Integrity in jeopardy - Public distrust in intellectual property lawyers

Every lawyer have built on the reputation envisioned by the masses as a person devoid of a conscious and skilled in the circumvention of law but the underlying truth is that a lawyer is a person who undergoes a period of rigorous pupillage and exercises that hard work to achieve a privileged noble position in the society. Each day, an honorable lawyer practices few disciplines learnt from the superiors. Alas! Few intellectual lawyers of today began to maneuver their lifelong profession, morph the moral principles of their superiors and guiltlessly weaken the principled repute of the entire legal domain. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and Registry of Intellectual Property have received several reports on the malpractice of unethical lawyers. For quite some time, the misconducts of such lawyers have been suppressed but WIPO and the Disciplinary Committee of many countries including India have lifted the veil. Now the integrity and moral standards of every legal professional is in jeopardy and under strict scrutiny. WIPO and the Disciplinary Committee of various countries expressing the new-age scams being conducted worldwide have released many notices.

The unprofessional personnel’s of an intellectual property firm have apparently adopted tricks from the first chapter of a Non-Legal Playbook. They are “counterfeit” firms who supposedly provide registration and consultation services to the Intellectual Property (IP) applicant or owners and correspond by a call or an e-mail. The routine shenanigans of such registration service company are that they contact the proprietor to make payments for an official registration or for renewal of their IP (patent, trademark, domain name and design) nearing expiry. The phone call poised and e-mail or letters dispatched appear official as though to have originated from a governmental agency. The fee for such registration services are extremely inflated than the customary fees from an intellectual property expert and furthermore to guise legitimacy, the information of the applicant and is incorporated from public records available from the IP-Website and released on the Company name and letterhead, making them appear official. The procedures and invoices shall also mimic the layout of the WIPO or the Registry and may include a significant amount of genuine information to further expand the illegal illusion. The counterfeit firms targets the applicant directly because the all the relevant applications and information including the name, address and the firm assisting in matters relating to the IP are all advertised on the global websites including the Registry Journals after filing or upon grant of the application by the Registrar. An unprofessional personnel acquires to take unlawful advantage of such information and contacts the owner purporting to notify the status of the application for IP registration and offers exceptional services followed by an invoice or a debit note. While the call interprets to offer services but the invoice shall appear to be an exorbitant fee due for the applications and the invoice shall be enclosed with the application downloaded from the official website of the Registry to increase the likelihood of deception. If the IP holder agrees to file for registration of application and avail the services, the unprofessional personnel will try to register these marks for several years. Few counterfeit firm call to inform the IP holder about another entity - a third party seeking to register the brand name or oppose the brand name or use the brand name as a domain name. Generally, in these cases, there is a third party who is seeking to register the brand name for a despicable purpose. The skeptical IP holder agrees to pay the enormous fee and unknowingly take part in the shenanigan available for addressing such uses if they materialize (check WIPO website). The counterfeit firm extends their scams not till e-mails but also operate fake websites, faxes and telephone number. Other signs of unprincipled service offers include preparation of false documentation, exaggerated claims about the market potential of the invention, refusal to offer advice in writing, scheduling phone calls, request for detailed information and extra charges for supposed registration fees, hotel reservations to the clients, awards and request for money immediately and upfront. They also offer employment opportunities to other employee to elaborate the scams.

This is how a scam were performed by the personnel’s practicing intellectual property law and all the recipients have been time and again warned by the Registry and WIPO through circulars and notices and are strictly advised to be cautious before availing any legal advice and assistance in registration of an IP. All the documents sent by a professional scammer shall look authentic as they appear to be from the governmental agency and to be legitimate invoices and any such requests for such unlawful payments or information should be refused and reported to the local Police Authority.

In India, every lawyer must abide by the Bar Council of India Rules and the Advocates Act, 1961. A complaint against an unethical advocate can be redressed to the State Bar Council or the Bar Council of India. The complaint has to be in the form of a petition, signed and verified under the Civil Procedure Code 1908. The Registrar of the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar Council of India shall exercise all the powers that of a Civil Court or a Court of Appeals under Civil Procedure Code, 1908.

Every Disciplinary Committee shall make a record of the day-to-day proceedings. After recording of evidence and determining the entire proceedings, the advocate if held unethical and guilty is directed for compensation of the client and restitution of intellectual capital and further veto of the advocate for the adoption of fraudulent and dishonest modus operandi. Remember the bona-fide notices on IP nearing expiry shall come from the Registry ONLY and if the application has been applied for Madrid Protocol would come from the WIPO ONLY on the address cited in the Application.

From the Lawyer’s Desk

The scams in intellectual property have directly affected the Intellectual Capital and the Collective Knowledge of the legal organization. The setback experienced by the entire legal fraternity wherein an intellectual asset is considered as bait and where an ethical lawyer is all ready to renounce all the moral principle codes embedded by their superiors. In India, this scam comes as a disappointment because there are thousands of intellectual lawyers who graduate every year and awaits for a genuine opportunity and seek to be the pupils of noble superior practitioner. The entire legal professionals and personnel’s are prejudiced by the masses because of handful of swindlers.

An advocate’s conduct should reflect their privileged reputation earned in the society, which incepts from the established moral principles of this profession. In any event the contrary is witnessed by any person, then as a responsible citizen immediately approach the Disciplinary Committee situated in every State.

By Adv. Jessica Gill

The author endeavors a pro bono approach to bring awareness amongst every reader and exclude the unprofessional charlatans who have disrupted the integrity and tranquility from the legal domains.

 

Jessica 
on 29 February 2016
Published in Intellectual Property Rights
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