In re Robert R. Lech, No. D2016-34 (USPTO Dir. Oct. 3, 2016)

Michael E. McCabe, Jr.Neglect, USPTO

Disposition: Ninety (90)-day suspension from practice before the USPTO, followed by a two (2)-year period of probation after reinstatement and the requirement that the practitioner complete five (5) hours of CLE in law practice management.  Final decision here.

Summary: The USPTO Director entered a settlement agreement suspending a patent practitioner pursuant to 37 C.F.R. § 11.26 for ninety (90) days for failing to communicate with multiple patent clients about Office Actions received from the USPTO, allowing applications to go abandoned without client notice or consent, and failing to report the abandonments to his clients.

Related to USPTO Practice?  Yes

Facts: Mr. Lech is an Ohio-based registered patent attorney with no history of public discipline in twenty-three (23) years of practice. Pursuant to a settlement agreement with the USPTO, Mr. Lech agreed that between approximately February 2013 and August 24, 2015, he failed to notify his clients about multiple Office Actions received from the USPTO. During this same timeframe, Mr. Lech allowed at least 13 U.S. Patent Applications to become abandoned without the consent of his clients and failed to notify his clients about the Notices of Abandonment. Mr. Lech acknowledged that his conduct violated 37 C.F.R. §§ 10.23(a) and (b) via 10.23(c)(8); 10.77(c); 11.103; and 11.104(a)(2) and (3).

In mitigation, Mr. Lech demonstrated remorse, attempted to make restitution to his clients including by paying USPTO fees and not billing for legal services, and implemented a new docketing system that will enable him to better manage client matters. The USPTO also recognized in mitigation the fact that at least some of the misconduct was related to the illness of Mr. Lech’s father as Mr. Lech regularly travelled far to provide care for his father. Furthermore, Mr. Lech, a solo practitioner, represented that upon reinstatement he planned to join a practice of other practitioners.