Patent Bar Eligibles, patent/IP attorney or Examiner?

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androstan
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Patent Bar Eligibles, patent/IP attorney or Examiner?

Postby androstan » Wed Jun 29, 2011 11:54 am

A job as an examiner is an incredibly sweet deal. Yes, the work is on the boring, tedious side, but if you're already planning to become a lawyer...

Going straight from undergrad to examining, you can start off around 50k. That's not much.

After 6 or 7 years, you can easily be making 150k.

You can also work entirely from home and choose your own hours. These promotions are noncompetitive, if you meet a certain productivity level you are automatically promoted lockstep every year.

I have spoken to several senior examiners here. The one who taught my section has been here 10 years and does about six hours of actual work per day. He does it all from home. He works out, has children, lives in the suburbs, goes on vacations, and lives it up. The senior examiners I've spoken to who hit all their promotions weren't flukes, either. Most examiners that can put up with the tedium for the first couple of years hit every promotion and make it to the 150k mark. You don't have to be stunningly brilliant, just diligent and tedium-resistant.

Granted, 6 or 7 years out from law school you could have made partner, but the vast majority will not. For those of us who aren't tall, dashingly handsome, extremely intelligent workaholics, could being a patent attorney really work out better for us than being an examiner?

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Re: Patent Bar Eligibles, patent/IP attorney or Examiner?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 29, 2011 12:35 pm

Examiner here.

Your analysis is mostly correct. I started off at 65k + $36,800 signing bonus - you can too if you have decent grades from UG. Otherwise 50k is about right for middling grades. You can actually start off north of 75k if you have a higher degree or significant work experience in the industry. Lockstep promotions, easy work, and telework are all possibilities and are not difficult to obtain. If you can endure the tedium (which you'd better be able to do if you are to endure a legal career), your lifestyle will be excellent outside of work.

It's not all roses though. It's not an easy time to become a patent examiner. The hiring blitz is over and the signing bonuses are no longer offered. Hiring is actually currently suspended. Everytime we are given money to resume hiring and other programs, a budget shortfall causes it to be taken away. It's nearly impossible to hit 150k when overtime is not offered, and overtime is currently suspended and has been for quite some time, so you're generally stuck at your base salary. We're very much at the mercy of congress.

Your closing question presupposes that anyone who is patent bar eligible could become an examiner. This is patently false. Some engineering majors, such as EE and ME and some variations of CSE degrees, are able to suffice as a prerequisite to entering the patent office. However, outside of these majors, a PhD is generally a prerequisite, except for a few UG majors where a complimentary masters will suffice. Many people considering becoming patent attorneys are not eligible to work at the PTO. Getting higher education with the goal of working at the PTO is risky business because we may not be hiring when you finish your PhD.

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Re: Patent Bar Eligibles, patent/IP attorney or Examiner?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 29, 2011 1:18 pm

On what factors does the USPTO hire on?

I have poor undergrad grades in EE, but from a great school. I also have good law grades from a good school. I'm wonder if USPTO will hire based on my law grades rather than my poor undergrad ones.

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Re: Patent Bar Eligibles, patent/IP attorney or Examiner?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 29, 2011 1:24 pm

Anonymous User wrote:On what factors does the USPTO hire on?

I have poor undergrad grades in EE, but from a great school. I also have good law grades from a good school. I'm wonder if USPTO will hire based on my law grades rather than my poor undergrad ones.


Examiner here.

USPTO will hire based on UG grades, but may hire you at a higher grade/step based on your legal education - I'm not exactly sure how this plays in. Your UG grades will not hinder you being hired. However, they will be determinative of your starting salary. You should contact HR for more information.

Note that the USPTO is not currently hiring examiner to my knowledge.

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androstan
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Re: Patent Bar Eligibles, patent/IP attorney or Examiner?

