USPTO Disciplinary Actions

Sheinbein v. Dudas (Fed. Cir. 2006).

Sol Sheinbein was a patent attorney.  In an infamous 1997 event, he helped his son escape to Israel to hide from authorities in the U.S. His son was being investigated for a brutal murder, and a Maryland court determined that his father had committed criminal obstruction.  Sheinbein was barred from the practice of law in Maryland and DC and from practicing before the USPTO based on 37 CFR 10.23.  That rule provides the following:

  • (a) A practitioner shall not engage in disreputable or gross misconduct. 
  • (b) A practitioner shall not:
    • (1) Violate a Disciplinary Rule.
    • (2) Circumvent a Disciplinary Rule through actions of another.
    • (3) Engage in illegal conduct involving moral turpitude.
    • (4) Engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.
    • (5) Engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.
    • (6) Engage in any other conduct that adversely reflects on the practitioner’s fitness to practice before the Office.

Examples of violations include being disbarred from the practice of law based on ethical grounds or violation of a law of the United States. The CAFC agreed that disbarment in another jurisdiction can be a sufficient basis for the PTO’s finding of unfitness without any specific fact-finding by the PTO.

Statute of limitations: The statute provides a five-year statute of limitations for the exclusion.  Sheinbein argued that the period had passed.  The CAFC disagreed — agreeing with the PTO that the five-years begins at the time of being disbarred from the neighboring states.

  • CAFC Decision
  • More about the Samuel Sheinbein case here and here.
  • The PTO’s office of enrollment and discipline posts most of its disciplinary decisions here.

5 thoughts on “USPTO Disciplinary Actions

  1. It is important to follow the law, whether it is God’s law or man’s good judgement. The following dictum from Shakepeare’s Hamlet, “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou cans’t not be false to any man.”

  2. I’m relieved that the PTO has barred Sol Sheinbein from practice, as he has shown contempt for the laws of this country and an extreme lack of character that reflects poorly upon his ability to possess the necessary moral terpitude to appear before the PTO. When he decided to spirit his murdering son out of the United States, he clearly forfeited his ability to practice before the PTO and I commend the Federal Circuit for properly upholding this decision.

  3. I agree with “Dammann.” Sol Sheinbein made a mistake, which is a shame if he’s an otherwise good guy.

    I can understand helping one’s son beat a traffic ticket or minor drug charges, but smuggling him out of the country to beat a murder rap is a bit much. The PTO is entitled to think that this reflects insufficient respect for the law and reflects badly enough on the patent bar that it merits disbarment. Perhaps to his credit, Mr. Sheinbein appears to have argued only that the statute of limitations had run, not that disbarment was unjust in some way.

  4. I do not think a distinction should be drawn between criminal law and patent prosecution. The practice of law requires good moral character, i.e. honesty, fairness, candor, trustworthiness and respect for the laws of the nation and state, including the rules of the USPTO. One can be unethical in patent prosecution.

  5. Although I don’t know Sol Sheinbein personally, I have friends who do know him, and who vouch for his character. It seems a pity that he should lose his livelihood in this way. Although he is undoubtedly an accessory after the fact, the principal was his own son and was a minor at the time he committed his crime.

    Although I can understand disbarring him as a lawyer, there is really no reason to think that these events have any bearing upon patent prosecution. Ethical rules designed for someone who can practice criminal law seem unsuited to the PTO.

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