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Patent Bar Requirements: Online Major-Level Physics Courses?

  1. Sep 22, 2014 #1
    Hello, everyone!

    I just finished law school and am awaiting for hopefully favorable bar results so that I can start practicing law of the intellectual property sort. I have been clerking at an intellectual property law firm that specializes in patent prosecution and litigation. For those unaware, in order to be a patent prosecutor, i.e. someone qualified to write and file patents, you must pass the USPTO's patent bar. You don't have to be a lawyer to do it, but you have to have an academic background in science before you can qualify. The law firm I have been working for will only hire patent prosecutors, meaning that to be brought on full time, I would need to qualify for and pass the patent bar.

    The academic requirements are, in part and paraphrased, as follows:
    • Category A applicants possess a bachelor’s degree in one of thirty-two scientific or technical subjects, including biology, chemistry, physics, and most engineering disciplines. Notably, a master’s degree in one of these subjects is not by itself considered sufficient training. (Part III.A)
    • Category B (option 1) applicants have successfully completed one of the following: (1) 24 semester hours in physics; (2) 30 semester hours in chemistry; (3) 32 semester hours comprising 8 hours of physics or chemistry and 24 hours of biology; or (4) 40 semester hours comprising 8 hours of physics or chemistry and 32 hours of some combination of biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, or, in some cases, computer science. For a course to qualify under this option, you must have received a grade of C- or better in the course and it must be applicable towards a science degree—“physics for poets” won’t do. (Part III.B.i–xi)
    This presents a bit of a problem for me, as I hold two undergraduate degrees in English Literature and Business Administration, not science or engineering. While I have significantly more than a layman's understanding of certain scientific and engineering fields and certainly enough knowledge to continue working in patent prosecution, I lack any type of formalized training that the USPTO would recognize for purposes of the patent bar. As it stands, I have 8/24 hours of major-level physics completed (category B-1), but I would need to spend two years of full-time academic work to get those last 16 hours thanks to a never-ending chain of course prerequisites, and I simply don't have two more years to take off of work, without an income, just to stay working where I am now.

    Are there any accredited online physics courses for degree-seeking students that I could take to satisfy the patent bar requirements for 16 more hours of degree-level physics?

    Before you snarl in rage, I know " online physics courses" is a dirty term and an affront to the physics community at large. I don't need a degree to contribute academically to the field, though; I just need a check-box complete so that I can sit for the patent bar. It doesn't have to be particularly good or well-respected, so long as it's an accredited physics program. Nor do I care if the courses are cohesive -- this is simply, and unfortunately, a means to an end. While I'd love to pursue a full degree and the vast repositories of knowledge that come with it, it just doesn't make sense given my goals. Maybe one day I can go back and get a full degree after the fact, but for now I just need a quick and dirty shortcut.

    Google and an old thread here from 2011 pointed me in the direction of Open University in the U.K., but thus far no one domestic or abroad has been able to confirm if courses taken there would actually count under the USPTO rubric.

    Does anyone out there have experience or advice that might help? Will Open University credits count? Or are there other U.S.-based online physics degrees out there at which I should be looking?

    Thank you in advance for any help or insight you can provide!
  2. jcsd
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