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USPTO Updates Prof. Conduct Rules

Washington - The U.S. Department of Commerce's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today announced updates to the registration examination and significant changes to the USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct (USPTO Rules), which govern practitioners who practice before the USPTO.

USPTO's Office of Enrollment and Discipline (OED) developed the revisions, which update the questions on the registration examination and more closely align the USPTO rules with widely adopted general legal ethics guidelines, as part of its ongoing effort to modernize the practice of law before the USPTO. Since 2011, OED has reinvented itself, in both enrollment and discipline, to support practitioners while protecting the intellectual property community as a whole.

On the discipline side, the new USPTO Rules conform to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct of the American Bar Association, versions of which have been adopted by 49 states and the District of Columbia. This rulemaking is the first major update of the USPTO's professional conduct rules since 1985 and codifies many obligations that already apply to the practice of law under duties owed to clients. Specifically, the USPTO Rules streamline practitioners' professional responsibility obligations, bringing USPTO obligations in line with most practitioners' state bar requirements. The rulemaking also eliminates the annual practitioner maintenance fee. The USPTO published a notice of proposed rulemaking on October 18, 2012, and carefully reviewed and addressed the relevant comments. A comparison chart of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct and the USPTO Rules is located on the USPTO's website.

On the enrollment side, in an effort to ensure that individuals seeking registration before the USPTO are being tested on new topics including Supreme Court decisions and relevant statutes, the USPTO is also updating the content of the registration examination on April 2, 2013 to include provisions of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) that took effect on March 16, 2013. This update is the third AIA related examination update and fourth update in the past 2 years. Additionally, the USPTO continues to foster interest in the intellectual property field with recent expansions of the Law School Clinic Certification Pilot Program. The Federal Register publication can be found at www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/04/03/2013-07382/changes-to-representation-of-others-before-united-states-patent-and-trademark-office.

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