Friday, October 30, 2020

Reciprocal Discipline For PTO Suspension

The Wisconsin Supreme Court imposed identical reciprocal discipline in a matter involving sanctions imposed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office

This is a reciprocal discipline matter. On February 5, 2020, the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) filed a complaint and motion pursuant to Supreme Court Rule (SCR) 22.22,  asking this court to suspend Attorney Michael W. Starkweather's license to practice law in Wisconsin for a period of 36 months, as discipline reciprocal to that imposed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Upon review, we agree that it is appropriate to suspend Attorney Starkweather's law license for a period of 36 months. Although the OLR's complaint did not address this subject, we also follow our practice of ordering Attorney Starkweather to comply with the terms and conditions of the USPTO disciplinary order, including a two-year period of probation. We do not impose costs.

The misconduct

on October 17, 2019, the USPTO issued an order suspending Attorney Starkweather's ability to practice before the USPTO for 36 months as a result of his failure to provide competent representation in a reasonably prompt, diligent, honest manner to the inventors he took on as clients.

PTO reinstatement conditions

The USPTO order also states that Attorney Starkweather's future reinstatement by the USPTO, if any, shall be conditioned on, among other things, attaining a certain score  on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) and completing 12 hours of continuing legal education courses on certain subjects. Id. In addition, the USPTO order states that, if reinstated, Attorney Starkweather must serve a two-year probationary period with a number of specified conditions. 

Reciprocal discipline and compliance with PTO conditions

There is no indication that any of those exceptions apply in this case. In addition, although certain elements of the USPTO disciplinary order are generally not imposed in Wisconsin disciplinary proceedings (e.g., imposition of a probationary term, the requirement of a particular score on the MPRE), this court's practice in like situations is to order the respondent-lawyer to comply with the terms and conditions imposed by the disciplinary order in the other jurisdiction in order to make the discipline identical under SCR 22.22.

(Mike Frisch)

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