Intellectual PropertyPatents

Who are Patent Attorneys?

This blog will provide you with information regarding the terms patent attorney & patent agent, the interchangeable use of the titles, the role of patent attorney & role of a patent agent, and the qualifications required for them.

In India, the patent law was codified as early as 1858. But, after liberalization when India became a member of WTO, professions in the field of patents began to be recognised.  Post the Patents Act of 1970 being amended, and the modifications in the working of the Indian Patent Office, there was a great rise in the importance of Patent Attorneys in India.  In India, patents are being filed in practically every field.  Some of these are:

  • Aerospace
  • AI, ML, and Robotics
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Automotive
  • Ayurveda
  • Biosciences
  • Biotech
  • Chemistry
  • Digital Technologies
  • Education
  • Electric Mobility
  • Electronics
  • Entertainment
  • Green Energy
  • Information Technology
  • IoT
  • Manufacturing
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Medical Devices
  • Molecular Biology
  • Pharma
  • Pharma Biotech
  • Software
  • Telecommunications
  • Traditional Medicine

What Is a Patent Attorneys?

Just like other attorneys, a patent attorney is also a lawyer but also has expertise in law associated with intellectual property.  Such law deals with protecting and securing the property rights of an inventor. Of note is the fact that in the Statutes of India, there is no mention of any position of this sort.  In the present times, the terms patent attorney, as well as patent agent, have come to be used for the tasks that are to be performed by an agent who handles patents.  Yet, if a distinction had to be made, as it must, then we need to reiterate that an attorney, unlike an agent, is an advocate. Therefore, we can consider a patent attorney to be a person who has the authority for dealing with patent-related litigation because of having a degree in law. Any patent lawyer or attorney will always be an advocate. Therefore, when a person holds a degree in law and is registered in the Bar Council of a state. The person will be considered to be an advocate and will be considered to have the authority to handle patent litigation, which will be considered as being an attorney for patents. A patent lawyer, according to the laws laid down by Indian law need to have obtained a degree in engineering, technology, or science.

Patent Attorney

Role of a Patent Attorney

There is no major difference between the role played by a patent lawyer/attorney and that of an advocate of the law. Therefore, the patent attorney is eligible to handle patent litigation. So this implies that if a person is a patent lawyer or attorney then such an attorney will handle patent cases when they go to court. The important thing to remember is that such an attorney does not have the power to file any patent. So, this implies that such an attorney does not have the authority to handle patent prosecution, but only just the litigation-related issues connected can be undertaken by a patent attorney. 

Patent Agent & Attorney

In India, generally, the terms patent attorney and patent agent are used interchangeably.  So, if we look at it from that perspective then the role of a patent attorney/ patent agent will be rather different. In that sense, the patent agent/ attorney will be a person who has the qualification to prosecute patents.  This means the person has the qualification to draft and file patent applications. Such a person will have the technical knowledge required for drafting and also the legal knowledge that goes with it, such a person will need to be qualified in both fields. It is possible in India to prosecute a patent with the help of a patent attorney/ agent who is a registered Indian patent agentThe criteria to be fulfilled for qualifying as a patent attorney/agent are enumerated in Section 126 of the Indian Patents Act, 1970.

To become an agent for patent-related work, some statutory requirements need to be fulfilled according to the Indian Patents Act, 1970:  These are as listed below:

  • Must hold citizenship of India
  • Must be at least 21 years of age
  • Must have a degree in science/engineering/technology from a University that has been established under a law that is at that specific time in force in the territory of India
  • Must have cleared the qualifying exam for becoming a patent agent.  This is the Patent Agent Exam. This is the main essential exam to pass to qualify as a registered Indian Patent Agent and it is conducted by the Controller General of Patents every year.

Yet if we look at it in this way that both patent agent and patent lawyer/agent are two distinct entities, it will be clear that to become a patent agent, there is no need to have a degree in law. on the other hand, a patent agent, unlike a patent attorney, must have a degree in either engineering, science, or technology. A person who possesses a law degree is not qualified to be a patent agent automatically but must have the qualifications needed to become a patent agent.

In such a role a person is entitled to perform patent prosecution. According to section 127 of the Indian Patents Act, 1970, a patent agent has been granted the right to: 

  • Practice in presence of  the Controller
  • Prepare every patent-related document, conduct every business, and transact all of those functions that are specified in connection to all types of proceedings, under the Act, in front of the Controller.

Conclusion

Oftentimes, the two roles of patent agent and patent attorney are not seen as being distinct roles. But indeed they are different.  While a patent agent is one who is qualified through an examination to perform patent prosecution.  This implies that a patent agent can draft a patent, prepare documents related to a patent, conduct business connected with patents, and even perform all such functions that are associated with the various proceedings before the controller. On the other hand, a patent attorney has a law qualification and is a practising advocate registered with a bar council. A patent attorney is not at all qualified to conduct any business regarding the filing of patents, etc., except when it comes to litigation. For any patent-related business, it is the easiest, quickest, and the best to get in touch with a patent attorney or patent agent to fast resolution to all your patent-related requirements.

Read more:

What is a Patent Act in India?

What is the Procedure to File a Patent?

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