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.