A patent attorney is different from other attorneys, because more education and specialized knowledge typically are needed for the position, but the factors that affect a patent attorney salary are about the same as for any other attorney's salary. The number of years a patent attorney has be practicing law usually will affect the attorney’s salary. Another factor that affects patent attorney salary is where the attorney works. It also makes a difference if the attorney owns his own firm or is in high standing within the firm for which he works. Supplemental knowledge, such as higher science degrees, also may affect salary.
One of the common factors that affect patent attorney salary is experience. While this can be affected by the other factors, an attorney that has practiced law longer typically will make more money than an attorney with less experience. If the attorney has a particularly unsuccessful year, perhaps because of a lack of cases or as a result of losing several cases, then he may not get a raise. If the attorney is at least moderately successful, then he usually will get a salary increase.
Many businesses hire patent attorneys, and this also can affect patent attorney salary. Patent offices generally tend to pay less than firms, and individual companies pay about the same or more than firms. These companies typically are manufacturing plants, software and hardware producers or laboratories, and they typically file for several patents throughout the year.
Another factor similar to where a patent attorney works is his standing. If the patent attorney owns a firm, then he often will make substantially more than attorneys on lower rungs of a firm. High-standing positions, such as being a senior attorney or partner, also can affect patent attorney salary. This factor also tends to affect responsibility, because attorneys that are paid more often are responsible for higher-profile cases.
Most attorneys just need a degree in law and the ability to pass certain tests to practice law, but a patent attorney needs more. Most patents concern engineering and science, so the attorney often will need at least a four-year degree in one a related field before becoming a patent attorney. If the attorney has a higher degree, this typically can increase the patent attorney’s salary. At the same time, some firms and companies require a higher degree just to get a foot in the door, so this may not be a salary booster so much as it is a salary basic.