Role of a Patent Practitioner: The new rules broadly define the meaning of "practice before the Office" to include patent preparation & prosecution, providing advice regarding patents vs. other protections, and handling petitions & appeals within the PTO. Proposed 37 CFR 11.5.
Missing from the enumerated roles are activities incident to the preparation and prosecution of patent applications. The notes accompanying the proposal spell out that these incidental roles "are no longer included in the definition" of PTO practice. The primary incidental activity is the drafting of assignments and licenses.
According to the proposal, "a registered patent agent is not authorized by his or her registration to practice before the Office to draw up a contract or to select contract forms for a client relating to a patent, such as an assignment or a license." The PTO is unsure whether merely 'causing an assignment to be executed' might be appropriate and asks for comment.
Attorneys Implicated As Well: As Russ Krajec pointed-out earlier [link], this reading of the rules would potentially impact patent attorneys as well since many represent a large number of out-of-state clients. (Are you practicing New York law when you advise your New York client about an assignment from its New York employee that will be interpreted under New York laws? Are you a licensed attorney in New York?)
Role of Foreign Drafters: "Nothing in this section proscribes a practitioner from employing non-practitioner assistants under the supervision of the practitioner to assist the practitioner in preparation of said presentations." According to the notes, allowed activities include patent drafting.
What is Missing: The new rules leave out (1) any CLE suggestions as well as (2) any thought of an ethical duty to ensure access to legal representation (i.e., pro bono). I'm not a fan of mandates, but the patent bar (both attorneys and agents) is lacking in both of these areas. (You should note that the rules package is fairly comprehensive and covers many other details of practice in addition to those mentioned above.)
I would like to hear comments on (1) how attorneys and agents deal with state-representation issues; (2) has the idea of a nationwide practice became the de facto rule; (3) are bar associations too compliant with this activity; (4) are there examples of attorneys being disciplined for out-of-court activities in states where they have no clients?
Notes & Docs:
- Any comments are due by May 29, 2007 and should be e-mailed to Harry Moatz: firstname.lastname@example.org. (Mr. Moatz is the director of the OED). The PTO wants to find a good solution here.
- For those of you with a memory, these proposed changes are a revision of the December 2003 proposal based on the 100+ comments received from the public.
- If you leave an anonymous comment, please use a fake email address -- otherwise we can see who you are. . .
- Comparison of Proposed Rules to Current Rules
- Read the New Rules (204 KB)