Candidate Guide To Writing — The Canadian Patent Agent Examination

The Patent Agent Examination is a certification exam designed to assess the candidate's knowledge of the Patent Act, the Patent Rules, patent application drafting, case law and Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) practices. The exam is required in order to practice independently as a patent agent.

The examination tests candidates' analytical and problem solving skills as well as their skills in drafting and communicating with the Office and their client.

Candidates may write the examination in English or French. The examination will be provided in both Official Languages. Please note that the English and French versions of the examination may contain language differences because of the specialized subject matter.

Examination Content

The examination consists of four papers as follows:

  1. Paper A tests the candidate's ability to: (1) understand a client's disclosure, (2) analyse prior art relevant to the invention, (3) identify the point(s) of invention of the client's disclosure, and (4) prepare a patent application that is based on and reflects the analysis and conclusions made in items (1) to (3) and is focused on a point of invention both disclosed by the client and patentable over the prior art;
  2. Paper B tests the candidate's basic legal, analytical and knowledge competencies necessary to deal with validity issues respecting issued Canadian patents;
  3. Paper C tests the candidate's basic legal, analytical and knowledge competencies necessary to maintain and prosecute a patent application in Canada, with primary emphasis on Patent Office practice and responding to examiners' reports via formal correspondence with the Office (using appropriate form and content).
  4. Paper D tests the candidate's basic legal, analytical and knowledge competencies necessary to deal with claim infringement issues respecting issued Canadian patents.

Each examination paper may, in addition to the foregoing, include questions directed to basic skills of patent agency, important principles of patent law and practice, and practical problems encountered in actual practice, such as:

  1. reissuance and re-examination of a patent;
  2. unity of invention and divisional practice;
  3. final actions and review of rejected applications by the Commissioner;
  4. issues relating to requisitions and time limits;
  5. administrative procedures such as maintenance fees and national entry;
  6. ownership issues such as assignments, legal title and inventorship;
  7. deemed abandonment and reinstatement;
  8. the Patent Cooperation Treaty;
  9. international applications and international search and examination;
  10. foreign practice as it relates to advising a client about a Canadian application;
  11. complementary protection such as copyrights and industrial designs;
  12. general questions about the state of Canadian law and jurisprudence.

Papers B, C and D of the examination are presented in two parts: part A, which consists of "long answer questions" generally worth 70-80 marks and part B which consists of "short answer questions" generally worth 30-20 marks. Paper A may consist solely of long answer questions.

Candidates are encouraged to consult the specific writing guides for each paper, available on the website of the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada.

Identification of Candidates

Candidates may only identify themselves by their candidate number. The Examining Board follows rules of procedure to maintain strict secrecy as to the identity of all candidates. No member of the Board may, at any time, discuss the marks or standing obtained by a candidate with anyone other than a member of the Board.

Standards Required for Passing the Examination

100 marks are available for each paper. To pass the examination, a candidate must obtain a total of at least 240 marks (60%) and not less than 50 marks (50%) on each individual paper. A candidate who scores at least 60 marks (60%) on a given paper will retain those marks towards future attempts to pass the examination.


Marks will be provided for an answer (or a part of an answer) that:

Marks will NOT be given for:


The Patent Agent Examination is held at least once a year, in major centers across Canada.

About 5 months before the examination, the CIPO will announce the date of that year's Patent Agent examination and the deadline for applying to write the examination. The deadline to apply is within two months after the day on which the notice was published.

The examination is written over 4 consecutive days, with 1 paper of the exam written on each day. Candidates are allowed 4 hours for each paper. The papers are typically written from 9:00 to 13:00 hrs.

Note that candidates must provide their own pen with which to write the examination. Candidates may bring adhesive tape and scissors to cut and paste excerpts of the examination into the candidates' answers.


  1. At the beginning of each session, each candidate receives the examination paper, answer book(s) and an envelope, and is responsible for indicating the assigned candidate number on each of these. No other form of identification is permitted on any material submitted.
  2. At the conclusion of the four-hour examination session, it is the candidate's responsibility to insert the examination paper together with the answer book(s) into the envelope and to seal the envelope.
  3. The only aids permitted are the copies of the Patent Act and Patent Rules provided by CIPO and an unmarked dictionary (English or French or French/English).
  4. Cell phones, smart phones, and any device that allows for wireless communication or the retrieval of information from memory may not be used during the examination.

Failure to abide by the rules may result in a candidate being given a mark of zero (0).

Examination Results

Examination results are communicated to candidates about 3 months after the examination date.

Candidates are given a 2-week period within which to request their examination materials, and have one month from the date on which examination materials are sent to request a review of their marks.

Reviews are completed and the results are communicated to candidates about 2 months after the deadline to submit requests for review.

Top Four Tips When Taking the Exam

Allocate your time

The marks referred to throughout the paper are provided to show the relative weight attributed to each question. Allocate your time accordingly, to avoid running out of time. Recognize that writing extensively on questions that are worth few marks may prevent you from fully answering more substantive questions worth more marks.

Write efficiently

Salutations, signatures and other formalities of correspondence are not required in your answers; substance is important. Marks are awarded for analytical and problem solving skills, communication skills, drafting skills, prioritizing and judgment skills in addition to knowledge demonstrated in your answers. Answers given in point form are acceptable except where the question specifically asks you to draft or write your answer.

Read the questions carefully

Read the questions carefully and answer the questions as asked, based on the facts presented. In drafting the questions, the Examining Board attempts to ensure that all necessary information required to respond to the question is included in the fact situation as set out. Do not incorporate your own technical knowledge of the subject matter into your answers.

Write legibly

It is important to write as legibly as possible. If the Examining Board member is unable to read the response, it will not be marked.

Date modified: