What is a Patent Examiner?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 January 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
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A patent examiner is someone who inspects patent applications to determine whether or not a patent should be granted for a product, idea, or concept. The three largest employers of patent examiners are the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the European Patent Office (EPO), and the Japan Patent Office (JPO). Patent examiners are usually government employees, which means that they are paid according to the rank they have achieved, and they have access to government benefits including health care, paid time off, and pensions or retirement accounts.

To become a patent examiner, someone usually needs to have a degree in the sciences, or substantial experience in the field. Most patents relate to scientific inventions, making a basic knowledge of the sciences critical just to be able to read patent applications. Patent examiners may also have legal training which allows them to evaluate the patent applications they examine on a legal basis. Patent examiners also receive extensive training from the organization they work for when they are hired.


When a patent examiner is presented with an application to evaluate, he or she reads through it to see if the application is complete and the invention is clearly described. The patent examiner also decides if the invention is truly unique, non-obvious, and inventive. He or she may need to reference previous records on patented items to determine whether or not similar or identical products have been patented, and knowledge in the field is also used to determine how valid a patent application is.

In the event that a patent examiner feels that a patent application meets the requirements of the patent office, he or she issues a patent. If the invention does not meet the requirements, it will be denied. The applicant may opt to appeal, presenting new information or arguments which are designed to reverse the decision. Appeals may involve additional patent examiners who will inspect the application as well.

Patent examiners often need to interact with patent attorneys, lawyers who specialize in filing and presenting patents. They also interact directly with the inventors of the items. Work in this field requires patience and the ability to ignore gibes, bad attitudes, and exhortations to work more quickly. A patent examiner may feel pressured by an attorney or a client to rush an application through or to overlook flaws in an application, but he or she must be able to override this pressure and evaluate the application fairly.



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