Sent: Sunday, December 14, 2003 7:49 PM
To: ethicsrules comments
The Federal Register of December 12, 2003 contains a notice of proposed rulemaking entitled "Changes to Representation of Others Before the United States Patent and Trademark Office".
The CLE software
The Notice proposes to impose a continuing?legal?education (CLE) burden upon practitioners:
>To assure the public that licensed practitioners maintain their competence >and proficiency, the Office proposes to deliver required education >materials via the Internet and otherwise to practitioners and to certify >their scrutiny of those materials through an interactive >computer?delivered examination.
The Office has had many Internet?related and e?commerce initiatives that impose burdens upon patent practitioners, and these initiatives have varied widely in user?friendliness. A few of the Office initiatives have required, for example, that the user install special software, and in some cases the software has not worked as documented. Many of the Office initiatives require that the user purchase and install a particular operating system and some require that the user purchase and install a particular proprietary word processor. Some of the Office's web?based initiatives work only if the user is employing a particular web browser that is the same as the web browser used by the web designer. The best way to design user?friendly software for interactive training is to design the software so that it will work with any browser and without requiring installation of any special software or browser plug?ins.
It is thus urged in the strongest possible terms that the Office ensure, through specific language in this rulemaking, that the CLE Internet system be designed so as not to require any particular operating system or browser, and be designed so that no special software or plug?ins be required.
Practitioners will need to be able to check at any time to see whether the Office has given them CLE credit for education materials and examinations. The Office should make the CLE status of each practitioner readily available by means of a web site, so that practitioners will not need to guess or wonder whether they have been given credit. In particular, the Office should provide a page, addressed by customer number, that will list all the practitioners associated with the customer number and the CLE status of each practitioner.
The practitioner tax
The Notice proposes to tax all patent practitioners, apparently amounting to some $2 million of taxes annually. The justification offered in the Notice for such a tax is that "in the past, the fees paid by applicants and patentees have supported the costs" of the Office of Enrollment and Discipline. The Notice proposes that "[b]y adopting an annual fee to be paid by registered practitioners, the costs of these activities [will no longer be] passed on to applicants. Thus, USPTO will recover the costs associated with these activities from the practitioners instead of the public in general."
Seemingly absent from the Notice is any indication that
the fees paid by applicants and patentees will be reduced by
$2 million per year. Given that the stated justification for
the new tax on practitioners is to
relieve applicants and patentees of this burden, it is important to provide, by rule, that the _ fees paid by applicants and patentees will decrease by $2 million annually.
Practitioners will need to be able to check to see whether
the Office has given them credit for payment of the annual
tax. The Office should make the tax status of each
practitioner readily available by means of a web site, so
that practitioners will not need to guess or wonder whether
they have been given credit. In particular, the Office should
provide a page, addressed by customer number, that will list
all the practitioners associated with the customer number and
the practitioner?tax status of each practitioner. This could
be fruitfully combined with the CLE status page described