USPTO Updates Ethics Guidelines Based on Model Rules

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on July 31, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Once upon a time, attorneys were bound by the 1908 Canons of Professional Ethics, then the Model Code of Responsibility and now, the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. These highly regarded principles serve as the basis for ethics rules in most states. With the exception of California, all states, and the District of Columbia, have adopted some form of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. 

California (which always has to be different) still works under the guidelines of the Model Code of Responsibility.

The USPTO has its own set of ethical rules, the USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct, which regulate attorney conduct before the USPTO. Last updated in 1985, until recently, the USPTO Rules were still based on the Model Code of Responsibility. A short time ago, the USTPO updated its Rules of Professional Conduct to reflect the guidelines that most attorneys follow -- the Model Rules, reports the ABA Journal.

Funny how a body governing innovation and creativity is lagging behind, huh?

David Kappos, the former UPSTO Director, himself stated: "Admittedly, this move is overdue." The update has been met with positive response, and, rightfully so. Just as technology changed, the way attorneys practice law has changed since the Model Code was first adopted in 1969, and later revised in 1985. These changes to the USPTO Rules will bridge that gap.

Until now, practitioners before the USPTO had to constantly check between the Model Rules used in their state jurisdictions, and the Model Code, used at the USTPO. By streamlining the rules, the USTPO has made it easier for attorneys to understand their ethical obligations, and focus on their practice.

So, if your practice brings you to the USPTO, you can rest assured that your ethical obligations there are compatible to your state guidelines. The one exception is for California attorneys. Since California attorney ethics are governed by the Model Code, they will now have to shift back and forth from the Model Code and the Model Rules to ensure that their behavior is within the new USPTO Rules.

If you want to keep yourself up to date on the Model Rules, now can on your mobile device. You guessed it, there's an app for that.

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