OED Ethics LAw
Ethics Counsel to IP Professionals
Dedicated to Protecting Patent and Trademark Practitioners
USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct
§ 11.101 Competence.
A practitioner shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal, scientific, and technical knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.
§ 11.102 Scope of representation and allocation of authority between client and practitioner.
(a) Subject to paragraphs (c) and (d) of this section, a practitioner shall abide by a client's decisions concerning the objectives of representation and, as required by § 11.104, shall consult with the client as to the means by which they are to be pursued. A practitioner may take such action on behalf of the client as is impliedly authorized to carry out the representation. A practitioner shall abide by a client's decision whether to settle a matter.
(c) A practitioner may limit the scope of the representation if the limitation is reasonable under the circumstances and the client gives informed consent.
(d) A practitioner shall not counsel a client to engage, or assist a client, in conduct that the practitioner knows is criminal or fraudulent, but a practitioner may discuss the legal consequences of any proposed course of conduct with a client and may counsel or assist a client to make a good-faith effort to determine the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law.
§ 11.103 Diligence.
A practitioner shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.
§ 11.104 Communication.
(a) A practitioner shall:
(1) Promptly inform the client of any decision or circumstance with respect to which the client's informed consent is required by the USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct;
(2) Reasonably consult with the client about the means by which the client's objectives are to be accomplished;
(3) Keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter;
(4) Promptly comply with reasonable requests for information from the client; and
(5) Consult with the client about any relevant limitation on the practitioner's conduct when the practitioner knows that the client expects assistance not permitted by the USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.
(b) A practitioner shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.
§ 11.105 Fees.
(a) A practitioner shall not make an agreement for, charge, or collect an unreasonable fee or an unreasonable amount for expenses. The factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of a fee include the following:
(1) The time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly;
(2) The likelihood, if apparent to the client, that the acceptance of the particular employment will preclude other employment by the practitioner;
(3) The fee customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services;
(4) The amount involved and the results obtained;
(5) The time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances;
(6) The nature and length of the professional relationship with the client;
(7) The experience, reputation, and ability of the practitioner or practitioners performing the services; and
(8) Whether the fee is fixed or contingent.
(b) The scope of the representation and the basis or rate of the fee and expenses for which the client will be responsible shall be communicated to the client, preferably in writing, before or within a reasonable time after commencing the representation, except when the practitioner will charge a regularly represented client on the same basis or rate. Any changes in the basis or rate of the fee or expenses shall also be communicated to the client.
(c) A fee may be contingent on the outcome of the matter for which the service is rendered, except in a matter in which a contingent fee is prohibited by law. A contingent fee agreement shall be in a writing signed by the client and shall state the method by which the fee is to be determined, including the percentage or percentages that shall accrue to the practitioner in the event of settlement, trial or appeal; litigation and other expenses to be deducted from the recovery; and whether such expenses are to be deducted before or after the contingent fee is calculated. The agreement must clearly notify the client of any expenses for which the client will be liable whether or not the client is the prevailing party. Upon conclusion of a contingent fee matter, the practitioner shall provide the client with a written statement stating the outcome of the matter and, if there is a recovery, showing the remittance to the client and the method of its determination.
(e) A division of a fee between practitioners who are not in the same firm may be made only if:
(1) The division is in proportion to the services performed by each practitioner or each practitioner assumes joint responsibility for the representation;
(2) The client agrees to the arrangement, including the share each practitioner will receive, and the agreement is confirmed in writing; and
(3) The total fee is reasonable.
§ 11.106 Confidentiality of information.
(a) A practitioner shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent, the disclosure is impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation, the disclosure is permitted by paragraph (b) of this section, or the disclosure is required by paragraph (c) of this section.
(b) A practitioner may reveal information relating to the representation of a client to the extent the practitioner reasonably believes necessary:
(1) To prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm;
(2) To prevent the client from engaging in inequitable conduct before the Office or from committing a crime or fraud that is reasonably certain to result in substantial injury to the financial interests or property of another and in furtherance of which the client has used or is using the practitioner's services;
(3) To prevent, mitigate or rectify substantial injury to the financial interests or property of another that is reasonably certain to result or has resulted from the client's commission of a crime, fraud, or inequitable conduct before the Office in furtherance of which the client has used the practitioner's services;
(4) To secure legal advice about the practitioner's compliance with the USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct;
(5) To establish a claim or defense on behalf of the practitioner in a controversy between the practitioner and the client, to establish a defense to a criminal charge or civil claim against the practitioner based upon conduct in which the client was involved, or to respond to allegations in any proceeding concerning the practitioner's representation of the client; or
(6) To comply with other law or a court order.
(c) A practitioner shall disclose to the Office information necessary to comply with applicable duty of disclosure provisions.
§ 11.107 Conflict of interest; Current clients.
(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, a practitioner shall not represent a client if the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest. A concurrent conflict of interest exists if:
(1) The representation of one client will be directly adverse to another client; or
(2) There is a significant risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially limited by the practitioner's responsibilities to another client, a former client or a third person or by a personal interest of the practitioner.
(b) Notwithstanding the existence of a concurrent conflict of interest under paragraph (a) of this section, a practitioner may represent a client if:
(1) The practitioner reasonably believes that the practitioner will be able to provide competent and diligent representation to each affected client;
(2) The representation is not prohibited by law;
(3) The representation does not involve the assertion of a claim by one client against another client represented by the practitioner in the same litigation or other proceeding before a tribunal; and
(4) Each affected client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing.
§ 11.108 Conflict of interest; Current clients; Specific rules.
