The Department of Commerce's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is proposing several reforms to help assure competency in legal practice before the agency. The major change requires mandatory periodic continuing education for everyone registered to practice before the agency. USPTO rules already require that attorneys and agents pass an initial examination before registering to practice. The proposal will give practitioners the choice of getting recertified through an interactive on-line examination on USPTO's website or as part of a USPTO pre-approved private course taken to satisfy a state bar continuing legal education requirement.
"Quality plays a central role in all elements of the USPTO's 21st Century Strategic Plan," noted USPTO Director James E. Rogan. "Practitioners well-versed in USPTO's rules and patent law tend to file better quality patent applications than those who aren't. Higher quality applications result in higher quality patents because examiners can focus on core examination issues such as determining if the invention is novel, rather than on paperwork the applicant failed to file."
Other proposed changes include new rules related to practitioners who file patent applications with frivolous inventions, more explicit moral character standards for registration to practice, and new fees to recover the costs of registration and discipline. Also, the current disciplinary rules would be modified and based on the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which are followed in more than 40 states, rather than on the ABA Model Code of Professional Conduct, which is presently used by the USPTO. The ABA model rules would be adapted to cover specific issues related to USPTO practice.
The USPTO welcomes public comments on all the proposed rule changes by February 10, 2004. Additional information can be found at: http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/com/sol/notices/68fr69442.pdf.
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