Varsity Blues: What Bar Discipline Lies Ahead For Lawyer In College Admissions Scandal

The co-chair of Willkie Farr, Gordon Caplan, was named today in an unsealed federal indictment. The result of an FBI investigation dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues,” Caplan, as well as dozens of other well-to-do parents, was involved in what the U.S. Attorney’s Office calls a “nationwide conspiracy that facilitated cheating on college entrance exams and the admission of students to elite... Read more →

Loose Lips Sink Attorney Secrets

I was on a long flight recently and had the misfortune of sitting behind two lawyers for several hours.  For almost the entire duration of the flight, the attorneys were involved in a detailed discussion about what was obvious (to me anyway) to be a client matter.  They were discussing an upcoming deposition, strategical issues, and client communications.  And they... Read more →

Attorney-Client Sex: A Bad Idea That’s Also Unethical

For decades, regulators and courts have ruled that sex with a client during the course of the professional relationship is unethical. Nonetheless, lawyers continue to flout precedent and are frequently disciplined for engaging in sexual relations with their clients. Some cases of impermissible attorney-client sex are no brainers–such as the attorney who insists on a “legal services-for-sexual services” fee arrangement.... Read more →

Federal Court DQs Law Firm in Patent Infringement Case, Rejecting Advance Conflict Waiver

A federal court in Alabama yesterday disqualified a law firm from representing a new client in a patent infringement case against a current firm client. In Southern Visions, LLP v. Red Diamond, Inc. (N.D. Ala. Feb. 26, 2019), the court held that Bradley Arant Boult Cummings (“Bradley”) was ethically barred from representing one client (Southern Visions) against another client (Red... Read more →

All In The Family: The Tricky Ethics Of Corporate Affiliate Conflicts

If you represent a corporation, do you represent all entities in the corporate family? For example, if you represent a parent company, does that mean you also represent the parent’s subsidiaries? Does it matter if a subsidiary is wholly-owned vs. partially owned? How about if you represent a subsidiary–does that mean you also represent its parent or grandparent entity in... Read more →

Colorado Supreme Court Shuts Down Sham “Expert” Patent Law Firm

On February 6, 2019, the Colorado Supreme Court shuttered a Colorado business, which once billed itself as an “expert patent law” firm, and its owner, for engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. According to the Court’s order (here), Intelligent Patent Services, LLC (IPS) and its non-lawyer owner, Dak Steiert, are enjoined from engaging in the unauthorized practice of law... Read more →

Patent Prosecution Malpractice: Minimizing the Risk of Claims

Malpractice in patent prosecution can be an expensive (very expensive) and time-consuming proposition. Defense costs alone can run well into the seven figures. No patent prosecutor or law firm wants to face that kind of exposure. On February 21, 2019, I will be presenting a 90-minute CLE webinar hosted by Strafford on best practices for minimizing the risks of being... Read more →

FAQs For IP Practitioners Who Receive A Request For Information and Evidence Under 37 CFR 11.22(f) From USPTO/OED

I am frequently contacted by patent and trademark practitioners who have been served with a “Request for Information and Evidence Under 37 C.F.R. 11.22(f)” from the Director of the Office of Enrollment and Discipline (OED) of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO).   In Fiscal Year 2018, the OED Director issued over 100 such “Requests” (also referred to as “RFIs”). ... Read more →

OED Investigates TM Attys Who File Altered Or Fake Specimens: The China Syndrome

What does the Chinese government’s decision to pay its citizens to apply for and register trademarks with the USPTO have to do with IP attorney ethics?   Plenty, as it turns out. As recently reported by the American Bar Association, see article doctored-trademark-specimen, the USPTO is experiencing “a plague of fake, doctored and digitally altered specimens” filed with new Section 1(a)... Read more →

Leaving South Tahoe: Will Your Advance Conflict Waiver Survive Sheppard Mullin v. J-M Manufacturing?

On Friday, August 30, 2018, the California Supreme Court ruled that a blanket advanced conflict waiver signed by two current clients, which purported to authorize lawyers from Sheppard Mullin to accept an unrelated representation of one client adverse to another, was void against public policy because the firm failed to obtain informed consent.  Even though the engagement agreement was legally... Read more →

ABA Approves Changes To Attorney Advertising Ethics Rules

The American Bar Association’s House of Delegates approved on Monday an overhaul to its ethics rules governing attorney advertising and solicitation.  The ABA vote on Monday capped a four-year effort to modernize ethics rules promulgated in the 1980s–long before the Internet forever changed how lawyers market their services and communicate with prospective clients. The ABA’s vote was spurred on by... Read more →

Ethical Considerations for Young Lawyers

Many situations arise in the work place where young lawyers find themselves facing real ethical dilemmas. For example, your supervisor has asked you to do something that you believe may violate the Rules of Professional Conduct.   Or you become aware that another lawyer has engaged in conduct already that may be unethical.  Or a close friend or family member has... Read more →

Practitioner Beware: Outsourcing Patent Applications May Be Illegal

I am solicited on an almost daily basis by overseas organizations offering deeply-discounted patent application drafting services.  It may very well be that such services, which typically originate from countries where there is an abundant supply of technically-skilled labor, can offer a competitive product at significant cost savings compared to fees charged by U.S. patent practitioners for equivalent services.  Thus,... Read more →

Email To Bar Counsel To “Go F*#k Yourself!!!” Surefire Way To Attorney Discipline (Even In New Jersey)

Like voluntarily sticking one’s head into a lion’s den, communicating with Disciplinary Counsel can be a risky proposition.  Whatever the reason for the communication, attorneys should be mindful not only about what they are saying but how they are saying it.  This is not a difficult concept for most to grasp, but the Bar expects attorneys to conduct themselves in... Read more →

Putting Teeth Into The PTAB’s Sanctioning Powers: Is Mohawk A Sign Of Things To Come?

For federal court practitioners, sanctions have long existed as a deterrent to litigation misconduct and a weapon against gamesmanship.  The federal rules of civil procedure provide a range of tools for litigators who believe their opponents are not abiding by their obligations: Rule 11 checks improper pleadings and other court filings; Rules 26, 30 and 37 curb improper discovery and... Read more →

Colorado Man Stole Lawyer’s Identity To Create Fictional Online Law Firm: Criminal Complaint

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... Read more →

PTO Excludes Patent Attorney Who Paid Client To Deep-Six Ethics Complaint

Money can buy many things.  When a lawyer and client have a dispute, such as a client’s claim for legal malpractice, money often can buy “peace.”  And when clients and their lawyers settle such a  dispute, it is common for the parties to agree by contract to dismiss—or refrain from filing—a civil complaint. But a lawyer’s ability to buy peace... Read more →