Patent and trademark attorneys are lawyers, who must attend law school and pass the bar. Licensed patent agents, however, require only a bachelor's degree in a field of science or technology or to demonstrate knowledge of technology in other ways. Agents may only file and prosecute patents, and cannot handle legal cases that may arise from them.
Most patent attorneys also handle other intellectual property issues. Registered trademarks and copyright are the two other major areas. Patents protect inventions. Trademarks protect makes and models, although they are sometimes also used to protect other kinds of intellectual property. Copyright generally refers to written material, music, and art.
In addition to legal training, patent and trademark attorneys require a knowledge of technology. They need to understand how prior art works and have a basic grasp of principles so that they do not waste time with something that is not patentable. They need to understand the difference between utility and design patents. Due to the complexity and costs of the procedure, they may work a single case for some time. They may also become involved in corporate charters. Attorneys may also deal with legal battles that involve the infringement of patents or registered trademarks. Their primary duty is to protect the rights of their clients.
Attorneys may also be involved in searching a patent list or directory to ensure that a new invention neither falls under prior art nor infringes another patent. They also need to keep up with technology and the way it changes. It is likely, too, that as technology changes, so will patent and trademark law and the way it is enforced.