent attorneys and agents includes 48,625 individuals. Since there are no annual dues, CLE requirement, or even check-in many folks continue to stay on the rolls even though they are not practicing patent law.  One example is my colleague Professor Royce Barondes who passed the patent bar exam prior to law school and then never practiced in the field. Instead, he practiced law at Cravath in NYC and now teaches business courses, contracts, and firearms law. I wanted to get a more accurate number of folks currently practicing in the patent prosecution area. Do do this, I downloaded and parsed through USPTO records for utility patent applications filed since mid 2018 and that have been made public. (Series codes 16 and 17).

The Totals: 26,756 practitioners are associated with at least one application filed over the past four years; with 23,793 associated with at least 10 different utility patent applications.  About 80% are attorneys with the remaining 20% being patent agents. The result here does not necessarily mean that all of these attorneys worked on patent prosecution because many firms use a comprehensive customer number that lists all registered attorneys in the firm’s patent group.  This leads to crazy situations like patent agent Maki Saitoh of Oblon being associated with 31,000+ laid open applications filed over the past 4 years.  In addition, we have some undercounting because some folks doing patent prosecution work are not listed in the customer number (e.g., often in house counsel will not be listed).

I mentioned Oblon above. Although Oblon is not in the top-25 of firms in terms of patent attorneys, they are the #1 filer of US patent applications followed closely by Sughrue.  They are able to file so many applications because most of their apps claim priority to a foreign or PCT filing — so they don’t need to write a new original application.  Some firms with lots of patent attorneys don’t do much patent prosecution work.  An extreme of this is Kirkland & Ellis that has over 100 patent attorneys but does not do any patent prosecution.

44 thoughts on “More on the Patent Attorney Rolls

  1. 7

    Dennis can you give us a histogram of practitioners by registration number, say grouped by the thousands (that is, of the 1000 practitioners with registration numbers between 50,000 and 50,999 how many are still practicing)? I’ve been at this long enough to start to wonder how many practitioners remain that have been at this longer. It would also be interesting to see it correlated with the years, I imagine there have been booms and busts in registering practitioners.

  2. 6

    I wonder how thin the rolls would become if one had to re-pass the exam every “x” number of years…

    Conversely, I wonder how many examiners would be fired for not passing that examine (and repeated exams).

    1. 5.1

      KAWAI LAU, the chad “do nothing”.

      Gotta respect the hustle to be honest. Low work, max pay for low work. Here I am getting low(er) pay and higher work.

      But, to be fair, he may turn over a new leaf and do medium work as an examiner. OED obv didn’t hire him, that was the office as a whole, and he might be quite qualified even though he had a period of do nothing. |

      I also liked that he didn’t even respond to the inquiry against him lol. Who wants to bet that he never even wanted to be a patent attorney and his parents just pushed him to be one (for status+money etc)?


          Correct, and what’s worse is that his AU will have outstanding off the charts quality and production for years on decades etc.

      1. 5.1.2

        Yeah, a new even worse leaf. Look up his Office Actions. They are obscure and make little sense. Interviews with him are even more confusing. Here’s the best: I have a couple friends in other firms that called OED when they learned about his past (and couldn’t understand his office actions, smelling a rat), only to be told OED believes in “second chances”…

    2. 5.2

      They probably hired him because his English is atrocious. That seems to be an unwritten requirement for being an examiner.

      As to the fact that one can be dishonest enough to be disbarred, but honest enough to be a patent examiner: I think that pretty much sums up the mindset at the USPTO. I note that Kathi Vidal didn’t include any questions about THIS in her most recent “request for comments”.

      1. 5.2.1

        “As to the fact that one can be dishonest enough to be disbarred”

        Not sure if there is a lot of proof of “dishonesty”, more like laziness.

    3. 5.3

      Wait a minute, surely OED did not hire him as an examiner. OED does not run the examination corps.

      I agree that this is not a great look for the PTO, but OED is not the end of the office that looks bad.

      1. 5.3.1

        No, but the fact that nobody bothered to check his name at OED when considering hiring him is problematic. Or simply googling him, which turns up those disbarrments. It’s inconceivable how he was hired after OED found he defrauded patent clients of at least $100k. Then OED finds out and does nothing?


          “he defrauded patent clients of at least $100k”

          Not sure if what he did was defrauding, and he wasn’t convicted in court. May not be enough evidence.


            Fraud is generally intentional deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain. He decieved his clients that he was actually working and secured $100k. Pretty clear.