(a) A practitioner shall not enter into a business transaction with a client or knowingly acquire an ownership, possessory, security or other pecuniary interest adverse to a client unless:
(1) The transaction and terms on which the practitioner acquires the interest are fair and reasonable to the client and are fully disclosed and transmitted in writing in a manner that can be reasonably understood by the client;
(2) The client is advised in writing of the desirability of seeking and is given a reasonable opportunity to seek the advice of independent legal counsel in the transaction; and
(3) The client gives informed consent, in a writing signed by the client, to the essential terms of the transaction and the practitioner's role in the transaction, including whether the practitioner is representing the client in the transaction.
(b) A practitioner shall not use information relating to representation of a client to the disadvantage of the client unless the client gives informed consent, except as permitted or required by the USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct.
(c) A practitioner shall not solicit any substantial gift from a client, including a testamentary gift, or prepare on behalf of a client an instrument giving the practitioner or a person related to the practitioner any substantial gift unless the practitioner or other recipient of the gift is related to the client. For purposes of this paragraph, related persons include a spouse, child, grandchild, parent, grandparent or other relative or individual with whom the practitioner or the client maintains a close, familial relationship.
(d) Prior to the conclusion of representation of a client, a practitioner shall not make or negotiate an agreement giving the practitioner literary or media rights to a portrayal or account based in substantial part on information relating to the representation.
(e) A practitioner shall not provide financial assistance to a client in connection with pending or contemplated litigation or a proceeding before the Office, except that:
(1) A practitioner may advance court costs and expenses of litigation, the repayment of which may be contingent on the outcome of the matter;
(2) A practitioner representing an indigent client may pay court costs and expenses of litigation or a proceeding before the Office on behalf of the client;
(3) A practitioner may advance costs and expenses in connection with a proceeding before the Office provided the client remains ultimately liable for such costs and expenses; and
(4) A practitioner may also advance any fee required to prevent or remedy an abandonment of a client's application by reason of an act or omission attributable to the practitioner and not to the client, whether or not the client is ultimately liable for such fee.
(f) A practitioner shall not accept compensation for representing a client from one other than the client unless:
(1) The client gives informed consent;
(2) There is no interference with the practitioner's independence of professional judgment or with the client-practitioner relationship; and
(3) Information relating to representation of a client is protected as required by § 11.106.
(g) A practitioner who represents two or more clients shall not participate in making an aggregate settlement of the claims of or against the clients, unless each client gives informed consent, in a writing signed by the client. The practitioner's disclosure shall include the existence and nature of all the claims involved and of the participation of each person in the settlement.
(h) A practitioner shall not:
(1) Make an agreement prospectively limiting the practitioner's liability to a client for malpractice unless the client is independently represented in making the agreement; or
(2) Settle a claim or potential claim for such liability with an unrepresented client or former client unless that person is advised in writing of the desirability of seeking and is given a reasonable opportunity to seek the advice of independent legal counsel in connection therewith.
(i) A practitioner shall not acquire a proprietary interest in the cause of action, subject matter of litigation, or a proceeding before the Office which the practitioner is conducting for a client, except that the practitioner may, subject to the other provisions in this section:
(1) Acquire a lien authorized by law to secure the practitioner's fee or expenses;
(2) Contract with a client for a reasonable contingent fee in a civil case; and
(3) In a patent case or a proceeding before the Office, take an interest in the patent or patent application as part or all of his or her fee.
(k) While practitioners are associated in a firm, a prohibition in paragraphs (a) through (i) of this section that applies to any one of them shall apply to all of them.
§ 11.109 Duties to former clients.
(a) A practitioner who has formerly represented a client in a matter shall not thereafter represent another person in the same or a substantially related matter in which that person's interests are materially adverse to the interests of the former client unless the former client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing.
(b) A practitioner shall not knowingly represent a person in the same or a substantially related matter in which a firm with which the practitioner formerly was associated had previously represented a client:
(1) Whose interests are materially adverse to that person; and
(2) About whom the practitioner had acquired information protected by §§ 11.106 and 11.109(c) that is material to the matter; unless the former client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing.
(c) A practitioner who has formerly represented a client in a matter or whose present or former firm has formerly represented a client in a matter shall not thereafter:
(1) Use information relating to the representation to the disadvantage of the former client except as the USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct would permit or require with respect to a client, or when the information has become generally known; or
(2) Reveal information relating to the representation except as the USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct would permit or require with respect to a client.
§ 11.110 Imputation of conflicts of interest; General rule.
(a) While practitioners are associated in a firm, none of them shall knowingly represent a client when any one of them practicing alone would be prohibited from doing so by §§ 11.107 or 11.109, unless:
(1) The prohibition is based on a personal interest of the disqualified practitioner and does not present a significant risk of materially limiting the representation of the client by the remaining practitioners in the firm; or
(2) The prohibition is based upon § 11.109(a) or (b), and arises out of the disqualified practitioner's association with a prior firm, and
(i) The disqualified practitioner is timely screened from any participation in the matter and is apportioned no part of the fee therefrom; and
(ii) Written notice is promptly given to any affected former client to enable the former client to ascertain compliance with the provisions of this section, which shall include a description of the screening procedures employed; a statement of the firm's and of the screened practitioner's compliance with the USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct; a statement that review may be available before a tribunal; and an agreement by the firm to respond promptly to any written inquiries or objections by the former client about the screening procedures.
(b) When a practitioner has terminated an association with a firm, the firm is not prohibited from thereafter representing a person with interests materially adverse to those of a client represented by the formerly associated practitioner and not currently represented by the firm, unless:
(1) The matter is the same or substantially related to that in which the formerly associated practitioner represented the client; and
(2) Any practitioner remaining in the firm has information protected by §§ 11.106 and 11.109(c) that is material to the matter.
