News from the USA this time, concerning a patent attorney by the name of Mark A. Hamill., who is not to be confused with Mark R. Hamill.
The latter is well-known for appearing with a bunch of muppets, and is unrelated to the former who has just been struck off from practising patent law in Illinois.
According to the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois, Mark A. Hamill was engaged by a client to file a patent application. As most clients know well (or soon discover) there are fees payable to the Patent Office, and in the case of this application the USPTO notified Mr Hamill that the fees needed to be settled. According to the Commission’s investigation, these were never paid despite Mr Hamill billing his client for them and being paid.
Now, despite everyone’s best efforts, these things happen from time to time. So there are usually late-payment arrangements. Or, ultimately, professional indemnity insurance. Whatever the reason, a good attorney will make sure that the client’s interests are protected; if that is thanks to an attorney’s mistake then it might cost the attorney something, but that beats the alternatives. Sadly, Mr Hamill doesn’t seem to have done that; the Commission found that after his client asked what was happening, he assured her that the application was still pending. In fact, he had received a Notice of Abandonment from the USPTO, which he had not responded to or challenged.
At the client’s request, the Commission looked into the matter, but Mr Hamill did not respond – other than by way of a brief acknowledgement.
Needless to say, none of the above is good idea. Mr Hamill has been suspended from practice for three years for both his failure to look after his client’s interests and his failure to cooperate with the investigation.
The decision is here, if you’d like to peruse it.