June 6, 2004
By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mail Stop OED-Ethics Rules
P.O. Box 1450
Alexandria, VA 22313
Attn: Harry Moatz
Regarding proposed new Rules for Representation of Others Before the USPTO published in the Federal Register on December 12, 2003:
35 U.S.C. § 32, Suspension or Exclusion From Practice reads as follows:
The Director may, after notice and opportunity for a hearing, suspend or exclude, either generally or in any particular case, from further practice before the Patent and Trademark Office, any person, agent, or attorney shown to be incompetent or disreputable, or guilty of gross misconduct ..The Director shall have the discretion to designate any attorney who is an officer or employee of the United States Patent and Trademark Office to conduct the hearing required by this section.
Proposed Section 11.19, Disciplinary Jurisdiction, Section (c) Misconduct—grounds for discipline. (1) Practitioners, reads as follows:
Acts or omissions by a practitioner.constituting gross misconductshall constitute misconduct and shall be grounds for discipline Grounds for discipline include:
(ii) Conviction of a crime (see §§ 11.24,
11.803(d) and 11.804(b));
(iii) Discipline imposed by another jurisdiction (see §§ 11.24, 11.803(e)(1) and (f)(4));
35 U.S.C. § 32 requires that the practitioner to be disciplined be guilty of gross misconduct, which means that the practioner must have committed whatever conduct the practitioner is to be found guilty of. Conviction of a crim, or Discipline imposed in another jurisdiction is not conduct of a practitioner, but is conduct of another. Only the conduct of the practitioner resulting in the conviction or discipline can reasonably be considered conduct of the practitioner. While a conviction or discipline may be a result of acts of misconduct of the practitioner, and may be evidence, perhaps even conclusive evidence, of misconduct, they are not, per se, “conduct of a practitioner”.
Therefore, these Sections should recite what is currently inherent therein, namely the phrase “Conduct which results in” before the term “Conviction” or “Discipline”, respectively. Otherwise, they would be inconsistent with the intent of the regulation, and of the statute which gives authority for the regulation.
Section 11.24 Interim Suspension and Discipline based on
Reciprocal Discipline should be deleted in its entirety since
it would be in violation of 35 U.S.C. § 32.
Section 11.24 (b) recites as follows:
Notice to Show Cause and Interim Suspension. (1) Following receipt of a certified copy of the record, the USPTO Director shall enter an order suspending the practitioner from practice before the Office and afford the practitioner an opportunity to show cause, within 40 days, why an order for identical disciplinary action should not be entered.
Such suspension is in direct contravention of 35 U.S.C. § 32 that allows suspension only after a hearing before a Hearing Officer.
Section 11.24 also raises the likelihood of unequal treatment of attorneys in different jurisdictions, as well as between registered practitioners attorneys and agents, to wit:
1. An agent, not being a member of a Bar, cannot be disbarred or suspended. An attorney can be suspended or disbarred. If the misconduct occurred more than five years before the USPTO brings a Complaint, the agent cannot be accused of misconduct by OED since the five-year statute of limitation period within which formal action must be taken to discipline a practitioner has expired. See Johnson v. SEC, 87 F.3d, 484 (D.C.Cir. 1996); 3M Company v. Browner, 17 F.3d 1453 (D.C. Cir. 1994).
However, if the language in Section 11.19 is not corrected as suggested above, and the USPTO considers the bar suspension or disbarment to be the misconduct of the attorney which starts the five-year statute of limitations anew, the attorney would be able to be disciplined by OED, while jurisdiction could not be had over the agent.
Such a result would also be contrary to the fundamental
premise underlying the statute of limitations as enunciated
by the court in the 3M v. Browner decision -- that it is
inappropriate for a government regulator to wield such an
open-ended penalty, and that the purpose of the statute of
limitation is to impose on the initiator of the action the
obligation to take the action within a sufficiently short
time to afford the respondent of that action reasonable
opportunity to defend his conduct before memories fade,
witnesses disappear and evidence lost.
2. An attorney may be disciplined in one State for certain conduct not deemed subject to discipline by another State. By making the suspension or disbarment the criteria justifying identical reciprocal action by the USPTO, without allowing a Hearing Officer to make a decision based on the nature of the conduct, the Section subjects the process to a charge of being arbitrary and capricious.
Attorney at Law
9250 Butte Falls Highway
Eagle Point OR, 97524
Patent Registry # 27030