The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) registration examination, more commonly referred to as the "patent bar," is the test that one must pass to be eligible to practice before the USPTO. Individuals that pass the examination are referred to as either a "patent attorney" or a "patent agent." A patent attorney successfully passes the patent bar and is a member of the bar of at least one state. A patent agent is not a member of a state bar but has passed the patent bar. It is unnecessary to hold a law degree to become a patent agent. A person can become a patent agent as soon as he satisfies the requirements to sit for the patent bar examination.

To be eligible to take the patent bar examination, one must have a technical background, as evidenced by your college degree and / or coursework. There are two ways to qualify:

  1. You have a bachelor's degree in one of a number of enumerated degrees from an accredited university. Currently, the qualifying degrees considered by the USPTO include Biology Pharmacology, Electrochemical Engineering, Biochemistry, Physics, Engineering Physics, Botany, Textile Technology, General Engineering, Computer Science, Aeronautical Engineering, Geological Engineering, Electronics Technology, Agricultural Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Food Technology, Biomedical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, General Chemistry, Ceramic Engineering, Metallurgical Engineering, Marine Technology, Chemical Engineering, Mining Engineering, Microbiology, Civil Engineering, Nuclear Engineering, Molecular Biology, Computer Engineering, Petroleum Engineering, Organic Chemistry, and Electrical Engineering.
  2. You have received a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution in another, non-enumerated major and can show the scientific and technical training equivalent to a degree in one of the enumerated majors. To qualify under this option, one must have significant semester hours in engineering and hard science.

Prometric currently administers the patent bar examination. The computer-delivered comprises 100 multiple-choice questions, only ninety of which are scored. To pass the examination, a candidate must correctly answer seventy percent (sixty-three) of the ninety scored questions. Each of the scored questions has been tested on previous registration examinations and has been analyzed by the USPTO to ensure the question provides a useful assessment of a candidate's legal and scientific qualifications.