Registered patent attorneys and trade mark attorneys are subject to a professional code of conduct – called “Rules of Conduct for patent attorneys and trade mark attorneys”. This code applies also to firms of attorneys regulated by IPReg.
IPReg only deals with complaints of professional misconduct, meaning breaches of the code. Generally complaints about bills will be dealt with by the Legal Ombudsman.
Sometimes service is so poor that it amounts to a breach of the code also but that is in the minority of cases. Usually the Legal Ombudsman will alert us if a case should also be reviewed by us.
The code underpins the professional status of an attorney. A decision by IPReg that there has been a breach of the code is a serious matter. Therefore, the test is higher than for poor service and a factor will be whether, on realising that a problem has arisen, the attorney has rectified the problem as far as possible.
IPReg can issue notices and reprimands and it can remove an attorney or a practice from its registers either for a specified period or permanently. We can also issue fines. We cannot award compensation.
Our Complaints Handling and Enforcement Policy provides a guide to our approach. Complaints by an attorney (and other lawyers) against other attorneys are unlikely to be accepted.
IPReg runs a small compensation scheme for individual clients and small businesses who have suffered financial hardship as a result of the dishonest or fraudulent use by their attorney of the client’s money. An example of this would be where a client had provided funds to pay IPO registration fees but the attorney did not pay those fees or return them. The scheme is entirely discretionary. The scheme will not cover losses incurred through poor work or negligence.
The IPReg Compensation Scheme Rules set out the detailed arrangements.