Before starting the preparation of Indian Patent Agent Examination (PAE) 2021, we need to understand the structure of the examination. The PAE consists of 3 papers as listed below:
Paper 1 – Objective (includes MCQs based on the Indian Patent Act)
Paper 2 – Subjective (includes scenario-based questions and patent drafting).
Paper 3– Viva
The criteria of passing the examination is to score at least 50% in each of the above exams and 60% as an aggregate (sum of all 3 exams scores).
An initial impression of this exam can be a bit daunting but it’s not difficult to clear if you can do a bit of focussed study. In fact, you can even study yourself with discipline and crack it. You need not have an impression that if you don’t join an expensive course, you cannot clear the exam. I suggest devoting a couple of hours daily for a month or so and you can have a good preparation in place. To ease the difficulty, I have outlined a strategy below that worked for me and can even work for you.
Resources required for patent agent exam preparation:
– Indian Patent Act, 1970 (as amended in 2005):
You can find it here or buy a book (any book that includes the ‘bare act’). Don’t be scared on opening the link/book; you don’t need to know the entire Act. Additionally, you would also need the first schedule (specifies all forms/fee related to this Act), which can be found here.
– Indian Patent Rules, 2003 (as amended in 2019):
You can find the rules here or read from the book that you purchase. However, you need to ensure that whichever copy you read, it includes all the amendments to rules made till 2019, which is the most recent amendment to rules. If at the time of reading the article, another amendment has been made, please refer to that amendment.
– Previous years Exam papers:
You can find them here.
Word of caution – While strategising, do not plan to read all sections first and then all rules! Instead, read sections and rules in parallel and you will relate them with each other very easily. Keep reading blogs and watch videos as you read the Act, for better understanding (this an optional step though). However, the main focus should be on the language of the Act. It’s not necessary to learn the exact language ‘as is’ but it’s important to get the interpretation right.
How to prepare for paper 1 and paper 2’s scenario-based questions:
You can use the following step-wise approach for the preparation:
For a beginner, I feel the most convenient start to the Act is the first schedule (see link above). It’s basically a list of all forms and fee required for different activities in the patent life-cycle. Once you understand this, it provides a good leverage to learn the remaining Act.
Try to read the entire first schedule and learn all forms and fees. There are some techniques I followed for doing this.
First let’s look at the columns. There are 2 broad columns in this schedule- e-filing and physical filing. Note that the physical filing fee is around 10% higher for an entity compared to the e- filing fee. Remember this and learn only the e-filing fee.
Now let’s look at the e-filing fee column. There are 3 sub-columns – natural person (individual inventor), small entity and other entities (e.g. large entities). Remember that for any activity, if the fee for a natural person is X, the fee for small entity is 2.5X and the fee for other entity is 5X. Remember this ratio and just learn the fee for a natural person (since you can reproduce fee for other entities!). With the above 2 formulas, even if you know the e-filing fee only for a natural person, you can now reproduce all the other columns without even learning them.
Let’s now look at the forms. An easy way to learn this is to group them by the fee required for them. For example, first study all forms that do not require a fee, then study the forms that require a fee of Rs. 800, then study all forms requiring a fee of Rs. 1600, 2000, 2400 and so on.
Once you have done this, there will be few entries that won’t be grouped because the fee would not be different for all of them; just group them all together and learn them.
By now, you would know various forms/fee required for several different activities/scenarios such as filing, examination, publication, restoration, grant and so on. Since you can relate the activities with forms, let’s proceed to step 2.
Look at all sections and subsections mentioned in the first schedule and read them. Also, read the related rules and interpret them with the sections simultaneously. Sections define the law around a particular activity. However, rules define how the procedures need to be implemented to follow the law. It’s not necessary that every section corresponds to a specific rule but generally, there are mappings between the sections and rules that you need to draw as you read both (first schedule provides good assistance in drawing this mapping to some extent).
Once you have done this, you would be decently aware of patent office processes, forms and fee and related sections/rules. I would strongly recommend giving it a thorough revision to have a strong hold on all sections, rules, forms, fee related to at least the first schedule.
Treat this step as a more advanced stage. Try to extend your learning coverage now. Look at the list of chapters in the Act and try to cover topics that are related to the topics you already know. For example, you already know section 25 on opposition by now because you read about form 7/7a in the first schedule. Try to explore section 64 now on revocation of a patent. You may notice that some of the grounds for revocation are similar to the grounds of opposition and are thus, easier to grasp. Find similarities between such sections and keep extending your learning. Try to ensure that you know the major sections of at least all chapters mentioned on the index page of the Act.
Once you have a good hold on different concepts, you will start relating them to each other. Keep building tables, shortcuts, mappings to retain the concepts that you have learned.
Get hold of previous years questions papers and try to solve one paper at a time – don’t worry about doing it within the time limit at first. Get the accuracy first. Once you start getting accurate, the speed will follow. Another advantage of this exercise is you will learn how to apply all the legal jargon you learnt previously, to real-life scenarios.
Keep getting better at what you do by solving papers and going back again to the Act to improve your concepts. Remember if you know the Act well, paper 1, paper 2’s scenario-based questions and viva can be cracked without much difficulty.
Now that you are well-versed with the legal part of the exam, let’s look at patent drafting. In my experience, the inventions that come in the exam are simple inventions that relate to mostly in mechanical or Pharma category. It’s rare that the invention is technologically complex. However, there is no defined rule regarding this any invention can be included in the exam.
If you don’t already know patent drafting, you can practice it using the previous year’s question papers. You need to ensure that every draft you write should in the format of form 2 as specified in the Act. This means that the first page should be form 2 with relevant details and the draft should follow from the next page by including various sections in the draft. I also suggest thoroughly understanding section 10 and rule 13 and reproduce all applicable points in the draft and drawings.
For brevity, I am not including the details of how to draft in this article but if you are entirely new to drafting, you may want to read my drafting-based articles here and here just to understand basic principles of drafting. However, I could recommend that for PAE, you practice drafting strictly as per Indian Patent Act and refer these articles only to understand what drafting is.
One word of caution – In the exam, do not keep pondering on how broad or narrow the claim should be. Just keep a reasonable claim breadth that captures the inventive concept and proceed to adding dependent claims.
Assuming you have cleared both paper 1 and paper 2, you are now eligible for viva. Generally viva happens after the results are announced and you may notice a period of 1-2 months between the written exam and viva. This also means that a good portion of what you read will be forgotten or blurry.
This is where your notes/shortcuts etc. you created earlier will come handy. Revise the concepts thoroughly at least a week or two, before viva. Read the costs, forms, concepts thoroughly. Also, ensure that you have a good hold on the real-life scenarios as well. If you have clarity of your concepts, viva is easier to crack as compared to the paper 1 and paper 2. However, there are some more factors you need to take care of apart from knowing the Act.
Further, prepare a suitable answer to the question ‘why do you want to become a patent agent’? The reasons can be many – e.g. ‘I want to freelance’, ‘I want to join a law firm’, ‘I want to open my firm to help inventors’ and so on but it should be an honest reason to answer any cross-questioning that comes your way.
Another suggestion is not to unnecessarily engage in debate with the interviewer. If you are unsure about something, just admit and say that I need to confirm this concept again. If you strongly fee you are correct, back it up with sections/rules or facts. However, ensure that you do not come off as arrogant in the viva. Stay humble and give all answers politely.
All the best for the exam!
Please do post your suggestions or feedback and share the above thoughts with anyone who can benefit from them.
Disclaimer: The above article merely provides suggestions to write the PAE. The author does not take any responsibility on the outcome of the exam based on the above suggestions.