The United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) is amending the rules of practice in patent cases by creating a separate space for individuals with educational backgrounds in design-related disciplines to qualify to practice before the USPTO in the limited capacity of design patent application proceedings. This new rule does not impact those already registered to practice any patent matters before the USPTO. The USPTO, with this rule amendment, will now recognize applicants to the design patent bar that have degrees in any of 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. This list of educational backgrounds matches those sought out by the USPTO to fill out the ranks of the design patent examination corps.

Importantly, applicants with design backgrounds attempting to qualify as design patent agents will be required to pass the same qualification exam as potential patent agents from more traditional science backgrounds, such as physics, chemistry, or engineering. Further, once qualified, the USPTO will require these limited-recognition practitioners to indicate their status by placing the word “design” adjacent to their signature and adjacent to the last forward slash of their S-signature, and they will need to distinguish themselves from full-qualified patent agents/attorneys by using “Design Patent Attorney/Design Patent Agent” titles.

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