The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has proposed a significant change to the rules of practice in patent cases. This proposal seeks to create a separate design patent practitioner bar, a move that would fundamentally alter the landscape of patent practice in the United States.

Design Patent Practitioner Bar

Current Practice vs Proposed Changes

Presently, a single patent bar encompasses all who practice in patent matters before the USPTO, covering utility, plant, and design patents. The proposed change would lead to the formation of a distinct bar for design patent practitioners, allowing them to focus exclusively on design patent proceedings.

Key implications of this change include:

  • Those already registered to practice in patent matters, including design patent matters, will not be affected by the creation of a design patent practitioner bar.
  • The ability of applicants for registration who meet the current criteria, including qualifying for and passing the current registration exam, to practice in any patent matters before the Office will not be impacted.

Purpose of Proposed Change

The proposed change is intended to broaden the admission criteria of the patent bar, promoting wider participation and keeping up with the fast-evolving technology and related teachings that qualify someone to practice before the USPTO.

Public Consultation and Feedback

Prior to the proposal, the USPTO conducted a public consultation. The Office received a range of comments, both in support of and against the creation of a separate design patent practitioner bar.

Feedback from the consultation showed:

  • 13 out of 21 comments were in favor of creating a design patent practitioner bar.
  • 8 comments were opposed to the idea.
  • Those in favor argued that a separate bar would align the criteria for design patent practitioners with those of design patent examiners at the USPTO.

Supporters of the proposal believe it would:

  • Improve the quality of design patent practitioners and representation.
  • Enable more underrepresented groups to practice design patent law.
  • Assist more underrepresented inventors in acquiring patents.
  • Empower individuals with valuable knowledge of design to aid design patent prosecution.

New Requirements for Design Patent Practitioner

To qualify for the proposed design patent practitioner bar, an applicant would need to have an accredited bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree in:

  • Industrial design
  • Product design
  • Architecture
  • Applied arts
  • Graphic design
  • Fine/studio arts
  • Art teacher education
  • Or a degree equivalent to one of the listed degrees

Impact of the Proposed Changes

The proposed changes represent a significant development in the field of patent law.

They are expected to:

  • Have minimal economic impact on small entities.
  • Affect only individuals who apply for recognition to practice before the USPTO in design patent proceedings.
  • Not directly impact any small businesses or add costs beyond those that currently exist for applicants or members to the USPTO practitioner bar.

These changes would broaden the pool of applicants that can represent certain matters before the USPTO. Included in the proposed rule changes are amendments to the definitions of “Design patent practitioner”, “Practitioner”, and “Roster or register”.

In compliance with the E-Government Act, the USPTO is committed to promoting the use of the internet and other information technologies, to provide increased opportunities for citizen access to Government information and services. As these proposed changes represent a significant shift in patent law practice, it will be interesting to see their eventual impact on the field.

At Founders Legal, we are passionate about helping our clients protect their intellectual property. Our team of experienced attorneys understands the nuances of intellectual property law, including patents and trademarks, and can offer comprehensive protection for your business, regardless of where it is located. If you have any questions or would like a consultation, please contact us