Postby androstan » Wed Jun 29, 2011 2:37 pm

Yes hiring is frozen at this moment, but October 1st is a new fiscal year, which means they get ~$200M. Also, they are looking to hire around 1000 examiners by the end of the calendar year, and still more next year. The backlog is a huge problem, stifling our economy and undermining the PTO as an agency.

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Rose Tyler
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Re: Patent Bar Eligibles, patent/IP attorney or Examiner?

Postby Rose Tyler » Wed Jun 29, 2011 2:58 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Examiner here.

Your closing question presupposes that anyone who is patent bar eligible could become an examiner. This is patently false. Some engineering majors, such as EE and ME and some variations of CSE degrees, are able to suffice as a prerequisite to entering the patent office. However, outside of these majors, a PhD is generally a prerequisite, except for a few UG majors where a complimentary masters will suffice. Many people considering becoming patent attorneys are not eligible to work at the PTO. Getting higher education with the goal of working at the PTO is risky business because we may not be hiring when you finish your PhD.


The PTO also hired people w/BME degrees, at least they did a couple years ago, and having a PhD or even an M.S. was definitely not a prerequisite.

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Re: Patent Bar Eligibles, patent/IP attorney or Examiner?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 29, 2011 3:01 pm

Rose Tyler wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Examiner here.

Your closing question presupposes that anyone who is patent bar eligible could become an examiner. This is patently false. Some engineering majors, such as EE and ME and some variations of CSE degrees, are able to suffice as a prerequisite to entering the patent office. However, outside of these majors, a PhD is generally a prerequisite, except for a few UG majors where a complimentary masters will suffice. Many people considering becoming patent attorneys are not eligible to work at the PTO. Getting higher education with the goal of working at the PTO is risky business because we may not be hiring when you finish your PhD.


The PTO also hired people w/BME degrees, at least they did a couple years ago, and having a PhD or even an M.S. was definitely not a prerequisite.


True. I was offering a few examples on a short list of majors where a B.S. will suffice. The point was many patent-bar eligible majors would not be considered for hire at the PTO, and thus OPs main point applies to only a narrow subset of those targeted by OPs question.

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Re: Patent Bar Eligibles, patent/IP attorney or Examiner?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 29, 2011 3:03 pm

plenty of B.S.Chemistry also. probably only need an advanced degree for bio (i.e. pharmaceutical stuff)

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Re: Patent Bar Eligibles, patent/IP attorney or Examiner?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 29, 2011 3:24 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Examiner here.

Your analysis is mostly correct. I started off at 65k + $36,800 signing bonus - you can too if you have decent grades from UG. Otherwise 50k is about right for middling grades. You can actually start off north of 75k if you have a higher degree or significant work experience in the industry. Lockstep promotions, easy work, and telework are all possibilities and are not difficult to obtain. If you can endure the tedium (which you'd better be able to do if you are to endure a legal career), your lifestyle will be excellent outside of work.

It's not all roses though. It's not an easy time to become a patent examiner. The hiring blitz is over and the signing bonuses are no longer offered. Hiring is actually currently suspended. Everytime we are given money to resume hiring and other programs, a budget shortfall causes it to be taken away. It's nearly impossible to hit 150k when overtime is not offered, and overtime is currently suspended and has been for quite some time, so you're generally stuck at your base salary. We're very much at the mercy of congress.

Your closing question presupposes that anyone who is patent bar eligible could become an examiner. This is patently false. Some engineering majors, such as EE and ME and some variations of CSE degrees, are able to suffice as a prerequisite to entering the patent office. However, outside of these majors, a PhD is generally a prerequisite, except for a few UG majors where a complimentary masters will suffice. Many people considering becoming patent attorneys are not eligible to work at the PTO. Getting higher education with the goal of working at the PTO is risky business because we may not be hiring when you finish your PhD.


can I apply for an examiner's position with MS EE + JD (class of 2012)? or are there other positions more appropriate?

yes, I feel dumb, I could've (should've) applied for an examiner's position before law school.