(c) A disqualification prescribed by this section may be waived by the affected client under the conditions stated in § 11.107.
(d) The disqualification of practitioners associated in a firm with former or current Federal Government lawyers is governed by § 11.111.
§ 11.111 Former or current Federal Government employees.
A practitioner who is a former or current Federal Government employee shall not engage in any conduct which is contrary to applicable Federal ethics law, including conflict of interest statutes and regulations of the department, agency or commission formerly or currently employing said practitioner.
§ 11.112 Former judge, arbitrator, mediator or other third-party neutral.
(a) Except as stated in paragraph (d) of this section, a practitioner shall not represent anyone in connection with a matter in which the practitioner participated personally and substantially as a judge or other adjudicative officer or law clerk to such a person or as an arbitrator, mediator or other third-party neutral, unless all parties to the proceeding give informed consent, confirmed in writing.
(b) A practitioner shall not negotiate for employment with any person who is involved as a party or as practitioner for a party in a matter in which the practitioner is participating personally and substantially as a judge or other adjudicative officer or as an arbitrator, mediator or other third-party neutral. A practitioner serving as a law clerk to a judge or other adjudicative officer may negotiate for employment with a party or practitioner involved in a matter in which the clerk is participating personally and substantially, but only after the practitioner has notified the judge, or other adjudicative officer.
(c) If a practitioner is disqualified by paragraph (a) of this section, no practitioner in a firm with which that practitioner is associated may knowingly undertake or continue representation in the matter unless:
(1) The disqualified practitioner is timely screened from any participation in the matter and is apportioned no part of the fee therefrom; and
(2) Written notice is promptly given to the parties and any appropriate tribunal to enable them to ascertain compliance with the provisions of this section.
(d) An arbitrator selected as a partisan of a party in a multimember arbitration panel is not prohibited from subsequently representing that party.
§ 11.113 Organization as client.
(a) A practitioner employed or retained by an organization represents the organization acting through its duly authorized constituents.
(b) If a practitioner for an organization knows that an officer, employee or other person associated with the organization is engaged in action, intends to act or refuses to act in a matter related to the representation that is a violation of a legal obligation to the organization, or a violation of law that reasonably might be imputed to the organization, and that is likely to result in substantial injury to the organization, then the practitioner shall proceed as is reasonably necessary in the best interest of the organization. Unless the practitioner reasonably believes that it is not necessary in the best interest of the organization to do so, the practitioner shall refer the matter to higher authority in the organization, including, if warranted by the circumstances, to the highest authority that can act on behalf of the organization as determined by applicable law.
(c) Except as provided in paragraph (d) of this section, if
(1) Despite the practitioner's efforts in accordance with paragraph (b) of this section the highest authority that can act on behalf of the organization insists upon or fails to address in a timely and appropriate manner an action, or a refusal to act, that is clearly a violation of law, and
(2) The practitioner reasonably believes that the violation is reasonably certain to result in substantial injury to the organization, then the practitioner may reveal information relating to the representation whether or not § 11.106 permits such disclosure, but only if and to the extent the practitioner reasonably believes necessary to prevent substantial injury to the organization.
(d) Paragraph (c) of this section shall not apply with respect to information relating to a practitioner's representation of an organization to investigate an alleged violation of law, or to defend the organization or an officer, employee or other constituent associated with the organization against a claim arising out of an alleged violation of law.
(e) A practitioner who reasonably believes that he or she has been discharged because of the practitioner's actions taken pursuant to paragraphs (b) or (c) of this section, or who withdraws under circumstances that require or permit the practitioner to take action under either of those paragraphs, shall proceed as the practitioner reasonably believes necessary to assure that the organization's highest authority is informed of the practitioner's discharge or withdrawal.
(f) In dealing with an organization's directors, officers, employees, members, shareholders, or other constituents, a practitioner shall explain the identity of the client when the practitioner knows or reasonably should know that the organization's interests are adverse to those of the constituents with whom the practitioner is dealing.
(g) A practitioner representing an organization may also represent any of its directors, officers, employees, members, shareholders or other constituents, subject to the provisions of § 11.107. If the organization's consent to the dual representation is required by § 11.107, the consent shall be given by an appropriate official of the organization other than the individual who is to be represented, or by the shareholders.
§ 11.114 Client with diminished capacity.
(a) When a client's capacity to make adequately considered decisions in connection with a representation is diminished, whether because of minority, mental impairment or for some other reason, the practitioner shall, as far as reasonably possible, maintain a normal client-practitioner relationship with the client.
(b) When the practitioner reasonably believes that the client has diminished capacity, is at risk of substantial physical, financial or other harm unless action is taken and cannot adequately act in the client's own interest, the practitioner may take reasonably necessary protective action, including consulting with individuals or entities that have the ability to take action to protect the client and, in appropriate cases, seeking the appointment of a guardian ad litem, conservator or guardian.
(c) Information relating to the representation of a client with diminished capacity is protected under
§ 11.106. When taking protective action pursuant to paragraph (b) of this section, the practitioner is impliedly authorized under § 11.106(a) to reveal information about the client, but only to the extent reasonably necessary to protect the client's interests.
§ 11.115 Safekeeping property.
(a) A practitioner shall hold property of clients or third persons that is in a practitioner's possession in connection with a representation separate from the practitioner's own property. Funds shall be kept in a separate account maintained in the state where the practitioner's office is situated, or elsewhere with the consent of the client or third person. Where the practitioner's office is situated in a foreign country, funds shall be kept in a separate account maintained in that foreign country or elsewhere with the consent of the client or third person. Other property shall be identified as such and appropriately safeguarded. Complete records of such account funds and other property shall be kept by the practitioner and shall be preserved for a period of five years after termination of the representation.
