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Candidate Guide to Writing the Patent Agent Qualifying Examination

From: Canadian Intellectual Property Office

CIPO to remove page once College comes into force − Generic

Please note that this page will no longer be available as of the coming-into-force day of the College of Patent Agents and Trademark Agents (the College) and will be removed from the Canadian Intellectual Property Office website.

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

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 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:

  • A candidate writing all four papers in a single year, with marks of: 58, 52, 77 and 54, for a total of 241, would receive an overall pass.
  • A candidate writing all four papers in a single year, with marks of: 48, 62, 77 and 54, for a total of 241, would not pass because the score of one paper is less than 50. However, a candidate would retain their scores of 62 and 77 for the subsequent years.
  • A candidate writing all four papers in a single year, with marks of: 50, 54, 67 and 52, for a total of 223, would not pass. However, a candidate would retain the score of 67 for the subsequent years.
  • A candidate with a score of 75 on a paper in 2016 decides to rewrite the same paper in 2017 and obtains 67. The score of 67 will then be retained as it is the most recent.


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

  • clearly identifies the question being answered, by number;
  • is written legibly, in ink, double-spaced within the indicated margins in the answer book (for written matter);
  • has been incorporated from the examination itself in a manner that allows its relationship to the remainder of the answer to be clearly understood, and affixed within the indicated margins in the answer book using adhesive tape (for material from the examination); and
  • is provided on the right-hand pages of the booklet only (for all material).

Marks will not be given for:

  • anything written or affixed on a left-hand page of the answer book or on the examination itself; and
  • anything that cannot be deciphered with a reasonable degree of certainty.


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

About 7 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 blue or black permanent ink pen with which to write the examination. Candidates may bring adhesive tape, glue and scissors to cut and paste excerpts of the examination into the candidates' answers. Candidates must bring a hard copy of their invitation to write the exam with them each time they write a paper. When the candidates have completed the last paper they are writing, they must submit a signed copy of the invitation to the invigilator. If the candidates do not have a hard copy of the invitation with them, they will not be allowed to write the paper. Furthermore, the candidates must bring one piece of identification with photo or two identification pieces without photo.


  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, smart watches 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 2 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.

Reviews are completed and the results are communicated to candidates about 1 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. 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.

Write legibly

It is important to write as legibly as possible, double-spaced on the right-hand pages of the answer book. If the Examining Board member is unable to read the response, it will not be marked. Furthermore, marks will not be given for anything written on the left hand pages of the answer book, or on the examination itself (unless pages from the examination itself are incorporated in the answer book).

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