Technical Professionals for the Patent Industry™

Blog by Ron Penaflor

Independent Patent Agents: Who We are, What We Do, and How We can Help Inventors and Startups

Introduction: If you've never heard of independent patent agents, then you're likely not alone. Find out who independent patent agents are, where to find them, and whether they are a good fit for your patent project.

When you hear of agents, most people are likely to think of real estate agents, FBI agents, sports agents, or insurance agents.  Although there are over 10k registered patent agents in the U.S., they are often unknown and overlooked by most inventors.

Who are Patent Agents?

Patent Agents are technical professionals who are registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), providing a segment of patent services to clients as authorized by the patent office.  There are approximately over 48,000 agents and attorneys on the USPTO roster of patent practitioners, and out of the 48k+ practitioners it is estimated that about 10k (25%) are patent agents.

As indicated by their professional titles, patent agents are not attorneys but agents who are limited in the type of patent services they may practice and offer to their clients.  Specifically, patent agents are not able to practice or offer any professional legal services such as preparing and filing trademarks, drafting legal contracts, or providing legal representation to another party in a court of law.

What Patent Agents Do

All patent agents have a technical degree or certification and/or may have technical training or work experience in one or more technology disciplines such as mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, software, physics, telecommunications, biology, and chemistry.  Their technical knowledge combined with their understanding of patent law equip them with the necessary skills to understand advanced concepts within their specialized field, formulate and distill key inventive aspects of new ideas, and precisely describe these concepts and ideas in a highly technical manner.

Typical patent services offered by most Patent Agents include:

  • Drafting patent applications
  • Performing Prior Art Searches
  • Filing patent applications
  • Prosecuting patent applications, including office action responses
  • Paying patent maintenance fees
  • Acting as a legal representative on behalf of their clients before the USPTO

Where do you Find Patent Agents?

You'll likely find "in-house" patent agents working exclusively at patent law firms, corporations, universities, government institutions, or any other entities having a need and desire to protect innovative ideas and inventions, new technology, and highly advanced concepts.  Because they are exclusive to these entities, many of these "in-house" agents are inaccessible to the general public (i.e., inventors, startups, or other companies) due to the potential conflicts and/or non-compete work restrictions they have with their employers.

Can Inventors and Startups work directly with Patent Agents?

For independent patent agents, the answer is absolutely yes.

Inventors and entrepreneurs may engage and contract with independent patent agents for patent services, despite the fact that they aren't well-known or easily available to the general public. 

What are Independent (Solo) Patent Agents

Unlike "in-house" patent agents, independent patent agents are sole practitioners operating their own business and offering direct patent services to inventors, startups, patent attorneys, and other businesses. 

Only a small fraction of the 10,000 patent agents in the country are independent patent agents. Despite their modest numbers, many of these independent patent agents have significant patent training and have worked at large law firms and/or companies, offering patent services similar to those provided by patent attorneys and in-house patent agents. 

How many Independent Patent Agents are there in the U.S.

Out of the 48,000+ patent practitioners on the USPTO's roster, there are roughly 500 (or 1%) patent agents scattered throughout the U.S. who operate their own business as independent or solo patent agent practitioners.

How Independent Patents Help Inventors and Startups

  1. Affordable
    On average, independent patent agents have billing rates and flat fees that are substantially much lower than that of patent law firms or patent attorneys, ultimately saving you money.
  2. Independently owned and operated
    Many of the independent patent agents are independently owned and operated, providing better value than that of big patent law firms, independent attorneys, and patent boutiques shops. Independent patent agents operate alone or with a smaller staff, having lower operating expenses than large law firms, resulting in lower overhead expenses. In turn, lower overhead can translates into better price offerings by these patent agents.
  3. Direct Services - No "Middleman"
    Independent patent agents provide direct patent services to their clients, eliminating the "middleman" which means more cost savings for their clients.
  4. Flexible
    Most independent patent agents understand that each inventor is different and have unique situations. Unlike full-service law firms, independent patent agents are often more flexible with their scheduling and rates since they operate and manage their own patent practice, working directly with inventors through the patent process from start to finish.
  5. Same Quality Patent Work Product
    Many independent patent agents have worked for Tier 1 Patent law firms, start-ups, corporations, universities, and government institutions, and are more than capable of providing the same quality patent services you'll find at these work places.

Where you can Find Independent Patent Agents

You can try searching for solo patent agents on the USPTO's roster website, but it will be like searching for a needle in an haystack,  since there is no easy tool on their site that allows users to determine the type of business entity for each practitioner.

iP TECH PROS is the only website that provides an easy, free and exclusive search tool for locating verified independent patent agents.

Category : Patent Agents

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