Who determines the complaint?
The Chair of the Disciplinary and Interim Orders Tribunal (“DIOT”) will appoint three members to form a Disciplinary Panel. The DIOT is independent of IPReg and is made up of six lay members (non-lawyers) and six professional members (currently, three patent attorney members and three trade mark attorney members). The Panel hearing the individual case will be made up of two lay members, one of whom will chair the Panel, and one professional member. It will usually be the case that if the hearing relates to an issue specific to patent law, the professional member will be a patent attorney member and if a trade mark issue, the professional member will be a trade mark attorney. That need not be the case however, where the issues raised are not specific to a profession (for example, where the allegation involves dishonesty or a failure to hold professional indemnity insurance).
Before the hearing takes place, both the regulated person and IPReg will have the opportunity to finalise and disclose the evidence they wish to rely on. This can include witness statements and other documentary material.
Most cases will be held ‘on the papers’ which means that written evidence only is submitted and the Panel convene remotely to discuss the evidence and reach their decisions. In some cases, it may be more appropriate for the hearing to be ‘live’ so that witnesses give their evidence orally and can be cross examined by the other party. In that case, hearings can be conducted via video-conferencing or held in person if necessary.
The Disciplinary Panel will issue a written decision. If the complaint is upheld there are a number of sanctions that can be applied, including the decision to impose no sanction at all. The sanctions are set out at paragraph 3.4 of Chapter 4 of the Core Regulatory Framework and range from a warning or reprimand to a fine or being removed from the register. The Disciplinary Sanctions Guidance provides more information about what sanction might be applied in particular cases.
The Disciplinary Panel cannot make any order of financial compensation to the complainant. It may, upon application and if satisfied that the respondent has been appropriately served with a Schedule of Costs, award costs to IPReg for investigating and bringing the case.
Decisions of the Disciplinary Panel may be appealed to an independent Adjudicator appointed by IPReg. Appeals are by way of a review of the evidence and decision, not a re-hearing of the case.