About these Guidance Notes
All practising patent and trade mark attorneys have a professional obligation to ensure that they maintain their skills and knowledge at the necessary level to be able to provide a proper service to existing and potential clients. The principle of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is well established in most other professions (e.g. solicitors since 1985) and some IP attorneys have undertaken CPD activities for many years either on a voluntary basis or as part of the schemes administered by CITMA and CIPA.
IPReg is charged with ensuring that the public can be confident when they consult an individual registered patent or trade mark attorney that he or she is up-to-date and aware of recent changes in law and practice in what is often a highly technical area. IPReg provides the necessary external regulation to ensure that individual CPD activities are properly undertaken and reflect the varied nature of professional practice. Regulation 6 of the Patent Attorney and Trade Mark Attorney Qualification and Registration Regulations provides the basis for the CPD requirements which are detailed in the Continuing Professional Development Regulations.
An attorney will not be able to renew their practising certificate and pay their practice fee for the next practising year unless they have submitted a compliant CPD declaration for the previous practice year, or have been granted a CPD waiver. Waiver applications can be made via the attorney's online IPReg account.
These Guidance Notes are intended to help all registered patent and trade mark attorneys who are in active practice comply with the CPD requirements recognising that initially there is not a uniform experience of compulsory CPD. Our objective is to see CPD embraced by all registered attorneys as a natural part of their professional activities rather than as a tedious bureaucratic interference. What follows are guidelines rather than absolute requirements.
What is CPD?
CPD is work undertaken over and above the normal work and professional commitments of practitioners with a view to such work developing their skills, knowledge and professional standards in areas relevant to their area of practice as registered patent and trade mark attorneys, and in order to keep themselves up to date and to maintain the highest standards of professional practice. Examples of activities which will normally qualify as CPD are given below.
General CPD Requirements
All registered patent and trade mark attorneys in active practice are required to achieve the minimum of 16 hours CPD in order to remain registered and to self-certify that they have met this requirement when renewing their registration. Compliance may be monitored by requiring detailed support (such as individual CPD records) from a random sample of registrants each year to substantiate the 16 hours figure.
Attorneys are required to undertake CPD relevant to their practice. IPReg do not require specific numbers of hours to be devoted to particular subjects (but see “CPD Requirements for Litigators” section). Instead, attorneys should determine for themselves, bearing in mind their existing skills and the nature of their practice, the most appropriate subjects where they should undertake CPD, taking account of their responsibilities and the expectations placed upon them.
We say that the “rule of thumb” is to ask:
“What is the value to me in providing legal services to my clients?”
To count towards the overall requirements, the CPD activity should be at an appropriate level and contribute to an attorney’s general professional skill and knowledge, and not merely advance a particular fee-earning matter. Individuals are encouraged to plan their annual programme of CPD activities based on an objective assessment of their training and development needs in relation to the nature of their business practice.
It will not be possible to carry over time spent in CPD from one calendar year to the next.
CPD which counts towards the CPD requirements of other bodies regulated by the Legal Services Board (such as the Law Society or Bar Council) may also be counted towards the total required by IPReg, provided it is relevant to practice as a Patent or Trade Mark Attorney.
Patent and trade mark attorneys who are not in active practice (i.e. who are not providing any patent or trade mark services directly or indirectly to any client or employer) but who nevertheless wish to remain on the Register(s) may do so but they will be recorded on the Register(s) as “not in active practice” and will not be required to undertake any CPD. However, should their circumstances change and they request removal of their “inactive” status from the Register(s), they then will become subject to the annual CPD minimum requirement, normally on a pro rata basis for the remainder of that registration year.