Where Have All the Patent Lawyers Gone? Long Time Passing...
22 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2015
Date Written: 2014
This article examines two distinct, but related hypotheses. First, as the total LSAT takers decline, we expected to see a decline in the number of new attorneys admitted to the patent bar. Second, as the number of new patent attorneys continues to shrink and the number of women pursuing engineering degrees continues to grow, we expected that the patent bar will become more female. In order to test these hypotheses, we gathered and analyzed data from the Law School Admission Counsel (LSAC) regarding students taking the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), and the American Bar Association (ABA).
Using this aggregation of publicly available data, we extrapolated some disturbing trends that have never been seen before. The data establishes that the first hypothesis is true, but that the second one is false. That is, the number of new entrants to the patent bar will drop precipitously. By 2018, new entrants will number one half of what they were in 2008. However, the number of female patent attorneys compared to the number of male patent attorneys will not change in this same time period. That is, even though the patent bar will shrink, the patent bar will not become more female as the ratio of men to women will not change. Women will continue to make up about 30% of the patent bar.
Therefore, this article indicates that policy makers need to respond to the impending severe shortage of patent attorneys. Further data is provided to show that while intellectual property grew at a very rapid pace in the last two decades, we are now seeing a remarkable decline in interest by students. This fact should again reshape the law school landscape as it responds to market realities.
Considering interest in patent law by prospective students, we are clearly entering a time of a “burst bubble.” This will ultimately lead to a severe shortage of people to do the very work that the America Invents Act encourages. It will lead to more expensive patenting, and it will chill the ability of Americans’ ability to compete internationally.
Keywords: Patent Law, Patent Lawyers, Patent Bar
JEL Classification: O30, O31, O34, O38
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation