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Patent work: The other side of invention

It’s a good idea to protect a good idea. Patent workers ensure that inventor’s inspirations are original—and safe from imitators.


In popular culture, the inventor is often portrayed as a lone tinkerer who emerges from a workshop with some magnificent new device. In reality, most inventions are the collaborative effort of scientists and engineers—usually researchers affiliated with a college or corporation—that result in the discovery, creation, or improvement of either products or processes.

But how do inventors know if their idea is original? And how do they preserve their right to a stake in its success? Answering those questions is at the core of what patent workers do. Patent examiners, agents, attorneys, and technology specialists help inventions advance from concept to conclusion while ensuring proper credit and compensation for the inventors.

This article describes the jobs of patent workers. The first section provides a brief overview of the patent system. The second section describes the work, wages, and training for each of the occupations. A final section suggests sources of additional information.

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U.S. Department of Labor
Bureau of Labor Statistics

Last Updated: December 10, 2009