(b) A practitioner may deposit the practitioner's own funds in a client trust account for the sole purpose of paying bank service charges on that account, but only in an amount necessary for that purpose.
(c) A practitioner shall deposit into a client trust account legal fees and expenses that have been paid in advance, to be withdrawn by the practitioner only as fees are earned or expenses incurred.
(d) Upon receiving funds or other property in which a client or third person has an interest, a practitioner shall promptly notify the client or third person. Except as stated in this section or otherwise permitted by law or by agreement with the client, a practitioner shall promptly deliver to the client or third person any funds or other property that the client or third person is entitled to receive and, upon request by the client or third person, shall promptly render a full accounting regarding such property.
(e) When in the course of representation a practitioner is in possession of property in which two or more persons (one of whom may be the practitioner) claim interests, the property shall be kept separate by the practitioner until the dispute is resolved. The practitioner shall promptly distribute all portions of the property as to which the interests are not in dispute.
(f) All separate accounts for clients or third persons kept by a practitioner must also comply with the
(1) Required records. The records to be kept include:
(i) Receipt and disbursement journals containing a record of deposits to and withdrawals from client trust accounts, specifically identifying the date, source, and description of each item deposited, as well as the date, payee and purpose of each disbursement;
(ii) Ledger records for all client trust accounts showing, for each separate trust client or beneficiary, the source of all funds deposited, the names of all persons for whom the funds are or were held, the amount of such funds, the descriptions and amounts of charges or withdrawals, and the names of all persons or entities to whom such funds were disbursed;
(iii) Copies of retainer and compensation agreements with clients;
(iv) Copies of accountings to clients or third persons showing the disbursement of funds to them or on their behalf;
(v) Copies of bills for legal fees and expenses rendered to clients;
(vi) Copies of records showing disbursements on behalf of clients;
(vii) The physical or electronic equivalents of all checkbook registers, bank statements, records of deposit, pre-numbered canceled checks, and substitute checks provided by a financial institution;
(viii) Records of all electronic transfers from client trust accounts, including the name of the person authorizing transfer, the date of transfer, the name of the recipient and confirmation from the financial institution of the trust account number from which money was withdrawn and the date and the time the transfer was completed;
(ix) Copies of monthly trial balances and quarterly reconciliations of the client trust accounts maintained by the practitioner; and
(x) Copies of those portions of client files that are reasonably related to client trust account transactions.
(2) Client trust account safeguards. With respect to client trust accounts required by paragraphs (a) through (e) of this section:
(i) Only a practitioner or a person under the direct supervision of the practitioner shall be an authorized signatory or authorize transfers from a client trust account;
(ii) Receipts shall be deposited intact and records of deposit should be sufficiently detailed to identify each item; and
(iii) Withdrawals shall be made only by check payable to a named payee and not to cash, or by authorized electronic transfer.
(3) Availability of records. Records required by paragraph (f)(1) of this section may be maintained by electronic, photographic, or other media provided that they otherwise comply with paragraphs (f)(1) and (f)(2) of this section and that printed copies can be produced. These records shall be readily accessible to the practitioner.
(4) Lawyers. The records kept by a lawyer are deemed to be in compliance with this section if the types of records that are maintained meet the recordkeeping requirements of a state in which the lawyer is licensed and in good standing, the recordkeeping requirements of the state where the lawyer's principal place of business is located, or the recordkeeping requirements of this section.
(5) Patent agents and persons granted limited recognition who are employed in the United States by a law firm. The records kept by a law firm employing one or more registered patent agents or persons granted limited recognition under § 11.9 are deemed to be in compliance with this section if the types of records that are maintained meet the recordkeeping requirements of the state where at least one practitioner of the law firm is licensed and in good standing, the recordkeeping requirements of the state where the law firm's principal place of business is located, or the recordkeeping requirements of this section.
§ 11.116 Declining or terminating representation.
(a) Except as stated in paragraph (c) of this section, a practitioner shall not represent a client, or where representation has commenced, shall withdraw from the representation of a client if:
(1) The representation will result in violation of the USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct or other law;
(2) The practitioner's physical or mental condition materially impairs the practitioner's ability to
represent the client; or
(3) The practitioner is discharged.
(b) Except as stated in paragraph (c) of this section, a practitioner may withdraw from representing a client if:
(1) Withdrawal can be accomplished without material adverse effect on the interests of the client;
(2) The client persists in a course of action involving the practitioner's services that the practitioner reasonably believes is criminal or fraudulent;
(3) The client has used the practitioner's services to perpetrate a crime or fraud;
(4) A client insists upon taking action that the practitioner considers repugnant or with which the practitioner has a fundamental disagreement;
(5) The client fails substantially to fulfill an obligation to the practitioner regarding the practitioner's services and has been given reasonable warning that the practitioner will withdraw unless the obligation is fulfilled;
(6) The representation will result in an unreasonable financial burden on the practitioner or has been rendered unreasonably difficult by the client; or
(7) Other good cause for withdrawal exists.
(c) A practitioner must comply with applicable law requiring notice to or permission of a tribunal when terminating a representation. When ordered to do so by a tribunal, a practitioner shall continue representation notwithstanding good cause for terminating the representation.
(d) Upon termination of representation, a practitioner shall take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect a client's interests, such as giving reasonable notice to the client, allowing time for employment of other counsel, surrendering papers and property to which the client is entitled and refunding any advance payment of fee or expense that has not been earned or incurred. The practitioner may retain papers relating to the client to the extent permitted by other law.
§ 11.117 Sale of law practice.
