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Director's Forum: A Blog from USPTO's Leadership

Thursday Oct 18, 2012

USPTO Harmonizes Professional Conduct Rules

Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos

Today I’d like to take up a topic that affects many of us, and one that is getting significant focus these days at the USPTO—our professional conduct rules. We are proposing to modernize our Code of Professional Responsibility for attorneys and agents. Admittedly, this move is overdue. The last substantial update was based on the ABA Model Code of Professional Responsibility. Since that time, decades ago, almost the entire country has moved to update their local bar rules to conform to the newer ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct.

In keeping with the mandates of the Leahy Smith America Invents Act of 2011, USPTO recognizes the concurrent need to follow nationally applicable standards of ethical and professional conduct. Additionally, our current proposal eliminates the annual practitioner maintenance fee.

Under our proposal, most ABA Model Rules provisions have been adopted wholesale or with minor revisions. By updating, streamlining, and conforming USPTO rules, the proposal harmonizes most practitioners’ professional responsibility obligations by aligning them with state bar requirements.

As an important consequence of adopting rules consistent with practitioners’ state bars, the USPTO will provide practitioners with uniform ethical obligations when practicing before the Office. Practitioners would no longer have to go back and forth between the old Model Code and the new Model Rules. Practitioners would also have the benefits of comments, annotations, case law and other resources to guide compliance. Moreover, the proposed rules, like the existing rules, largely serve to codify obligations that already apply to the practice of law under professional and fiduciary duties owed to clients.
 
A comparison chart of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct and the proposed USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct, along with information regarding future outreach, is located on the USPTO website.

We are eager to know what you think of the proposal. There is a 60-day comment period which closes on December 17, 2012. Comments should be sent by email to: ethicsrules.comments@uspto.gov. And while they won’t be entered into that record, you are also welcome to leave comments here on the blog.

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