1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Being a patent attorney as an immigrant in america

  1. Mar 1, 2015 #1
    Hi.. thanks for visiting.

    Im thinking of moving to america and becoming a patent attorney specifically in california.
    To introduce myself briefly, Im a 26 korean guy and majored in electronic engineering just as a bachelor in my own country. And working for Hyundai now.

    Now seriously thinking of going to a law school in america to get a qualification to become a patent attorney.
    But as i have no experience in america and even in that field... Im a bit hesitating of what to do or if there would be any
    bright blue print for my dream
    I hope if u can give me some informations which would help me a lot.... and i would really appreciate it.


    1. How is it for non-white people to fulfill their services as patent attorneys? As im non-white and even more non-citizen
    a bit worried if there would be any discrimination regard to citizenship or race....

    2. I have some expertise in mechanical knowledges and also electronic knowledges as my major.
    But still... looking back on myself... I quite feel deficient of myself to do some high level duties if im gonna become a
    patent attorney.....Is it needed for patent attorneys in america to also have a graduate degree in Engineering?

    3. Ive heard linguistic abilites r a bit important in patent field... I can speak natively in korean.. and fluently in japanese..
    and trying my best to make english my mother tongue as I have a dream to immigrate to america.... Is there any
    possibility if I can deal with asian clients with an assumption that I can get a certificate of patent attorney in california?
    Wanna know if linguistic ability is a big merit or not that big deal..

    I would be really apprecitated if anyone could give me a very precious information..
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 1, 2015 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    You could read up on becoming a Patent Agent and possibly take the exam to get certified provided you're allowed to by the US Govt. I had one friend at work do that without a law degree. He worked under the guidance of the Intellectual Property Law department at work filing patents and defending claims.

    There's a thread at PF that you can browse with more info:


    You can read about it here at the University of Notre Dame:


    There's other info around the web on it if you search Patent Attorney and Patent Agent.


    English speaking will become very important if you have to defend or prosecute a patent in court and have to stand before a jury or judge. English writing ability and technical expertise is important for the initial filing and answering patent examiner objections.
  4. Mar 3, 2015 #3
    Let me say, as one whose brother is an intellectual property law attorney (he got his start in patent law), you couldn't pay me enough to do that work. You have to have enormous respect for the law; you have to have a very strong stomach to watch injustices happen; and you have to realize that the law and the process we use to make it is inevitably and deeply flawed.

    Yes, it can be lucrative; but believe me, money isn't everything. When the day is over, you have to be able to live with what you've done to represent your clients. In a profession like this, where the laws are so arcane, arbitrary, and obtuse; you may well find yourself at odds with whatever moral compass you subscribe to.

    Of all the things you might do to emigrate to the US, this is not one of the fields I would choose, especially if you have been educated as a technocrat and as an engineer. Despite the fact that I believe the practice of law in the US is typically better in many ways than the practice of law in most countries, I still detest the process. Allow me to leave you with this quote from about 100 years ago that still rings true today:

    "Men substitute words for realities and then talk about the words." --Edwin Howard Armstrong (one of the early pioneers of radio technology, discussing the practice of law)
  5. Mar 3, 2015 #4

    Quantum Defect

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    I live in the US. My friend and his wife are from China. His wife (PhD biotech scientist) is currently working at the US Patent and Trademark Office. She does not have a law degree.

    My US-born friend (PhD in chemistry) went back to law school after finishing the PhD. He has worked as a patent attorney for a large law firm, and his last two positions have been with major multinational corporations.

    I believe that people with technical training are needed working in patent law. I know that the job prospects for law school graduates has been pretty bad, lately, but I suspect that this may not have been for people with technical backgrounds interested in patent law.

    Law school in the US is quite expensive. You might look for work in intellectual property without a law degree first to make sure that you enjoy the work before investing the money in obtaining a law degree. I think that @jedishrfu has a point about looking at becoming a Patent Agent (or similar) first. If you are coming to the US, working at a company in the IP department first might also give you a path to a green card -- you will not be able to work in the US without one of these, and it is easier to get if you have an employer sponsor you.

