By Dennis Crouch
In November 2012, I posted about the fact that a large number US Attorneys are actually listed as "patent agents" on the USPTO rolls rather than patent attorneys. While this issue is typically rather minor it does have a few implications. First, it creates an artificial disconnect between state attorney conduct regulators and the USPTO's Office of Enrollment and Discipline (OED). The professional status of Patent Agents is regulated only by the USPTO while the Patent Attorneys are regulated by both the USPTO and the relevant state of attorney registration. Second, the misidentification causes policymakers to over-estimate the number practicing patent agents. The combination of these two issues pushes the USPTO's OED to be more proactive and aggressive because it believes itself to be the sole regulator of so many patent law professionals. Finally, the misidentification creates some confusion in the marketplace – especially for innovators looking particularly to hire a patent agent because of their perceived lower cost and greater technological focus. See: Dennis Crouch, Are you a Patent Attorney Masquerading as a Patent Agent? at http://www.patentlyo.com/patent/2012/11/patent-attorney-agent-registration-status.html.
In the November post, I particularly called-out the Finnegan Henderson firm for having a large number of patent attorneys actually listed as patent agents in addition to well-known patent litigator Joe Re from Knobbe who was also listed as a patent agent. I just pulled-up the USPTO Roster again and found that Joe Re is now officially a patent attorney as are about 20 Finnegan attorneys who were previously listed as patent agents. In all, more than 200 attorneys have changed their status in the past two months. I suspect that there are at least 1,000 more individuals who are still misidentified on the rolls.