Hastings Business Law Journal


The PTO Code of Professional Responsibility regulates the conduct of patent practitioners to ensure the integrity of the practice and protect client's interests. While patent agents and patent attorneys must both abide by the PTO Code, patent attorneys must also adhere to the Rules of Professional Conduct of the state in which they practice. Periodically, conflicts between the PTO Code and state ethics rules or uncertainties within the PTO Code have an adverse affect on the business practices of patent attorneys. These business practices include client engagement, disclosures to the client, partnerships and fee arrangements. This article examines the practical limits of the PTO's authority to regulate the business practices of practitioners, conflicts between the PTO Code and state ethics rules, potential adverse effects of the PTO Code, and the necessity of those effects in accomplishing PTO objectives. It also addresses recent proposed PTO rules targeting current abuses by invention-promoters and how the PTO might revise the rules to accomplish its goals without needlessly prohibiting ethical business practices.