    As far as being of asian descent, this is not a big deal in most major metropolitan areas in the US. Certainly, not California. Knowing additional languages (especially Korean and Japanese) would likely be a plus for IP work in the US.
  6. Mar 6, 2015 #5


    User Avatar
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    Don't consider the Law option unless you love research into the unholy black void of bureaucracy. If you are fluent in English, you could become a patent agent with moderate study and pass this exam. However, if you are studying for an exam, you might look into the NCEES exams and apply for the PE in whichever state you end up living in.

    Another area that you might be able to find immediate employment is translating technical manuals if you want to exploit both your engineering and linguistic skills.

    Your background is probably very solid as is.
  7. Jul 3, 2015 #6
    Instead of your race which is ideal for the job you really should care about the engineering qualification, advanced materials, metrology engineering, chemical physics, solid-state physics, surface electronics, whatever.

    In Germany, a bachelor in engineering is not sufficient to start the German Patent Attorney and European Patent Attorney studies, more or less it's all very similar in the USA, at least the bachelor will be regarded as non-sufficient by the clients in the market. A good PhD makes each sense in this profession, it's highly valued by potential clients, a master degree is essential as decision makers in the patent area and inventors usually have higher university degrees themselves and don't want to talk to assistants but consultants.

    European Patent Attorney in Germany

    Of course practice can strike against graduation degrees but in this profession it's hard to sell. Design patents and utility models, trademarks demand less qualification in the natural sciences and patent engineering. Often Patent attorneys and Attorneys at Law cooperate, Patent attorneys are also design and trademark attorneys, but not all partners are even in patent law firms. It's a bit an elite type of profession, naturally, as most academic professions which demand a double qualification. "Simple" patent agents also can make a living but Patent Attorneys are very much better off. Translation is done by patent translation specialists who of cause also need technical understanding. They are paid by words, in three major cost and price ranges.
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2015
  8. Jul 8, 2015 #7

    Although I decided on going towards Physics potentially for a PhD, For a while, I highly considered going into patent law. The good news is that you have finished your engineering degree in a good field where patent lawyers are seemed sought after (Electrical Engineering). Also, there was a time when law school was extremely competitive to get into, still, the top law schools are tough to get into, but many of the lower ranked law schools are much easier. This is because law school applications are down in the U.S. currently due to an over saturated market of lawyers (there are too many lawyers graduating, and too less jobs - to my knowledge, this is not the case in patent law since not many graduating lawyers even have this option). Thus, I do not suspect that you will have a hard time getting into a law school within the U.S. The financing of law school will obviously depend on if you did well in your engineering degree, if you had a good GPA, you could very likely get a scholarship to at least some schools you apply to. This may be especially true for the lower ranked law schools.

    In the U.S.A, if you are qualified and hard-working, you will not be discriminated against. If you have an electrical engineering degree and finish law school, pass the bar exams and get a licensure to practice patent law, you should not expect to be discriminated against. Of course, there will be some outliers, but thus is life.

    During law school, if you're english isn't up to par, you will likely be put into intensive ESOL classes or other language improving programs. This is because it is impossible to become an effective lawyer without the ability to communicate, but you should not worry about that, your institution will hopefully help you develop this capability by the time you graduate; I have never seen any foreign students coming out of law school with an accent thus far, so they will help you fix your language - knowing Japanese and Korean will really kick in to help you, since there are may Technology companies within these two countries.

    All in all, although I don't know your credentials, it seems like you would do really well as a patent lawyer, and I encourage you to pursue it if that is really your calling. I didn't end up doing it myself just due to finding something else I had more of a passion for, but it's definitely hands down the most stable of law specialties currently. Additionally, if you came from a more respected Korean Engineering institution, law schools would definitely be impressed. If not, that is still okay, and I think you will do fine.

    I wish you the best in your future endeavors,
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook