Registered patent attorneys and trade mark attorneys are subject to all of IPReg’s ‘regulatory arrangements’. Regulatory arrangements are the rules and regulations IPReg makes under the authority given to IPReg by the Legal Services Act 2007, the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and the Trade Marks Act 1994.
IPReg’s regulatory arrangements are known as the Core Regulatory Framework. This framework of regulations is made up of:
- Overarching Principles, setting out the fundamental ethical behaviours expected of all regulated persons both inside and outside of their professional practice
- The Code of Conduct, setting out the standards of professionalism expected of all regulated persons in particular areas
- Standard Operating Procedures, setting out the procedural rules governing some of IPReg’s primary functions such as the admission and discipline of attorneys
IPReg only deals with complaints of professional misconduct, meaning serious departures from the principles or the code. Not all breaches of IPReg’s regulatory arrangements will result in an investigation or disciplinary action being taken. Where breaches are minor, technical or isolated IPReg may consider that the more proportionate approach is to bring the non-compliance to the attention of the attorney and work with them to ensure breaches do not occur in the future.
Complaints about fees, service or communication are usually best dealt with by the Legal Ombudsman. However if the issues are particularly serious or suggest a pattern of poor behaviour, IPReg can investigate. Additionally, the Legal Ombudsman will alert us if it considers that a case raises issues of professional misconduct.
Following an investigation and disciplinary process, IPReg can issue notices and reprimands, order financial penalties and it can suspend or remove an attorney or a practice from the registers. IPReg cannot award compensation to a complainant.
IPReg’s Disciplinary and Enforcement guidance sets out how IPReg makes decisions about investigating and undertaking disciplinary proceedings across the various stages of the process. The Disciplinary Sanctions guidance provides information about how sanctions are applied.
IPReg runs a small compensation scheme for individual clients and small businesses who have suffered financial hardship due to fraud or dishonesty by a regulated person, meaning the regulated person’s professional indemnity insurance would not meet a claim. An example of this would be where a client had provided funds to pay IPO registration fees but the attorney misappropriated the funds.