A practitioner or a law firm may sell or purchase a law practice, or an area of law practice, including good will, if the following conditions are satisfied:
(a) The seller ceases to engage in the private practice of law, or in the area of practice that has been sold, in a geographic area in which the practice has been conducted;
(b)(1) Except as provided in paragraph (b)(2) of this section, the entire practice, or the entire area of practice, is sold to one or more lawyers or law firms;
(2) To the extent the practice or the area of practice involves patent proceedings before the Office, that practice or area of practice may be sold only to one or more registered practitioners or law firms that include at least one registered practitioner;
(c)(1) The seller gives written notice to each of the seller's clients regarding:
(i) The proposed sale;
(ii) The client's right to retain other counsel or to take possession of the file; and
(iii) The fact that the client's consent to the transfer of the client's files will be presumed if the client does not take any action or does not otherwise object within ninety (90) days after receipt of the notice.
(2) If a client cannot be given notice, the representation of that client may be transferred to the purchaser only upon entry of an order so authorizing by a court having jurisdiction. The seller may disclose to the court in camera information relating to the representation only to the extent necessary to obtain an order authorizing the transfer of a file; and
(d) The fees charged clients shall not be increased by reason of the sale.
§ 11.118 Duties to prospective client.
(a) A person who discusses with a practitioner the possibility of forming a client-practitioner relationship with respect to a matter is a prospective client.
(b) Even when no client-practitioner relationship ensues, a practitioner who has had discussions with the prospective client shall not use or reveal information learned in the consultation, except as § 11.109 would permit with respect to information of a former client.
(c) A practitioner subject to paragraph (b) of this section shall not represent a client with interests materially adverse to those of a prospective client in the same or a substantially related matter if the practitioner received information from the prospective client that could be significantly harmful to that person in the matter, except as provided in paragraph (d) of this section. If a practitioner is disqualified from representation under this paragraph, no practitioner in a firm with which that practitioner is associated may knowingly undertake or continue representation in such a matter, except as provided in paragraph (d) of this section.
(d) When the practitioner has received disqualifying information as defined in paragraph (c) of this section, representation is permissible if:
(1) Both the affected client and the prospective client have given informed consent, confirmed in writing; or
(2) The practitioner who received the information took reasonable measures to avoid exposure to more disqualifying information than was reasonably necessary to determine whether to represent the prospective client; and
(i) The disqualified practitioner is timely screened from any participation in the matter and is apportioned no part of the fee therefrom; and
(ii) Written notice is promptly given to the prospective client.
§§ 11.119-11.200 [Reserved]
§ 11.201 Advisor.
In representing a client, a practitioner shall exercise independent professional judgment and render candid advice. In rendering advice, a practitioner may refer not only to law but to other considerations such as moral, economic, social and political factors that may be relevant to the client's situation.
§ 11.202 [Reserved]
§ 11.203 Evaluation for use by third persons.
(a) A practitioner may provide an evaluation of a matter affecting a client for the use of someone other than the client if the practitioner reasonably believes that making the evaluation is compatible with other aspects of the practitioner's relationship with the client.
(b) When the practitioner knows or reasonably should know that the evaluation is likely to affect the client's interests materially and adversely, the practitioner shall not provide the evaluation unless the client gives informed consent.
(c) Except as disclosure is authorized in connection with a report of an evaluation, information relating to the evaluation is otherwise protected by § 11.106.
§ 11.204 Practitioner serving as third-party neutral.
(a) A practitioner serves as a third-party neutral when the practitioner assists two or more persons who are not clients of the practitioner to reach a resolution of a dispute or other matter that has arisen between them. Service as a third-party neutral may include service as an arbitrator, a mediator or in such other capacity as will enable the practitioner to assist the parties to resolve the matter.
(b) A practitioner serving as a third-party neutral shall inform unrepresented parties that the practitioner is not representing them. When the practitioner knows or reasonably should know that a party does not understand the practitioner's role in the matter, the practitioner shall explain the difference between the practitioner's role as a third-party neutral and a practitioner's role as one who represents a client.
§§ 11.205-11.300 [Reserved]
§ 11.301 Meritorious claims and contentions.
A practitioner shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous, which includes a good-faith argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law.
§ 11.302 Expediting proceedings.
A practitioner shall make reasonable efforts to expedite proceedings before a tribunal consistent with the interests of the client.
§ 11.303 Candor toward the tribunal.
(a) A practitioner shall not knowingly:
(1) Make a false statement of fact or law to a tribunal or fail to correct a false statement of material fact or law previously made to the tribunal by the practitioner;
(2) Fail to disclose to the tribunal legal authority in the controlling jurisdiction known to the practitioner to be directly adverse to the position of the client and not disclosed by opposing counsel in an inter partes proceeding, or fail to disclose such authority in an ex parte proceeding before the Office if such authority is not otherwise disclosed; or
(3) Offer evidence that the practitioner knows to be false. If a practitioner, the practitioner's client, or a witness called by the practitioner, has offered material evidence and the practitioner comes to know of its falsity, the practitioner shall take reasonable remedial measures, including, if necessary, disclosure to the tribunal. A practitioner may refuse to offer evidence that the practitioner reasonably believes is false.
(b) A practitioner who represents a client in a proceeding before a tribunal and who knows that a person intends to engage, is engaging or has engaged in criminal or fraudulent conduct related to the proceeding shall take reasonable remedial measures, including, if necessary, disclosure to the tribunal.
(c) The duties stated in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section continue to the conclusion of the proceeding, and apply even if compliance requires disclosure of information otherwise protected by § 11.106.
(d) In an ex parte proceeding, a practitioner shall inform the tribunal of all material facts known to the practitioner that will enable the tribunal to make an informed decision, whether or not the facts are adverse.
(e) In a proceeding before the Office, a practitioner shall disclose to the Office information necessary to comply with applicable duty of disclosure provisions.
§ 11.304 Fairness to opposing party and counsel.