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Re: Patent Bar Eligibles, patent/IP attorney or Examiner?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 29, 2011 3:43 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Examiner here.

Your analysis is mostly correct. I started off at 65k + $36,800 signing bonus - you can too if you have decent grades from UG. Otherwise 50k is about right for middling grades. You can actually start off north of 75k if you have a higher degree or significant work experience in the industry. Lockstep promotions, easy work, and telework are all possibilities and are not difficult to obtain. If you can endure the tedium (which you'd better be able to do if you are to endure a legal career), your lifestyle will be excellent outside of work.

It's not all roses though. It's not an easy time to become a patent examiner. The hiring blitz is over and the signing bonuses are no longer offered. Hiring is actually currently suspended. Everytime we are given money to resume hiring and other programs, a budget shortfall causes it to be taken away. It's nearly impossible to hit 150k when overtime is not offered, and overtime is currently suspended and has been for quite some time, so you're generally stuck at your base salary. We're very much at the mercy of congress.

Your closing question presupposes that anyone who is patent bar eligible could become an examiner. This is patently false. Some engineering majors, such as EE and ME and some variations of CSE degrees, are able to suffice as a prerequisite to entering the patent office. However, outside of these majors, a PhD is generally a prerequisite, except for a few UG majors where a complimentary masters will suffice. Many people considering becoming patent attorneys are not eligible to work at the PTO. Getting higher education with the goal of working at the PTO is risky business because we may not be hiring when you finish your PhD.


can I apply for an examiner's position with MS EE + JD (class of 2012)? or are there other positions more appropriate?

yes, I feel dumb, I could've (should've) applied for an examiner's position before law school.


Yes, you can apply if hiring resumes. Apply on USAJobs.gov 4 or 5 months before you graduate (Unless you're attending school in DC and want to begin work while taking classes, in which case apply whenever you have a chance). Don't expect your J.D. to have any sway in the hiring process - we are aiming to hire engineers, not lawyers, and therefore you will be evaluated as an engineer. There are quite a few EE/JDs in the newest entering class (pretty reflective of how brutal even the IP market is). You may peruse other positions that require a J.D., but these are far more competitive to land. I am not familiar with the positions offered to lawyers.

androstan wrote:Yes hiring is frozen at this moment, but October 1st is a new fiscal year, which means they get ~$200M. Also, they are looking to hire around 1000 examiners by the end of the calendar year, and still more next year. The backlog is a huge problem, stifling our economy and undermining the PTO as an agency.


The agency has sought to hire 1,000-1,200 new examiners annually since 2006. They have not accomplished this since 2007. The reason being, the PTO is congress' ATM. While we may be appropriated around $200,000,000, that is about enough to only fund day-to-day operations. The way the PTO has been able to hire and pay out OT in the past is by keeping revenues above and beyond the $200m. Congress has been reappropriating revenue above our operating budget to other pet projects, and there is no reason to believe this will stop - especially in this political climate. It would be naive to believe that FY 2012 will be any different.

Did you just start at the office, OP? It's been rough-and-tumble for the past few years. OT has been repeatedly suspended, as has hiring. Even if hiring resumes in October, should history repeat, hiring will freeze before Christmas time, and we'll have acquired only enough examiners to compensate for attrition. You'll become jaded soon enough.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Wed Jun 29, 2011 3:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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englawyer
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Re: Patent Bar Eligibles, patent/IP attorney or Examiner?

Postby englawyer » Wed Jun 29, 2011 3:43 pm

from the sound of it, it seems like an examiner job is similar to regular old engineering (at least financially). engineering also starts 50-100k with the chance to move to mid 100's with a very balanced lifestyle.

i always saw law over engineering as more hours, more intense/exciting, more pay. it seems like you would lose those differences (advantages?) by taking the examiner path.

