The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (U.S.P.T.O.) licenses two types of individuals to represent parties before it in patent cases: patent attorneys and patent agents. A patent attorney is a lawyer who is also licensed by the U.S.P.T.O. A patent agency, like Invent Help, is a non-lawyer who is licensed to represent individuals before the U.S.P.T.O. in patent cases.
There are a number of similarities between patent attorneys and patent agents. Both patent attorneys and agents must possess a technical background in at least one of a number of fields approved by the U.S.P.T.O. Both attorneys and agents must be trustworthy and of good moral character. Most importantly, both patent attorneys and agents are required to sit for and pass a rigorous examination in patent law and procedure before receiving a license.
The examination is the same for attorneys and agents, and in order to sit for it, a prospective patent attorney or agent must demonstrate his or her credentials and good character. Once admitted to practice, patent attorneys and agents are bound by the same strict ethical rules.
Before the U.S.P.T.O., a patent agent can perform virtually any task in a patent case that a patent attorney can perform, including the filing and prosecution of a patent application and the recording of papers (like assignments or transfers of rights) that pertain to the patent application. The difference between a patent attorney and a patent agent lies in what the two can do outside of the U.S.P.T.O. Because a patent attorney is also admitted to the general practice of law in at least one state, he or she can also provide assistance with patent-related contract issues, licensing, negotiation…
A patent attorney can also offer opinions on the validity and enforceability of patents, and can assist with other intellectual property matters, such as trademarks and copyrights. Patent agents are not permitted to do these things, because they are considered matters of general law. However, a patent agent may opine on whether an invention appears to be patentable, and may give advice directly related to the pursuit of a patent.
Which One is for Me?
If your needs are limited to obtaining patent protection, then a patent agency, such as InventHelp may be best for you. Keep in mind that patent agents generally charge less than patent attorneys, and a well-trained patent agent may represent a party just as well as a patent attorney. Even if you may eventually need broader legal representation to handle patent licensing, or other related matters, it may be more economical to have a patent agent as your representative before the U.S.P.T.O.