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July 10, 2012

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junior mint

There's a foundational question here I think is important: before asking whether patent agents are more or less likely to adhere to the ethical boundaries that lawyers are taught, we should ask whether patent agents KNOW where those boundaries fall/what those rules require?

I worked at a large firm that employed patent agents (and those patent agents often attended law school part-time while employed by the firm), so in that situation I assume you would get the same level of adherence to rules of ethics from patent agents as you would from associates, with the same partner oversight. But with sole practitioners or firms where patent agents aren't supervised by lawyers, maybe behavior differs.

Ralph D. Clifford

The distinctions you raise are important. From my experience with working with associates right out of law school, the supervision ("Do you really want to do that?") from more senior attorneys is key. In any study, therefore, I think you would need to control for both the firm size and the experience level of the attorneys and agents.

The harder question to address would be the patent agent who is a part-time law student. With legal ethics often being required in the earlier part of a legal education (it's necessary to be clinic-ready), these patent agents may be more similar to attorneys in their education about ethics.

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