A practitioner shall not:
(a) Unlawfully obstruct another party's access to evidence or unlawfully alter, destroy or conceal a document or other material having potential evidentiary value. A practitioner shall not counsel or assist another person to do any such act;
(b) Falsify evidence, counsel or assist a witness to testify falsely, or offer an inducement to a witness that is prohibited by law;
(c) Knowingly disobey an obligation under the rules of a tribunal except for an open refusal based on an assertion that no valid obligation exists;
(d) Make a frivolous discovery request or fail to make a reasonably diligent effort to comply with a legally proper discovery request by an opposing party;
(e) In a proceeding before a tribunal, allude to any matter that the practitioner does not reasonably believe is relevant or that will not be supported by admissible evidence, assert personal knowledge of facts in issue except when testifying as a witness, or state a personal opinion as to the justness of a cause, the credibility of a witness, the culpability of a civil litigant or the guilt or innocence of an accused; or
(f) Request a person other than a client to refrain from voluntarily giving relevant information to another party unless:
(1) The person is a relative or an employee or other agent of a client; and
(2) The practitioner reasonably believes that the person's interests will not be adversely affected by refraining from giving such information.
§ 11.305 Impartiality and decorum of the tribunal.
A practitioner shall not:
(a) Seek to influence a judge, hearing officer, administrative law judge, administrative patent judge, administrative trademark judge, juror, prospective juror, employee or officer of the Office, or other official by means prohibited by law;
(b) Communicate ex parte with such a person during the proceeding unless authorized to do so by law, rule or court order; or
(d) Engage in conduct intended to disrupt any proceeding before a tribunal.
§ 11.306 Trial publicity.
(a) A practitioner who is participating or has participated in the investigation or litigation of a matter shall not make an extrajudicial statement that the practitioner knows or reasonably should know will be disseminated by means of public communication and will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in the matter.
(b) Notwithstanding paragraph (a) of this section, a practitioner may state:
(1) The claim, offense or defense involved and, except when prohibited by law, the identity of the persons involved;
(2) Information contained in a public record;
(3) That an investigation of a matter is in progress;
(4) The scheduling or result of any step in litigation;
(5) A request for assistance in obtaining evidence and information necessary thereto; and
(6) A warning of danger concerning the behavior of a person involved, when there is reason to believe that there exists the likelihood of substantial harm to an individual or to the public interest.
(c) Notwithstanding paragraph (a) of this section, a practitioner may make a statement that a reasonable practitioner would believe is required to protect a client from the substantial undue prejudicial effect of recent publicity not initiated by the practitioner or the practitioner's client. A statement made pursuant to this paragraph shall be limited to such information as is necessary to mitigate the recent adverse publicity.
(d) No practitioner associated in a firm or government agency with a practitioner subject to paragraph
(a) of this section shall make a statement prohibited by paragraph (a).
§ 11.307 Practitioner as witness.
(a) A practitioner shall not act as advocate at a proceeding before a tribunal in which the practitioner is likely to be a necessary witness unless:
(1) The testimony relates to an uncontested issue;
(2) The testimony relates to the nature and value of legal services rendered in the case; or
(3) Disqualification of the practitioner would work substantial hardship on the client.
(b) A practitioner may act as advocate in a proceeding before a tribunal in which another practitioner in the practitioner's firm is likely to be called as a witness unless precluded from doing so by §§ 11.107 or 11.109.
§ 11.308 [Reserved]
§ 11.309 Advocate in nonadjudicative proceedings.
A practitioner representing a client before a legislative body or administrative agency in a nonadjudicative proceeding shall disclose that the appearance is in a representative capacity and shall conform to the provisions of §§ 11.303(a) through (c), 11.304(a) through (c), and 11.305.
§§ 11.310-11.400 [Reserved]
Transactions With Persons Other Than Clients
§ 11.401 Truthfulness in statements to others.
In the course of representing a client, a practitioner shall not knowingly:
(a) Make a false statement of material fact or law to a third person; or
(b) Fail to disclose a material fact to a third person when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act by a client, unless disclosure is prohibited by § 11.106.
§ 11.402 Communication with person represented by a practitioner.
(a) In representing a client, a practitioner shall not communicate about the subject of the representation with a person the practitioner knows to be represented by another practitioner in the matter, unless the practitioner has the consent of the other practitioner or is authorized to do so by law, rule, or a court order.
(b) This section does not prohibit communication by a practitioner with government officials who are otherwise represented by counsel and who have the authority to redress the grievances of the practitioner's client, provided that, if the communication relates to a matter for which the government official is represented, then prior to the communication the practitioner must disclose to such government official both the practitioner's identity and the fact that the practitioner represents a party with a claim against the government.
§ 11.403 Dealing with unrepresented person.
In dealing on behalf of a client with a person who is not represented by a practitioner, a practitioner shall not state or imply that the practitioner is disinterested. When the practitioner knows or reasonably should know that the unrepresented person misunderstands the practitioner's role in the matter, the practitioner shall make reasonable efforts to correct the misunderstanding. The practitioner shall not give legal advice to an unrepresented person, other than the advice to secure counsel, if the practitioner knows or reasonably should know that the interests of such a person are or have a reasonable possibility of being in conflict with the interests of the client.
§ 11.404 Respect for rights of third persons.
(a) In representing a client, a practitioner shall not use means that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person, or use methods of obtaining evidence that violate the legal rights of such a person.
(b) A practitioner who receives a document or electronically stored information relating to the representation of the practitioner's client and knows or reasonably should know that the document or electronically stored information was inadvertently sent shall promptly notify the sender.
§§ 11.405-11.500 [Reserved]
Law Firms and Associations
§ 11.501 Responsibilities of partners, managers, and supervisory practitioners.
