Marbury at Midnight: Don’t Sleep through Patent Law (And Go Take that Exam!)

Before we begin, how about a little inspiration?

In 1983, Michael Jackson wowed the music world when his dance steps lit up a sidewalk in “Billie Jean.” In 2012, London wowed the entire world when the city lit up the Tower Bridge with mind-blowing LED displays, one of which “raced” Usain Bolt across the Thames. We’re now exploring Pluto, wearing the internet on our wrists, and letting Google drive our cars. Who drives this innovation? And how can you become a part of it?

We all love taking exams, right? Especially those tedious exams taken in a random computer testing center, where you probably have just enough time to eat lunch in your car during your oddly-timed 36 minute break? (Ok, sarcasm).

Sarcasm notwithstanding, file this blog entry under the “Another Exam You Should Definitely Take if You’re Eligible (Even if you don’t put it to use right away…or ever)” folder.  This exam is the United States Patent and Trademark Office Patent Bar. If you have an engineering or science background and meet the eligibility requirements for this exam, go take it. The beauty of getting your license with the USPTO is that it never expires. Once you pass this notoriously tedious 6-hour exam, you’re done for life. You have a federal bar card, and your opportunity to practice in a really cool field of law opens up immensely.

Full disclosure: I took and passed the Patent Bar in December 2012, and I’m not (yet) a practicing patent attorney. My full-time day job is the same as the one I had prior to getting my law licenses; I still work as a civil engineer on construction sites, combined with volunteer work for Legal Aid. People have asked me, “Didn’t you pass the bar? Why aren’t you practicing? Couldn’t you, like, make a bunch of money being a patent attorney?” Well, the answers are yes, hmm, and not really. And at any rate, that’s not why I took the exam.

First, I’m a civil engineer, which is not what most IP firms or corporations are looking for when hiring patent attorneys (think software, chemical, and electrical engineering). Second, I’m still on the fence about completely changing careers. Third, I know I’ll practice one day, but my practice will somehow blend IP with my current career. Fourth, and most importantly, I earned the flexibility to take my practice anywhere and someday work on really cool IP stuff that interests me. That’s pretty much it. Yep, “because it’s cool.”

Take the exam because you’re curious about all things patent law. Take the exam because you dream of one day working with the next Steve Jobs. Whatever the reason, don’t deny yourself the opportunity to make the most of your technical background. After all, you might just be involved in the next space module to Pluto, racing Usain Bolt across the Thames in LED’s, or even lighting up a sidewalk for rock stars. The sky’s the limit. Go take that exam.

(I recommend starting your studies with the following link. Mainly because it's FREE and effective.)

USPTO Past Exam Questions and Answers



Love your enthusiasm.  As a law student, I recently learned through my IP professor (McFarland) that working with patents does not require a science background (in some legal areas like licensing) so all the more reason for a student to take the exam if they want to potentially practice in IP on cases that may involve patents.  Thanks for sharing your story

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