by Dennis Crouch
In the US, registered patent practitioners are required to have a science or engineering background. Over the past few years, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has been refining the qualification process. Nearly all incoming patent attorneys qualify by either (A) possessing a specific degree (such as mechanical engineering) or (B) accumulating a sufficient number of university science or engineering credits. These two methods are referred to as Category A and Category B in the General Requirements Bulletin for Admission to the Examination for Registration to Practice in Patent Cases (GRB).
The USPTO previously simplified the path for potential registrants by including typical Category B degrees under Category A. The Office clarified that “incorporating these Category B degrees into Category A will enhance operational efficiency and expedite the application process for prospective patent practitioners.” Additionally, the Office began accepting advanced degrees under Category A.
Recently, the Office has taken several more steps:
1. Instituting a three-year review process to consider adding more qualifying degrees.
2. Abolishing the rule that computer science degrees can only qualify for Category A if they are from a program accredited by the Computer Science Accreditation Commission of the Computing Sciences Accreditation Board, or by the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET.
These minor amendments will alleviate the pressure on patent applicants and reduce the workload of the Office of Enrollment and Discipline (OED).
The updated rules also clarify the conditions for non-US citizens seeking to register as patent attorneys. According to the regulations, non-citizens living outside the US are ineligible to register as US practitioners, with the exception of Canadians under 37 CFR 11.6(c). However, a non-citizen residing in the US can gain “limited recognition to practice” before the USPTO in patent matters, provided they can demonstrate that such activities are consistent with their immigration status. The USPTO will assess (1) the applicant’s permission to reside in the United States, and (2) the applicant’s authorization to work or receive training in the United States.
These revised regulations are effective immediately.