(a) A practitioner who is a partner in a law firm, and a practitioner who individually or together with other practitioners possesses comparable managerial authority in a law firm, shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that all practitioners in the firm conform to the USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct.
(b) A practitioner having direct supervisory authority over another practitioner shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the other practitioner conforms to the USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct.
(c) A practitioner shall be responsible for another practitioner's violation of the USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct if:
(1) The practitioner orders or, with knowledge of the specific conduct, ratifies the conduct involved; or
(2) The practitioner is a partner or has comparable managerial authority in the law firm in which the other practitioner practices, or has direct supervisory authority over the other practitioner, and knows of the conduct at a time when its consequences can be avoided or mitigated but fails to take reasonable remedial action.
§ 11.502 Responsibilities of a subordinate practitioner.
(a) A practitioner is bound by the USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct notwithstanding that the practitioner acted at the direction of another person.
(b) A subordinate practitioner does not violate the USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct if that practitioner acts in accordance with a supervisory practitioner's reasonable resolution of an arguable question of professional duty.
§ 11.503 Responsibilities regarding non-practitioner assistance.
With respect to a non-practitioner assistant employed or retained by or associated with a practitioner:
(a) A practitioner who is a partner, and a practitioner who individually or together with other practitioners possesses comparable managerial authority in a law firm shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that the person's conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the practitioner;
(b) A practitioner having direct supervisory authority over the non-practitioner assistant shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the person's conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the practitioner; and
(c) A practitioner shall be responsible for conduct of such a person that would be a violation of the USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct if engaged in by a practitioner if:
(1) The practitioner orders or, with the knowledge of the specific conduct, ratifies the conduct involved;
(2) The practitioner is a partner or has comparable managerial authority in the law firm in which the person is employed, or has direct supervisory authority over the person, and knows of the conduct at a time when its consequences can be avoided or mitigated but fails to take reasonable remedial action.
§ 11.504 Professional independence of a practitioner.
(a) A practitioner or law firm shall not share legal fees with a non-practitioner, except that:
(1) An agreement by a practitioner with the practitioner's firm, partner, or associate may provide for the payment of money, over a reasonable period of time after the practitioner's death, to the practitioner's estate or to one or more specified persons;
(2) A practitioner who purchases the practice of a deceased, disabled, or disappeared practitioner may, pursuant to the provisions of § 11.117, pay to the estate or other representative of that practitioner the agreed-upon purchase price;
(3) A practitioner or law firm may include non-practitioner employees in a compensation or retirement plan, even though the plan is based in whole or in part on a profit-sharing arrangement; and
(4) A practitioner may share legal fees, whether awarded by a tribunal or received in settlement of a matter, with a nonprofit organization that employed, retained or recommended employment of the practitioner in the matter and that qualifies under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
(b) A practitioner shall not form a partnership with a non-practitioner if any of the activities of the partnership consist of the practice of law.
(c) A practitioner shall not permit a person who recommends, employs, or pays the practitioner to render legal services for another to direct or regulate the practitioner's professional judgment in rendering such legal services.
(d) A practitioner shall not practice with or in the form of a professional corporation or association authorized to practice law for a profit, if:
(1) A non-practitioner owns any interest therein, except that a fiduciary representative of the estate of a practitioner may hold the stock or interest of the practitioner for a reasonable time during administration;
(2) A non-practitioner is a corporate director or officer thereof or occupies the position of similar responsibility in any form of association other than a corporation; or
(3) A non-practitioner has the right to direct or control the professional judgment of a practitioner.
§ 11.505 Unauthorized practice of law.
A practitioner shall not practice law in a jurisdiction in violation of the regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction, or assist another in doing so.
§ 11.506 Restrictions on right to practice.
A practitioner shall not participate in offering or making:
(a) A partnership, shareholders, operating, employment, or other similar type of agreement that restricts the right of a practitioner to practice after termination of the relationship, except an agreement concerning benefits upon retirement; or
(b) An agreement in which a restriction on the practitioner's right to practice is part of the settlement of a client controversy.
§ 11.507 Responsibilities regarding law-related services.
A practitioner shall be subject to the USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct with respect to the provision of law-related services if the law-related services are provided:
(a) By the practitioner in circumstances that are not distinct from the practitioner's provision of legal services to clients; or
(b) In other circumstances by an entity controlled by the practitioner individually or with others if the practitioner fails to take reasonable measures to assure that a person obtaining the law-related services knows that the services are not legal services and that the protections of the client-practitioner relationship do not exist.
§§ 11.508-11.700 [Reserved]
Information About Legal Services
§ 11.701 Communications concerning a practitioner's services.
A practitioner shall not make a false or misleading communication about the practitioner or the practitioner's services. A communication is false or misleading if it contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading.
§ 11.702 Advertising.
(a) Subject to the requirements of §§ 11.701 and 11.703, a practitioner may advertise services through written, recorded or electronic communication, including public media.
(b) A practitioner shall not give anything of value to a person for recommending the practitioner's services except that a practitioner may:
(1) Pay the reasonable costs of advertisements or communications permitted by this section;
(3) Pay for a law practice in accordance with § 11.117; and
(4) Refer clients to another practitioner or a non-practitioner professional pursuant to an agreement not otherwise prohibited under the USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct that provides for the other person to refer clients or customers to the practitioner, if:
(i) The reciprocal referral agreement is not exclusive, and
(ii) The client is informed of the existence and nature of the agreement.
(c) Any communication made pursuant to this section shall include the name and office address of at least one practitioner or law firm responsible for its content.
§ 11.703 Direct contact with prospective clients.
