USPTO to Introduce CLE and Membership Dues?

by: The Knowledge Group

March 19, 2019


Late last summer, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office raised the possibility of instituting annual Patent Enrollment Fees for members of the patent bar. The idea is evidently to fund the patent bar’s Office of Enrollment and Discipline, as well as enhance the level of legal education for practitioners. The dues were proposed at an upper level of $410 per year for lawyers who filed on paper rather than online and paid without showing certificates of Continuing Legal Education compliance.

The USPTO has floated the possibility of annual patent bar dues before, but the CLE provision is new.

We have not heard whether this idea will enter into effect. The arguments against such a provision from patent attorneys are, in general:

  • The USPTO has not established a reasonable need for training patent practitioners.
  • The USPTO has not shown statistics indicating significant harm done by patent practitioners.
  • The fee could impact attorneys who are not currently engaged in the practice of patent law.
  • The unauthorized practice of patent law has not been well studied or carefully quantified but represents a significant portion of the disciplinary cases.
  • Attorney’s view proposed annual dues as penalties, which must be paid in order for an attorney to remain licensed; a lawyer personally receives nothing in return.
  • Competent patent practitioners should not be forced to pay for errors of unauthorized practitioners or the enforcement carried out by the USPTO Office of Enrollment and Discipline.
  • The government does not reimburse patent practitioners employed by the USPTO itself or by other U.S. agencies.
  • It is already a burden to pay for CLE, bar dues, and malpractice insurance for solo practitioners.
  • Non-profits and universities will be burdened by the compliance obligation.
  • It should be the client’s role to hire an authorized patent attorney or agent.

Should members of the patent bar pay annual dues? Will they? The question may not be put to rest any time soon. You can check the latest Continuing Legal Education (CLE) webcasts from us at The Knowledge Group by clicking here.