11.22 Disciplinary Investigations.
- (a) The OED Director is authorized to investigate possible grounds for discipline. An investigation may be initiated when the OED Director receives a grievance, information or evidence from any source suggesting possible grounds for discipline. Neither unwillingness nor neglect by a grievant to prosecute a charge, nor settlement, compromise, or restitution with the grievant, shall in itself justify abatement of an investigation.
- (b) Any person possessing information or evidence concerning possible grounds for discipline of a practitioner may report the information or evidence to the OED Director. The OED Director may request that the report be presented in the form of an affidavit or declaration.
- (c) [Reserved]
- (d) Preliminary screening of information or evidence. The OED Director shall examine all information or evidence concerning possible grounds for discipline of a practitioner.
- (e) Notification of investigation. The OED Director shall notify the practitioner in writing of the initiation of an investigation into whether a practitioner has engaged in conduct constituting possible grounds for discipline.
Request for information and evidence by OED
In the course of the investigation, the OED
Director may request information and evidence regarding possible
grounds for discipline of a practitioner from:
- (i) The grievant,
- (ii) The practitioner, or
- (iii) Any person who may reasonably be expected to provide information and evidence needed in connection with the grievance or investigation.
- (2) The OED Director may request information and evidence regarding possible grounds for discipline of a practitioner from a non-grieving client either after obtaining the consent of the practitioner or upon a finding by a Contact Member of the Committee on Discipline, appointed in accordance with § 11.23(d), that good cause exists to believe that the possible ground for discipline alleged has occurred with respect to non-grieving clients. Neither a request for, nor disclosure of, such information shall constitute a violation of any USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct.
- (1) In the course of the investigation, the OED Director may request information and evidence regarding possible grounds for discipline of a practitioner from:
- (g) Where the OED Director makes a request under paragraph (f)(2) of this section to a Contact Member of the Committee on Discipline, such Contact Member shall not, with respect to the practitioner connected to the OED Director’s request, participate in the Committee on Discipline panel that renders a probable cause determination under paragraph (b)(1) of this section concerning such practitioner, and that forwards the probable cause finding and recommendation to the OED Director under paragraph (b)(2) of this section.
Disposition of investigation. Upon the conclusion
of an investigation, the OED Director may:
- (1) Close the investigation without issuing a warning, or taking disciplinary action;
- (2) Issue a warning to the practitioner;
- (3) Institute formal charges upon the approval of the Committee on Discipline; or
- (4) Enter into a settlement agreement with the practitioner and submit the same for approval of the USPTO Director.
Closing investigation. The OED Director shall
terminate an investigation and decline to refer a matter to the
Committee on Discipline if the OED Director determines that:
- (1) The information or evidence is unfounded;
- (2) The information or evidence relates to matters not within the jurisdiction of the Office;
- (3) As a matter of law, the conduct about which information or evidence has been obtained does not constitute grounds for discipline, even if the conduct may involve a legal dispute; or
- (4) The available evidence is insufficient to conclude that there is probable cause to believe that grounds exist for discipline.
[Added, 73 FR 47650, Aug. 14, 2008, effective Sept. 15, 2008; para. (c) removed and reserved, 77 FR 45247, July 31, 2012, effective August 30, 2012; section heading, para. (f)(2), and para. (i) introductory text revised, 78 FR 20180, Apr. 3, 2013, effective May 3, 2013]