Patent Agent Qualifying Examination — 2014 Report

From: Canadian Intellectual Property Office

February, 2015


In accordance with section 13 of the Patent Rules, an Examining Board is established for the purpose of preparing, administering and marking the qualifying examination for patent agents in Canada.  In accordance with section 14 of the Patent Rules, these exams are administered at least once a year. 

The 2014 Examining Board consisted of a Chair, four members from the Patent Office, and twelve members of the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada.  Members of the Examining Board are appointed for periods of up to three years.  The Chair of the Examining Board is the Chair of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office's Patent Appeal Board.

The Patent Appeal Board provides administrative and logistical support for the examination, which includes arranging examination venues and exam administrators for each location, ensuring that candidates for the examination have submitted the information required by section 12 of the Patent Rules in the prescribed manner and notifying candidates as to whether or not they have met the requirements for writing the examination, communicating results to candidates, and handling accommodation requests. 

The qualifying examination is administered as four papers. 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 (60% overall average) on the four papers.  Candidates may write one or more papers in a given year, and the marks from a given paper on which a grade of 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 in respect of those papers whose marks can be carried forward.

The four papers are labelled A to D and cover: A - Patent Drafting; B - Validity of a Canadian Patent; C - Response to an Office Action; and D - Infringement of a Canadian Patent.

Preparation of the Examination

Prior to the preparation of the examination, the Examining Board participates in a coaching session provided by a consultant versed in best practices for the setting of professional accreditation exams.  Each of the four examination papers is prepared along with a marking grid, and these documents are translated to allow candidates to write the exams in their official language of choice.

The translated documents are reviewed to ensure accuracy, recognizing that linguistic differences may exist between the English and French versions due to the technical content and the specialized nature of the subject matter of each paper.  Any such differences are taken into account in the marking grid, and the Examining Board members evaluate the papers using a bilingual marking grid.

Overview of the 2014 examination

The 2014 qualifying examination was administered on April 8, 9, 10 and 11, 2014 in ten locations across Canada, namely: Calgary, Edmonton, Gatineau, Moncton, Montreal, Québec City, Saint-John's, Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria.

A total of 196 candidates wrote examination papers.  Of those candidates, 156 wrote Paper A, 141 wrote Paper B, 62 wrote Paper C, and 119 wrote Paper D.  The total number of papers written was 478.

Candidates were informed of their marks at the end of June.  Upon request, candidates received their examination material in September to determine whether to request a review of their marks.

The Examining Board considered requests for review from 34 candidates.  Three reviews resulted in partial passes, and one review resulted in an overall pass.                        

Of the 196 candidates who wrote examination papers, 40 candidates received an overall pass, 117 candidates received a partial pass, and 39 candidates failed all papers.

Only 160 candidates were writing all outstanding papers, and hence could achieve an overall pass of the examination.  The global pass rate is therefore 4%.  Annex A provides detailed results for each paper.

Comparative data covering annual average marks for each paper since 2004 is provided in Annex B.  Statistics are provided on pass rates, both overall and “first try”.  A breakdown of the number of attempts required by candidates who were successful in 2014 is also provided.  This data shows that in 2014 the largest percentage (by number of attempts) of successful candidates required 4 years to pass the examination, and that 80% of successful candidates passed the examination within 5 years.


I extend my thanks to all members of the Examining Board for their hard work and dedication in ensuring that the qualifying examination for patent agents continues to be administered fairly and impartially, thus providing the public with the assurance that patent agents are entered on the register only after having passed a rigorous process, and are well qualified to assist them in the protection of their intellectual property.

Jek-Hui Sim
Acting Chair, Examining Board

Annex A

Statistics by examination paper (2014)
  Paper A Paper B Paper C Paper D
# of papers 156 141 62 119
average mark 45% 47% 57.8% 41%
marks 60 + 36 22 32 6
50 to 59 24 39 11 26
40 to 49 39 48 11 34
under 40 57 32 8 53
highest 88.5 69 84 69
lowest 8.5 12 8 10

Annex B

Graph 1

Average Grades by Year
04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14
Paper A 52.30% 51.70% 54.98% 53.20% 49.50% 43.90% 40.40% 38.44% 35.90% 44.50% 45.00%
Paper B 51.60% 49.30% 42.62% 50.80% 45.00% 40.50% 43.50% 42.20% 43.50% 45.10% 47.00%
Paper C 54.70% 54.80% 53.90% 49.40% 50.00% 61.00% 54.80% 48.29% 55.40% 57.80% 57,00%
Paper D 46.60% 37.60% 38.04% 50.50% 50.10% 46.60% 47.10% 48.79% 38.10% 41.00% 45.10%

Graph 2

Overall and First Try Pass Rates
04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14
First time 9% 3% 2% 5% 4% 4% 2% 1% 0.5% 0.91% 1.88%
Overall 31% 16% 12% 28% 17% 15% 13% 10% 7% 15% 25%

Graph 3

Years Taken to Pass the Examination by Candidates Successful in 2014
1 2 3 4 5 >5
Percentage of Candidates 7.50% 17.50% 20.00% 22.50% 12.50% 20.00%
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