Patent agents are scientists or engineers who have been trained in patent law and who have passed the examination for registration to practice given by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Working closely with inventors, patent agents prepare patent applications covering inventions and represent the inventors in all patent proceedings within the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office-including filing the patent applications, arguing the patentability of the patent applications, and presenting appeals to the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences if necessary. To be an effective patent practitioner, one should have a sound knowledge of a particular branch of science or engineering, as well as a good command of patent law.
In the Patent Agency Specialization, students with undergraduate training in science or engineering will take coursework in an applied science track such as Polymer Science or Quantitative Materials Characterization. Additionally, they will spend at least the equivalent of 12 months full-time in a practicum involving a laboratory such as the Polymeric Materials Branch or the Nondestructive Evaluation Sciences Branch at NASA Langley research Center, in association with the NASA Langley Research Center Patent Counsel Office. The practicum will include counseling inventors concerning their inventions, conducting patentability searches for these inventions, preparing patent applications to protect the inventions, preparing legal briefs in support of the patent applications in response to official actions of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and presenting appeals to the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences. Students will also pass a course in intellectual property law and one in patent law, to expose the students to broader topics such as copyright and trademark law and other patent law areas such as patent infringement, validity and licensing. Finally, they may optionally take an intensive one-week short course for review in preparation for the examination for registration to practice in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.