In some cases you can make an official complaint against an IP attorney.
When a complaint can be made
The Trans-Tasman IP Attorneys Board investigates complaints against attorneys.
A complaint can be made where an attorney:
- Has breached the Code of Conduct
- Has acted in a way that falls short of the standard of competence, diligence and behaviour expected of an attorney
- Has acted in a way that shows they are not of good fame, integrity and character
- Doesn't hold the proper qualifications for registration
- Has obtained registration by fraud.
The Code of Conduct outlines the core obligations of a registered attorney, which are to act in:
- Accordance with the law
- The best interests of clients
- The public interest
- The interests of the profession.
If the registered attorney is unable to equally comply with all of the obligations, they must prioritise in the order listed above.
Other key requirements include:
- Being courteous, ethical and well-informed; not fraudulent, deceitful or knowingly misleading
- Only do work the attorney is competent to undertake
- Work in a timely manner
- Not use or disclose confidential information from a client without their consent
- Avoid creating an actual or possible conflict of interest between the client's interests and the attorney's interests or the interests of another client.
When a complaint can't be made
Complaints can only be made against registered Australian trade marks attorneys or registered Trans-Tasman patent attorneys. You can check whether someone is registered in our directory.
Search for an attorney
If the subject of your complaint is not a registered attorney but is a lawyer, you should contact the relevant law society where they practise.
Complaint process and outcomes
The board investigates complaints to determine whether it is likely that the attorney has committed an offence against the patent or trade marks attorney regulations.
The board refers a complaint to the disciplinary tribunal if they think it is likely that the attorney will be found guilty.
The tribunal decides:
- If the attorney has committed an offence
- Whether to impose a penalty.
Penalties include suspending or cancelling an attorney's registration or requiring additional training or supervision.
The board's disciplinary processes are intended to protect the public from further harm. The board and the tribunal can't:
- Order an attorney to pay damages or compensation
- Force an attorney to do anything to resolve an issue.
If you are seeking compensation, you will need to consider other avenues such as court action. Some professional organisations, such as the Institute of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys of Australia, may provide alternatives for complaints against their members.
Who can act as an attorney
Only board registered attorneys are allowed to call themselves a patent attorney or a trade marks attorney.
- It is illegal for someone to claim that they are registered with the board if they aren't
- Only patent attorneys or lawyers can do patents work (such as filing patents or providing advice on validity or infringement).
If you are aware of someone who is not a registered attorney or a lawyer, but has said that they are or have done patents work, please contact the secretary.