After a two-year internship working for a licensed Israel Patent Attorney, a trainee patent attorney in Israel must take a written exam that tests patent drafting skills and an oral exam before a panel of three. The oral exam is supposed to test knowledge of IP Law.
The Exams are held twice a year and there is generally a high failure rate in the oral exam. Failing once or twice due to nerves or lack of preparation is reasonable, but there seems to be a large number of candidates that seem to keep failing.
For the past couple of years I’ve been getting a crop of thank-yous from successful candidates that have found this blog helpful in reviewing the case-law. I also hear complaints from unsuccessful candidates who feel the system is unfair.
A candidate who knows all the black letter law, the regulations, the Patent Office circulars, the major decisions and recent case-law for patents, plant-patents, trademarks, designs and copyright and who has a fair understanding of US, European and Far East patent law, should get through without any difficulty.
The problem is that hesitating or not knowing some fairly archaic or obscure regulation can result in failure. The system lacks transparency. Different candidates are asked different questions. Firms sending more than one candidate are sometimes surprised by who passes and who fails. As there is no record, there is no appeal.
Because of the close-knit nature of the profession, it frequently happens that a candidate has worked for one or other of the judging panel and a change in judges is required. Different judges will react differently. There appears to be some subjectivity in the procedure.
I note that in the US and in Europe, candidates sit written theory exams. With written exams, particularly short-answers or multiple choice type questions, candidates can be tested more thoroughly on more material. This is how attorneys-at-law are examined.
One could have clear requirements for passing, such as, say, 80% correct answers.
Such a system would be fairer and remove much of the complaints – whether justified or not – from candidates who feel hard done by.