Many don’t know there is a difference between a patent attorney and a registered patent agent.  In the US, a patent attorney is both a registered patent agent and an attorney at law.  It means that a patent attorney has both a degree in either science or engineering and a law degree, in most cases a Juris doctoral (JD) degree.  A registered patent agent usually has a degree in science or engineering, but not a law degree.  A registered patent agent is authorized to represent a client in matters such as patent application, but not in matters involving infringement or other legal issues.  However, because patent application and prosecution are closely related to infringement, a patent attorney is obviously a more preferred choice for all patent matters.  Many patent agents are hired by law firms.  There are both a plus and minus of this.  On one hand, being with a law firm means that a patent agent is at least nominally under supervision of a patent attorney in the same law firm.  On the other hand, because most patent prosecution work is done by an individual patent attorney or patent agent even if the applicant hires a large law firm, the applicant could be unwittingly thinking that he has hired a prestigious law firm while in fact all the work is done by a nonlawyer.

In some countries, such as China, there are really no “patent attorneys” in real sense but only registered patent agents.  Unfortunately, in such countries, registered patent agents are called, mistakenly, “patent attorney.”