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Re: Patent Bar Eligibles, patent/IP attorney or Examiner?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jun 29, 2011 3:48 pm

englawyer wrote:from the sound of it, it seems like an examiner job is similar to regular old engineering (at least financially). engineering also starts 50-100k with the chance to move to mid 100's with a very balanced lifestyle.

i always saw law over engineering as more hours, more intense/exciting, more pay. it seems like you would lose those differences (advantages?) by taking the examiner path.


There's a lot of debate over whether the work is more intense/exciting. It really depends on how well you do in school and what type of work you're assigned at a firm. I did some comparison with a few patent attorney friends, and it seems that the pay is roughly equal per hour for the first few years, but an attorney must work many more hours.

At any rate, your analysis is correct. There's no risk in becoming an examiner and you will live comfortably, but you will certainly not see high pay or exciting work.

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androstan
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Re: Patent Bar Eligibles, patent/IP attorney or Examiner?

Postby androstan » Mon Jul 11, 2011 9:59 am

I passed the patent bar yesterday. I am now accepting job offers. Employers send PM.

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Re: Patent Bar Eligibles, patent/IP attorney or Examiner?

Postby TLS007 » Wed Jul 13, 2011 9:20 pm

FYI, the USPTO recently posted examiner vacancies on USAJobs. Application period closes July 25. 2011.

For MEs: http://jobview.usajobs.gov/GetJob.aspx? ... ngineering)&q=patent+examiner&where=&x=0&y=0&brd=3876&vw=b&FedEmp=N&FedPub=Y&AVSDM=2011-07-13+16%3a23%3a00

For EEs: http://jobview.usajobs.gov/GetJob.aspx? ... ngineering)&q=patent+examiner&where=&x=0&y=0&brd=3876&vw=b&FedEmp=N&FedPub=Y&AVSDM=2011-07-13+16%3a07%3a00


Anonymous User wrote:There's a lot of debate over whether the work is more intense/exciting. It really depends on how well you do in school and what type of work you're assigned at a firm. I did some comparison with a few patent attorney friends, and it seems that the pay is roughly equal per hour for the first few years, but an attorney must work many more hours.

At any rate, your analysis is correct. There's no risk in becoming an examiner and you will live comfortably, but you will certainly not see high pay or exciting work.


Having worked a bit on both sides of patent prosecution (former examiner and current law student/summer associate), I do agree that the law firm side is slightly more exciting and intense. On the firm side your client's interest is on the line and I feel like the ramifications could be worse if you mess up. The trade off is that you have opportunities for a wider range of work and more human interactions with clients and colleagues.

As an examiner, your work is limited for the most part to: reading applications, searching for prior art, writing office actions, and responding to amendments. Once you are trained and up to speed, you could more or less hide in your office. No one will bother you so long as you get your work done and its of reasonable quality. The work flow is reasonably steady once you've been there for a year or so. It makes it that much easier to plan trips/vacations or play hooky for the day when the weather is nice (depending on how much leeway your supervisor gives you).

I haven't personally seen any data on this, but I have often heard that examiners actually make out better dollar/hour than patent attorneys. With all the hours attorneys have to put in (billable and non-billable), it wouldn't surprise me if this was true. In addition to the factors above, I think it boils down to whether you want greater control of your time/life versus higher total monetary compensation.

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Re: Patent Bar Eligibles, patent/IP attorney or Examiner?

Postby androstan » Thu Jul 14, 2011 2:59 pm

androstan wrote:I passed the patent bar yesterday. I am now accepting job offers. Employers send PM.


If I have not responded yet, please know that I am working through the backlog of PMs I have received. I am responding to offers in the order they are received and the backlog continues to grow. If you have sent an offer recently it may take a very long time and my window of acceptance may have closed. I appreciate your interest and I am sure your firm's impressive qualifications will result in many lucrative acceptances. Best of luck to you in your future employee search.

I am an equal opportunity employee. I do not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion, or creed.




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