Prosecutors in Eagle County, Colorado have filed a five-count criminal complaint against Dak Steiert, alleged mastermind behind a fictitious IP law firm. According to state prosecutors, Steiert stole the identities of a real patent lawyer and two others to create a fake law firm which he used to lure unsuspecting inventor “clients” into paying thousands of dollars for patent applications and related services. See Colorado v. Dak Brandon Steiert, 2017CR137
If convicted of all charges, Steiert faces up to six (6) years in prison and $300,000 in fines.
As we previously reported, Steiret is also the subject of a parallel civil injunction petition for unauthorized practice of law, which is pending in the Supreme Court of Colorado. See article here. In the UPL petition, Colorado disciplinary counsel alleges that Steiert created or operated “Intelligent Patent Services,” which apparently existed only online.
The UPL Petition alleges that Steiert and Intelligent Patent Services advertised on a website as “Patent Attorneys You Can Trust”, and promised it had “Registered Patent Attorneys all with 5-20 years experience.” According to the Petition, the IPS website quoted flat rates from $2,700 to $5,300 for patent searching and application drafting. The Petition accuses Steiert, who is not a lawyer or patent agent, with populating his website with the names and backgrounds of real patent attorneys and agents without their knowledge or consent. In addition, earlier versions of IPS’s website represented that Steiert was himself a patent attorney; those websites have apparently been disabled.
The UPL Petition further alleges that a particular client contacted IPS and was told by Steiert that his firm had “an office with many lawyers.” The Petition cited multiple instances in which Steiert himself allegedly drafted patent applications for inventors and then returned the finished work product for the inventors to file themselves.
The recently-filed criminal complaint accuses Steiert of three (3) counts of criminal impersonation for “unlawfully, feloniously, and knowingly assum[ing] a false or fictitious identity or capacity.” According to the complaint, Steiert then used those fake identities to perform “an act to unlawfully gain a benefit for himself or another or to injure or defraud another.” The three individuals who Steiert allegedly impersonated on the IPS “law firm” website were identified in the complaint as Cody Barela (a real patent attorney or agent), and two alleged co-owners of IPS: Lisa Primiano and Debbie Kwon. Both Primiano and Kwon deny having any knowledge that they were being held out as “co-founders” of Intelligent Patent Services. They are apparently cooperating with authorities in Steiert’s prosectuion.
The criminal impersonation charges are felonies. Under Colorado law, each count of criminal impersonation carries a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison and a fine of $100,000.
The criminal complaint also charges Steiert with fraud in effecting sales by false statements and “bait advertising.” Although the criminal complaint is not specific, these charges arise from Steiert’s alleged false or misleading statements in advertising to promote the purchase or sale of “property or services.” Steiert faces up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine for each of these additional charges.
No trial date has been set in the criminal case. But between the Colorado UPL case and the Eagle County criminal case, it looks like Steiert will be keeping authorities in Colorado busy for a while.