(a) A practitioner shall not by in-person, live telephone or real-time electronic contact solicit professional employment from a prospective client when a significant motive for the practitioner's doing so is the practitioner's pecuniary gain, unless the person contacted:
(1) Is a practitioner; or
(2) Has a family, close personal, or prior professional relationship with the practitioner.
(b) A practitioner shall not solicit professional employment from a prospective client by written, recorded or electronic communication or by in-person, telephone or real-time electronic contact even when not otherwise prohibited by paragraph (a) of this section, if:
(1) The prospective client has made known to the practitioner a desire not to be solicited by the practitioner; or
(2) The solicitation involves coercion, duress or harassment.
(c) Every written, recorded or electronic communication from a practitioner soliciting professional employment from a prospective client known to be in need of legal services in a particular matter shall include the words “Advertising Material” on the outside envelope, if any, and at the beginning and ending of any recorded or electronic communication, unless the recipient of the communication is a person specified in paragraphs (a)(1) or (a)(2) of this section.
(d) Notwithstanding the prohibitions in paragraph (a) of this section, a practitioner may participate with a prepaid or group legal service plan operated by an organization not owned or directed by the practitioner that uses in-person or telephone contact to solicit memberships or subscriptions for the plan from persons who are not known to need legal services in a particular matter covered by the plan.
§ 11.704 Communication of fields of practice and specialization.
(a) A practitioner may communicate the fact that the practitioner does or does not practice in particular fields of law.
(b) A registered practitioner who is an attorney may use the designation “Patents,” “Patent Attorney,” “Patent Lawyer,” “Registered Patent Attorney,” or a substantially similar designation. A registered practitioner who is not an attorney may use the designation “Patents,” “Patent Agent,” “Registered Patent Agent,” or a substantially similar designation. Unless authorized by § 11.14(b), a registered patent agent shall not hold himself or herself out as being qualified or authorized to practice before the Office in trademark matters or before a court.
(d) A practitioner shall not state or imply that a practitioner is certified as a specialist in a particular field of law, unless:
(1) The practitioner has been certified as a specialist by an organization that has been approved by an appropriate state authority or that has been accredited by the American Bar Association; and
(2) The name of the certifying organization is clearly identified in the communication.
(e) An individual granted limited recognition under § 11.9 may use the designation “Limited Recognition.”
§ 11.705 Firm names and letterheads.
(a) A practitioner shall not use a firm name, letterhead or other professional designation that violates § 11.701. A trade name may be used by a practitioner in private practice if it does not imply a connection with a government agency or with a public or charitable legal services organization and is not otherwise in violation of § 11.701.
(c) The name of a practitioner holding a public office shall not be used in the name of a law firm, or in communications on its behalf, during any substantial period in which the practitioner is not actively and regularly practicing with the firm.
§§ 11.706-11.800 [Reserved]
Maintaining the Integrity of the Profession
§ 11.801 Registration, recognition and disciplinary matters.
An applicant for registration or recognition to practice before the Office, or a practitioner in connection with an application for registration or recognition, or a practitioner in connection with a disciplinary or reinstatement matter, shall not:
(a) Knowingly make a false statement of material fact; or
(b) Fail to disclose a fact necessary to correct a misapprehension known by the person to have arisen in the matter, fail to cooperate with the Office of Enrollment and Discipline in an investigation of any matter before it, or knowingly fail to respond to a lawful demand or request for information from an admissions or disciplinary authority, except that the provisions of this section do not require disclosure of information otherwise protected by § 11.106.
§ 11.802 Judicial and legal officials.
(a) A practitioner shall not make a statement that the practitioner knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge, adjudicatory officer or public legal officer, or of a candidate for election or appointment to judicial or legal office.
(b) A practitioner who is a candidate for judicial office shall comply with the applicable provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
§ 11.803 Reporting professional misconduct.
(a) A practitioner who knows that another practitioner has committed a violation of the USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that practitioner's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a practitioner in other respects, shall inform the OED Director and any other appropriate professional authority.
(b) A practitioner who knows that a judge, hearing officer, administrative law judge, administrative patent judge, or administrative trademark judge has committed a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct that raises a substantial question as to the individual's fitness for office shall inform the appropriate authority.
(c) The provisions of this section do not require disclosure of information otherwise protected by § 11.106 or information gained while participating in an approved lawyers assistance program.
§ 11.804 Misconduct.
It is professional misconduct for a practitioner to:
(a) Violate or attempt to violate the USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct, knowingly assist or induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of another;
(b) Commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the practitioner's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a practitioner in other respects;
(c) Engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation;
(d) Engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice;
(e) State or imply an ability to influence improperly a government agency or official or to achieve results by means that violate the USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct or other law;
(f) Knowingly assist a judge, hearing officer, administrative law judge, administrative patent judge, administrative trademark judge, or judicial officer in conduct that is a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct or other law;
(g) Knowingly assist an officer or employee of the Office in conduct that is a violation of applicable rules of conduct or other law;
(h) Be publicly disciplined on ethical or professional misconduct grounds by any duly constituted authority of:
(1) A State,
(2) The United States, or
(3) The country in which the practitioner resides; or
(i) Engage in other conduct that adversely reflects on the practitioner's fitness to practice before the Office.
§§ 11.805-11.900 [Reserved]
§ 11.901 Savings clause.
(a) A disciplinary proceeding based on conduct engaged in prior to the effective date of these regulations may be instituted subsequent to such effective date, if such conduct would continue to justify disciplinary sanctions under the provisions of this part.
(b) No practitioner shall be subject to a disciplinary proceeding under this part based on conduct engaged in before the effective date hereof if such conduct would not have been subject to disciplinary action before such effective date.
No claim to copyright is made to underlying regulations. No guarantee as to accuracy of data.