William F. Lang, IV
Sent: Tuesday, February 10, 2004 1:09 PM
T o. ethicsrules comments
S ubject: Comments on proposed Changes to Representation of Others Before the United States Patent and Trademark Office
Attached please find my comments on the above proposed rules.
(See attached file: j0778864.doc)
William F. Lang IV
Reg. No. 41,928
Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, LLC
600 Grant St., 44th Floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
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For the following reasons, I would urge the USPTO not to adopt the proposed Changes to Representation of Others Before the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
I. Section 11.8 ? Annual fee
In proposing a $100 annual fee, the USPTO commented that "the average salary of a practitioner is over $100,000, and an annual fee of less than one tenth of one percent of that amount will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of practitioners." This comment fails to take into account that a $100 fee could have a significant economic impact on those seeking registration as agents while attending law school, or those who are going through a period of unemployment.
During and shortly after law school, a typical graduate will spend $1,000 to $2,000 on bar review classes, $100?$700 on bar examination fees, $300?$1,000 on travel expenses to sit for the bar examination, and then $100 or more for admission to the state bar. This is for each state to which the graduate desires admission. Those desiring registration to practice before the USPTO either during law school or after graduation will typically pay another $2,000 for a patent exam review course, in addition to the fees for taking the patent exam. All of this comes at a time when the student or graduate has few sources of income beyond student loans or minimum wage jobs. The additional fee adds to an already tremendous burden.
Obviously, any practitioners who go through a period of unemployment would find the $100 fee to have a very substantial economic impact.
Even though the average annual salary of a practitioner is quite high, the educational debt that must be acquired to gain the ability to practice before the USPTO, and the subsequent need to repay such debt, can create a large difference between what one earns and what one actually has left over after the monthly payments are made. Furthermore, the salary for a practitioner at his first job, before gaining the experience necessary for the more lucrative jobs available, may be as low as $30,000 per year or less. The fee may therefore have a substantial impact on those in the first few years of practice.
This practitioner is already paying approximately $525 in annual fees to various state bars, and in one case is paying $125 per year for inactive status. While the fee may not appear to be substantial by itself, it becomes more substantial when viewed as part of the total fees imposed on practitioners.
For these reasons, I strongly urge the USPTO not to adopt this unnecessary and in some cases very burdensome additional fee.
II. Section 11.12 ? Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (CLE)
I urge the USPTO not to adopt a mandatory continuing legal education requirement for the following reasons.
This practitioner has experienced the continuing legal education requirements of four different states. The classes have mostly been a complete waste of time and money. This practitioner has observed attorneys sleeping or reading newspapers during CLE programs, and, after attending the program, found that he learned little more useful material than those who slept through the program. Most CLE programs benefit only the course provider. The few exceptions have been those identified by myself and my supervisor as addressing particular areas where more knowledge would be helpful, and have typically required travel and significant expense.
As the USPTO stated in its comments, "many of the complaints concern applications that were not filed or were filed improperly or should not have been filed in the first place . . ." It is difficult to see how continuing legal education will have the slightest effect on such actions. The USPTO further stated its concern about practitioners handling matters without proper preparation. However, the primary area of competence in prosecuting patent applications is technical. Unless the USPTO intends to offer supplemental engineering and science CLE classes, CLE fails to address this concern. In the absence of a relationship between the CLE classes and the stated problem to be addressed, CLE becomes nothing more than a feel?good measure designed to make people feel like they have addressed a problem without actually having addressed it.
It appears from the Federal Register that any CLE required by the USPTO will be in addition to the 12?15 annual CLE credits required by most states. While the estimated one to two hour burden may not appear significant by itself, it becomes more significant when viewed as another portion of the total CLE requirements imposed on practitioners.
I therefore urge the USPTO to avoid imposing this burdensome waste of time on patent practitioners.