AIPLA Comments on the Request for Comments on Proposed Continuing Legal Education Guidelines January 7, 2021

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The American Intellectual Property Law Association (“AIPLA”) is pleased to have the opportunity to present its views to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“Office” or “USPTO”) in response to the Request for Comments on Proposed Continuing Legal Education Guidelines published in 85 Fed. Reg. 197 (October 9, 2020) (“2020 CLE Guidelines”).

AIPLA is concerned that the proposed CLE guidelines may impose particular burdens on patent agents and other practitioners who are not otherwise required to meet state-related CLE requirements. Many patent attorney practitioners have CLE requirements for their state bars, but patent agents do not have to meet any state CLE requirements. Further, because patent agents are not required to meet state-related CLE requirements, and indeed, are not able to join some state bar organizations, their ability to obtain certifications from providers attesting to CLE attendance or otherwise proving CLE compliance is more challenging. Thus, the cost, availability, and proof of qualifying CLEs for patent agents may disproportionately adversely affect patent agents.

Further, for many inventors and inventive entities (especially small and medium-sized entities), patent agents represent a pool of advisors who are often less expensive than attorneys. Adding additional costs and burdens to practitioners will result in those costs ultimately being passed on to those very same inventors and entities who are least well positioned to pay higher fees. Any imposition of additional practitioner burdens should be accompanied by a regulatory compliance cost analysis as required under the Administrative Procedure Act and related statutes.

In addition, AIPLA is concerned that the proposal for mandatory registration and voluntary CLE certification may be especially burdensome to solo practitioners, practitioners from small firms, and corporate practitioners who may opt not to self-certify due to potential financial burdens for CLE. Lack of recognition for those practitioners may impact them disproportionately, as lack of self-certification may be viewed by the public as indicating lower ability relative to those who self-certify.

AIPLA appreciates the opportunity to provide feedback to the Office on the Request. AIPLA looks forward to further dialogue with the Office with regard to the issues raised above.

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