The client attorney relationship

PSB and working with the public

The Professional Standards Board for Patent and Trade Marks attorneys (PSB) sets the regimes and standards for all patent attorneys and trade marks attorneys registered in Australia.

We maintain a directory of registered attorneys and a directory of incorporated attorneys to help you locate IP professionals if you wish.

As a government agency, we do not provide recommendations in regards who you should choose.

The Patent and Trade Marks Attorneys Disciplinary Tribunal

Complaints about patent attorneys and trade marks attorneys are heard by the Patent and Trade Marks Attorneys Disciplinary Tribunal (the tribunal).

The tribunal is established under the Patents Regulations 1991.

The PSB commences disciplinary proceedings by giving notice to the tribunal.

The PSB must also give a copy of the notice to the attorney being prosecuted.

The tribunal sets the time, date and place for a hearing.

The date must be at least 21 days after the attorney has been given a copy of the notice.

How hearings are conducted

Hearings are conducted quickly and informally, while allowing for the matter to be properly considered.

The tribunal is not bound by the rules of evidence, but may take evidence on oath.

Hearings before the tribunal must be in public, unless the tribunal decides this is not in the public interest, or because of the confidential nature of any evidence or matter before it.

Appearing before the tribunal

Parties before the tribunal may appear in person, or be represented by legal practitioners.

The tribunal also has the power to allow a person other than a legal practitioner to represent a person.

Parties before the tribunal may request the tribunal to summon witnesses.

Witnesses summoned to appear must give evidence and produce documents mentioned in the summons.

Where the attorney is summoned, they must produce documents and give evidence to identify the documents.

People summoned to appear or provide documents are subject to penalties if they do not comply without a reasonable excuse.

It is a defence to refuse to answer a question or produce a document or article if the answer to the question or the document or the article  may tend to prove the person had committed an offence against a law of the Commonwealth or a state or territory.

Tribunal findings

The  tribunal may, depending on the charge brought against the attorney, find that a registered patent attorney is:

  • not guilty of any wrongdoing
  • guilty of professional misconduct
  • guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct

Where the tribunal finds an attorney guilty of professional misconduct it may:

  • cancel the attorney's registration
  • suspend the attorney's registration between six and 12 months, and in addition may:
    • require the attorney to undertake additional CPE and/or
    • require the attorney to work for a period of time not exceeding two years under the supervision of a person who has been registered for not less than five years

Where the tribunal finds the attorney guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct, it may:

  • administer a public reprimand to the attorney
  • suspend the attorney's registration for not more than 12 months
  • require the attorney to undertake additional continuing professional education
  • require the attorney to work for a period of time not exceeding two years under the supervision of a person who has been registered for not less than five years

The tribunal must give a written statement of its decision, setting out the reasons for the decision and the findings on any material questions of fact.

The tribunal must arrange for a written statement setting out the decision to be published in the Australian Official Journal of Patents.

Unqualified at time of registration

The tribunal may reprimand an attorney found guilty of being unqualified when they registered if:

  • the attorney has since obtained the registration
  • the registration is no longer required

In other cases, the tribunal may cancel the registration.

Registration obtained by fraud

If the tribunal finds that the attorney obtained his or her registration by fraud, the tribunal must cancel the registration.

Appointing a registered patent attorney to carry on a practice

The tribunal may appoint a registered patent attorney to carry on the practice of a former patent attorney whose registration has been cancelled or suspended.

Where a registered attorney is appointed to carry on the practice, the attorney must obtain the consent of clients to act on their behalf.

Decisions of the Patent and Trade Marks Attorneys Disciplinary Tribunal

Kevin Pullen PDF in PDF format [77 KB]

Howard Schulze & Re Phillip Boehm PDF in PDF format [20.86 MB]

Jamie Ricardo Massang - complaint by AB - decision as to penalty - 24 November 2009 PDF in PDF format [55.2 KB] (as amended by the PSB to de-identify the complainant)

Jaimie Ricardo Massang - complaint by AB - decision 10 June 2009 PDF in PDF format [179.21 KB] (as amended by the PSB to de-identify the complainant)

Blenkinship - Complaint by Nielsen and Techmin Pty Ltd PDF in PDF format [1.02 MB]

Hodgkinson - Complaint by McLean PDF in PDF format [1.97 MB]

Kelly - Complaint by Nuttall PDF in PDF format [47.71 KB]

Disciplinary tribunal decision - PSB vs Macauley PDF in PDF format [322.96 KB]

Appeals against decisions made by the tribunal can be lodged in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

These include appeals:

  • against a decision of the tribunal the attorney 'guilty' or 'not guilty', or
  • about the level of penalty imposed by the tribunal

Appeals must be follow the requirements specified on the AAT website.

For more information about these appeals, contact the AAT registry in the relevant state.

There are no explicit provisions in the Patents Regulations 1991 covering an appeal against a decision made by the PSB not to commence proceedings before the tribunal.

Persons are recommended to seek professional legal advice if they wish to appeal against these PSB decisions.

Disciplinary guidelines

The following guidelines set out the procedures that PSB will follow to investigate and decide whether disciplinary proceedings will occur: