USPTO Updates Registration Exam for Patent Practitioners

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will update its registration examination and provide new reference materials effective April 12, 2011. The changes will help ensure that newly registered patent attorneys and agents are fully qualified in the most current patent laws, rules and procedures.  This change marks the first change to the exam in approximately 5 years, and will bring the patent bar exam current with law, rules and regulations through the Winter of 2011. Those who are interested in taking the patent bar exam should consider this update a major revision, indeed such a major revision to the test that old patent bar exams circulating the Internet will be an insufficient means to study for the new exam.

“Patent applicants and examiners will benefit from the updated registration examination because newly registered patent attorneys and agents will have demonstrated familiarity with the most current patent laws, rules and procedures,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos.

All applicants wishing to practice in patent cases before the USPTO must pass the registration exam consisting of 100 multiple choice questions. The revised exam questions will be based on the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) Edition 8, Revision 8, along with other published USPTO policy and procedure reference materials. Administration of the previous version of the registration examination ceased April 4, 2011.  Effective April 12, 2011, the computer-delivered registration examination will be updated to utilize the following reference materials:

For those wishing to take the exam, the General Requirements Bulletin includes all information necessary for applying to the examination.

A tip of the hat to Director Kappos and his team!  Director Kappos has now been at the Patent Office for approximately 20 months.  During that time he has undertaken a great many tasks, which are aimed at resulting in a better, smoother, quicker patent process.  The fact that he and his team have focused efforts on the patent bar examination demonstrates that no corner of the Patent Office will go without review under his tenure, which bodes well for the patent system as a whole.

For more information about the patent bar examination see:


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Join the Discussion

5 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for Travis]
    November 28, 2011 09:43 am

    It appears the USPTO is updating the registration examination AGAIN, with new content appearing on or about January 31, 2012 ( The new material will cover (a) the implementation of a prioritized examination procedure (per AIA), (b) revision of the standard for granting an inter partes examination request (per AIA), and (c) rules governing ex parte appeals before the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (per USPTO).

  • [Avatar for Gene Quinn]
    Gene Quinn
    May 28, 2011 11:13 am


    I’m happy to give you my perspective.

    First, you say you have a colleague with an advanced biotech degree and a JD. I notice you didn’t say whether the colleague has a PhD or a Masters. In the biotech field that can matter enormously. For biology fields a PhD is very important, particularly at times like this when the economy is down a bit.

    For those who are EE all you need is a BS, but for bio and chem advanced degrees are varies levels of desired to required. The legal job market has taken a hit, but for the most part in our space I don’t think people lost their jobs, hiring just ceased. As we come out of this Great Recession that will change. The big firms in our space will likely never dominate again like they did, but there will be plenty of smaller to mid-size firms continue to emerge.

    I would have a difficult time believing that someone like yourself with 10 years of experience, a PhD and who becomes a patent agent wouldn’t be able to find work. Of course, if you are geographically limited that can certainly negatively impact job searching for PhDs. In fact, I think the only time I have heard of a PhD having a difficult time finding a job is when they were limiting themselves to one market. There are pockets of scientific activity around the country, and if you are not in one of those you might need to move to one of those.

    I recommend that you do a patent search to find inventions that are similar to the type of thing you have experience with. Find out which firms and attorneys work in this space and reach out to them. Try and do some networking and maybe some informational interviews. They will be able to give you the best information on the market in your niche, and networking is never a bad thing.

    To the extent that you can add other science areas to your resume that might be a good idea. For example, has your research/work crossed you over into Physics at all? If yes you probably would do well to make sure that comes through on your resume and cover letter.

    I hope this helps.


  • [Avatar for Elwyn Williams]
    Elwyn Williams
    May 27, 2011 11:06 pm

    Gene: I have a PhD in molecular biology plus 10 years of lab experience, and was about to sign up for the PLI course when it was pointed out to me that there are essentially no entry-level job openings for patent agents / attorneys even with advanced technical degrees. I checked up on this on the web and found that to be true unless you have a degree in CE, EE, or maybe computer science. A former lab colleague with an advanced biotech degree who got his JD last year still hasn’t been able to find an entry-level job.

    What’s going on? Is this something that is likely to change if the economy picks up? Or is the field now saturated? If you have to have experience to get a job and can’t get a job without experience, what do you do? This is a field I was really excited about entering, but now it seems like a really bad idea. I’d love to have your perspective on it.

  • [Avatar for Gene Quinn]
    Gene Quinn
    April 13, 2011 10:40 am

    Very welcome indeed, Mark. The exam now tests KSR. To show the problems with but one illustration, before the new exam went into effect the “correct” answer on the exam to challenge obviousness was to argue there was no teaching, suggestion or motivation.

    Although this issue is small compared with pendency, funding and backlog it suggests that Kappos and his leadership team are trying to do what they can to leave a much better PTO from top to bottom. While I would personally prefer one Obama term I am in favor of multiple Kappos terms!


    Via iPhone

  • [Avatar for Mark Nowotarski]
    Mark Nowotarski
    April 12, 2011 09:53 am

    This is welcome news. If the current exam is out of date, that may help explain why young associates and examiners have difficulty reaching agreement in certain difficult art units. If the updated exam is more in tune with current examiner training, then we should see a steady improvement in allowance rates as both parties will be operating off of the same guidance.