              “He decieved his clients that he was actually working and secured $100k. Pretty clear.”

              Gotta prove 4 elements of fraud in a court bro. Likely missing at least one of them.

  3. 4

    Really hard to tell what is going on here because so many firms file the patent application under different registration numbers than the people who wrote the application.

    1. 4.1

      Correct. Those of us who work in-house write applications, do all the prosecution, and often our names never appear on a single document because we do everything through our law firm.

      1. 4.1.1

        As to “Those of us who work in-house write applications, do all the prosecution,

        All I can say is that your universe of “in-house” is vastly different than my universe of “in-house.”

        Diametrically opposite.

  4. 2

    I just looked up my name on the USPTO. Wrong firm listed and wrong location (it was right at the time it was entered but things changed).

      1. 2.1.1

        No. And I don’t care because I don’t do prosecution and nobody in the public would ever try to hire me based off the PTO website.


          Fair enough, of course. I doubt that any member of the public tries to hire any of us based on our OED database entries.

          Why focus on prosecution, however? You handle IPR litigation, do you not? Admission to practice before the USPTO is just as relevant to IPRs as admission to the state bar is for litigation in the various district courts. Surely your USPTO admission is relevant to your work in that respect, no?


          You may want to rethink that….

          37 C.F.R. 11.11(a)(1) A registered practitioner, or person granted limited recognition under § 11.9(b), *must* notify the OED Director of the postal address for their office, at least one and up to three email addresses where they receive email, and a business telephone number, as well as every change to each of said addresses and telephone number *within thirty days of the date of the change*….

          Although there doesn’t really seem to be any bite to failing to comply. But now that you know you are out of data with OED, maybe that changes some things.



            you omit the context of that particular contact information:

            11.11 Administrative suspension, inactivation, resignation, and readmission.

            Sure, if one is IN THIS MODE, that level of contact information becomes important.

            But your citation does not support the point to which you assert its use.


            It does not. Updating your MyUSPTO profile only updates contact info for your USPTO#. Separate filings may be used for updating the client# contact address and the OED address.

            OED information can be updated online though through this link:
            link to


            I don’t have a myuspto profile. I use the OED link to keep my status up to date, and it shows as such on the Agent and Attorney Roster.

    1. 2.2

      I am surprised that Litig8tor even has an old number.

      My guess is that he was one of those “do it during law school but never actually prosecuted” ones.

      1. 2.2.1

        Guessed wrong. I did some prosecution (along with litigation) when I was a new associate. I eventually transitioned to 100% litigation because I did not enjoy prosecution and really enjoyed litigation (mainly due to its adversarial nature).

  5. 1

    Most interesting, Dennis. Rule 11.11(a)(2) permits a biennial survey of practitioners to ascertain whether they wish to remain registered. I have been registered for more than seventeen years and have never been surveyed. Is there a reason this practice has been abandoned?

    1. 1.1

      I talked with OED folks about this a while a go. I think that the current approach is to do a survey every decade or so.

      The point of having registered patent attorneys is (1) to protect the public and (2) to make the USPTO’s job a bit easier because they are working with professionals. In general, it does not appear that the non-practicing folks on the rolls are really causing any problem with either the public or the USPTO. And, doing a survey has real costs — the biggest of these is that a number of prominent attorneys will miss the postcard and then will be dropped from the rolls.

      1. 1.1.1

        Your assessment of the risk associated with “non-practicing” folks aligns with what I see. Most of the non-practicing/filing folks I encounter fit in three buckets – in-house folks who use outside counsel to execute final drafting/filing/etc. or have moved to a more business-centered role; attorneys who earned a reg. number early in their career (either pre- or post-law school) but since developed a practice that doesn’t involve prosecution; and retirees/near retirees. None of these folks seem to pose an increased risk to the public or the USPTO due to their practice mode.

      2. 1.1.3

        I wonder if a Notice and Opt In (on line) Avenue would be a “permissible” way of maintaining an active duty roster?

      3. 1.1.4

        OED’s stated reasons for maintaining a list of registered attorneys and agents clearly misses one that is important to inventors, especially individual inventors: enabling them to actually find a working practitionoer to assist them with obtaining a patent for their invention. With your data showing that only half of the registered practitioners are sufficiently active to have filed even just one application in the past four years, OED’s not having an accurate registry makes the inventor’s task of finding patent counsel somewhat harder.


          I hear you Mark, and an easy change for the list would be for the Office to include a one-line ‘checkable’ box to the effect of, “willing to take on new/small/both customers.”

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