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Candidate Guide to Writing the Patent Agent Qualifying Examination

From: Canadian Intellectual Property Office

The Patent Agent Qualifying 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 examination 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.

The examination will be provided in both Official Languages. Candidates may write the examination in English or French. 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.

Preparing for the Examination

IPIC offers several opportunities to prepare for the examination (courses, tutorials, webinars). Please communicate with IPIC for information:

Visit IPIC's website:

Candidates may wish to review previous years' exams, which are available via the CIPO web site: Archived Exams

The Resources column on in the Patent section of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office website offers numerous helpful resources.

Registration for the Examination

The Patent Agent Qualifying Examination is administered by CIPO and held at least once a year.

CIPO announces the date of the examination about six months prior to the exam and provides a two-month period for candidates to submit applications to write the examination.

Please consult the CIPO website to learn about the pre-requisites and to register: Become a Registered Patent Agent


The examination is written over four consecutive days, with one (1) paper of the exam written on each day. Candidates are allowed four (4) hours for each paper. The papers are written from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

The examination will be sent via e-mail. Additional information will be provided directly to candidates by e-mail. It is important that the candidates monitor regularly their e-mail box and read their e-mails carefully.

It is the candidate's responsibility to have access to a reliable internet connection and to a computer in good working order with:

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.


Marks will be awarded for an answer (or a part of an answer) that clearly identifies the question being answered, by number.

Standards Required for Passing the Examination

To be eligible for inclusion on the register of patent agents, a candidate must obtain at least 50 marks (50%) on each paper and have a total of 240 marks on the 4 papers. 100 marks are available for each paper. Candidates may write 1 or more papers in a given year and the marks from a given paper on which a grade of 60 marks (60%) or more was achieved will carry forward to future attempts to pass the examination. A candidate who is entitled to carry forward marks is said to have achieved a "partial pass" of the examination.

If a candidate writes again a paper on which he/she scored at least 60 marks (60%) in a previous year, he/she will keep the marks of the most recent paper.

For example:

Examination Results

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

Candidates are given a three-week period from the date that appears on the result letters to request their examination materials (examination, answer book, marking guide, and marking sheet), and have one month from the date on which examination materials are sent to request a review of their marks.

The results of the review are communicated to candidates about one month after the deadline to submit requests for review.

Top Three Tips When Taking the Examination

Allocate your time

The marks referred to throughout the papers 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. Statements of authorities or pertinent law (which may include case law and statutory and regulatory provisions) and analysis are required to address each issue adequately unless the question expressly states that it is not necessary.

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