Patent Agent Qualifying Examination — 2017 Report

October 2017


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 2017 Examining Board consisted of a Chair, four members from the Patent Office and twelve members of the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada (IPIC).  Members of the Examining Board are appointed for periods of up to three years.  The Chair of Examining Board is the Chair of the Patent Appeal Board at the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.

The Patent Appeal Board provides administrative and logistical support for the examination, which includes arranging examination venues and exam administrators for each location. It also ensures that candidates for the examination have submitted the information required by section 12 of the Patent Rules in the prescribed manner and it notifies candidates as to whether or not they have met the requirements for writing the examination. It communicates results to candidates and handles 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, a Joint Meeting was held in November 2016 between the Examining Board and the IPIC Patent Agent Examination Standards Committee (“Committee”) to discuss the administration of the 2016 Exam and discuss best practices for the administration of the 2017 Exam. The Committee reviews the development and administration of the Patent Agent Examination in order to assist the Examining Board in maintaining recognized standards for certification, including the security, practicality, fairness, scoring, reporting, technical analysis and documentation of the Exam. The Committee is assisted by an expert in measurement and evaluation of competence, Dr. Gary Cole. As in previous years, the Committee invited Dr. Cole to share his expertise in setting and marking examination papers at the Joint Meeting.

The Examining Board prepares the four examination papers along with four marking grids. 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. The Examining Board members evaluate the papers using a bilingual marking grid.

Overview of the 2017 examination

The 2017 qualifying examination was administered on April 25, 26, 27 and 28, 2017 in eleven locations across Canada, namely: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, London, Toronto, Gatineau/Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City and Moncton.

A total of 147 candidates wrote examination papers.  The total number of papers written was 370. 

Candidates were informed of their marks early July 2017.  Upon request, candidates received their examination material in August to determine whether to request a review of their marks.

The Examining Board considered requests for review from 12 candidates for Paper A, 2 candidates for Paper B, 3 candidates for Paper C and 11 candidates for Paper D.  None of these reviews resulted in an overall pass.  One partial pass for Paper C resulted from these reviews.

Of the 147 candidates who wrote examination papers, 26 candidates received an overall pass, 90 candidates received a partial pass and 31 candidates wrote at least one paper and did not achieve any pass. 

Only 129 candidates were writing all outstanding papers, and hence could achieve an overall pass of the examination. Considering the 26 candidates having received an overall pass, the global pass rate is therefore 20.2%.

Of the 26 candidates that received an overall pass, 2 of them wrote all 4 examination papers on their first attempt and succeeded. 77% of candidates achieved an overall pass after 5 attempts or less and 88% of candidates achieved an overall pass after 8 attempts or less.

Table 1 provides 2017 data for each paper. 

Table 2 and Figure 1 provide average marks for each paper since 2005.

Table 3 and Figure 2 provide overall pass rates and first try passing rates since 2005.

Table 4 and Figure 3 provide the number of attempts it took for candidates to achieve an overall pass in 2017.


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.

Suzie Beaulieu
Acting Chair, Examining Board

Table 1

Data according to each paper in 2017
  Paper A Paper B Paper C Paper D
# of papers 108 83 54 125
average mark 37% 48% 51% 45%
marks 60 + 8 21 15 9
50 to 59 11 20 14 49
40 to 49 14 18 16 30
under 40 75 24 9 36
highest 72.5% 76.5% 83% 65%
lowest 10% 8% 22% 4%

Figure 1 and Table 2—Average marks for each paper since 2005

Average marks for each paper since 2005
05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
Paper A 52% 52% 55% 53% 50% 44% 40% 38% 36% 45% 41% 42% 37%
Paper B 52% 49% 43% 51% 45% 41% 44% 42% 44% 45% 49% 54% 48%
Paper C 55% 55% 54% 49% 50% 61% 55% 48% 55% 57% 61% 64% 51%
Paper D 47% 38% 38% 51% 50% 47% 47% 49% 38% 45% 43% 39% 45%

Figure 2 and Table 3—Overall and First Try Pass Rates

Overall pass rates and first-try pass rates since 2005
05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
Overall 16% 12% 28% 17% 15% 13% 10% 7% 15% 25% 19% 12% 20%
First time 3% 2% 5% 4% 4% 2% 1% 1% 1% 2% 1% 3% 2%

Figure 3 and Table 4—Number of candidates achieving overall pass in 2017 by number of attempts (total number of candidates: 26)

Number of attempts to achieve overall pass in 2017
Number of attempts to achieve overall pass in 2017 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Number of candidates 2 9 2 6 1 1 1 1 0 2 0 1
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