In 2020, we admitted 120 candidates to the patent attorney training; 37 fewer than in 2019. However, the number of examinees was more than ten per cent higher than in the previous year. Out of 163 examinees, 155 successfully passed the German qualifying examination in 2020. As in the previous year, the pass rate was 95.1%.
In 2020, we faced major challenges in organising and conducting the patent attorney training and qualifying examination due to the coronavirus pandemic. With a minimum of 26 months to a maximum duration of three years, the first and longest training phase for candidates that have been admitted to patent attorney training by the DPMA takes place in a patent law firm or in the patent department of a company. The candidates spend the following second and third training phases at the DPMA (two months) and at the Federal Patent Court (Bundespatentgericht) (six months). This training phase, known as the “office year”, begins every year in February, June or October and is intended to give future patent attorneys an insight into the working methods of the DPMA and the Federal Patent Court. During that time, the candidates come to Munich from all over Germany. The candidates are supervised by an examiner and a judge as instructor in the second and third training phase, respectively. Numerous teaching and information events take place in parallel to the practical training. That is why the coronavirus pandemic posed great challenges to us. For how should we manage to organise the training in the “office year”, which had hitherto been held and attended exclusively in person? Within a very short time, solutions had to be found and options created to be able to deliver the courses and information sessions digitally. Creativity was required from the examiners providing training at the DPMA in order to give the greatest possible insight into their work despite numerous restrictions and to be able to continue to deliver the training. Thanks to the great commitment and flexibility of our colleagues at the DPMA, we have managed to achieve this goal. Since June 2020, we have held almost all events within the scope of patent attorney training as video conferences. Even though the limits of the means of digital communication became apparent, all candidates were able to successfully complete their training phases at the DPMA in 2020 despite the exceptional circumstances.
At the end of their training, the candidates take their qualifying examination. It takes place three times a year. The written examinations are held at the beginning of February, June and October. For the written examination, candidates have to sit four written tests. If a candidate passes the written examination, the oral examination follows a few weeks later. Candidates are examined in groups during the oral examination that is conducted by an examination board consisting of the chairperson and four other members of the examination board. Whereas it was still possible to hold the written examination in February 2020 without being affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the oral examination scheduled for the end of March had to be deferred and took place in June. Until that date, hygiene measures had to be developed and a large number of questions had to be clarified in close coordination with the emergency response team set up at the DPMA because of the coronavirus pandemic. Rooms had to be measured and the maximum number of examinees allowed had to be determined so that it was possible to comply with the applicable physical distancing requirements. Finally, all further 2020 examinations took place as planned under strict hygiene conditions.
Since 1 April 2020, Ms Ingrid Kopacek, judge at the Federal Patent Court, has chaired the examination board for patent attorneys. She succeeds Ms Elisabeth Klante, former presiding judge at the Federal Patent Court, who stepped down as chairperson of the examination board for patent attorneys on 31 March 2020, after going into retirement.