IPReg’s Complaints Review Committee has issued a new decision, dated 31 January 2020.
Fry Heath & Spence (FHS) have been reprimanded and Dr Keith Boden, a partner in FHS, has been issued with a formal warning. The decision is published here (and you can download the full PDF of the decision at the bottom of this page). Warnings and reprimands in IPReg are rare, so what went wrong?
What was Dr Boden accused of?
Dr Boden was helping a client with a patent application, who was keen to secure a granted patent swiftly. Dr Boden charged the client for making a request for speedy handling at the Patent Office.
The Patent Office responded and sent Dr Boden a confirmation that they were accelerating the application, and (on the same day) a report setting out their concerns with the application. Dr Boden reported the first letter to the client immediately, but not the second one, for some reason.
Problem was, the second letter had a deadline for reply – two months. A week or so later, Dr Boden took leave of absence for medical reasons, for which we should be sympathetic. Although he was able to find the time and energy to deal with a number of other cases during this period, this one escaped his attention. The next time the case received attention, the deadline had already passed – so Dr Boden sought an extension of the deadline from the Patent Office. An initial extension of two months is entirely routine – and is actually something the application is entitled to. Nothing to worry about, so far – the client’s work has been delayed, with is not good, but nothing has been lost. A sincere apology to the client should set things right, along with maybe a refund of the fee charged for speeding the patent application up. After all, Dr Boden had been ill. Most clients would be understanding.
That wasn’t the route Dr Boden chose, though. He (or someone working for him) doctored the letter from the Patent Office to delete its date, and to edit the deadline to move it on by two months. He then reported it to the client, telling them then extended deadline only and not mentioning the edits or the delay. The client felt that the Patent Office wasn’t giving him much time for a response – but Dr Boden portrayed the 23 July date as a hard deadline. So the client called the Patent Office and (as with all lies) the truth started to leak out.
The client complained; as all patent attorneys are required to, Fry Heath & Spence had a formal complaints policy. The complaint was handled by the other partner in FHS, Graham Lock. Mr Lock dismissed the complaint, assuring the client that the letter was doctored purely in order to avoid confusion. Unhappy with that, the client took the matter to IPReg.
What did IPReg find?
Not surprisingly, IPReg were not at all happy with their conduct. Keith Boden came in for criticism for his role in (what IPReg described as) a “deception” illustrating a “lack of integrity”, and a “laissez-faire attitude to the interests of his client”.
Graham Lock’s investigation into Keith’s conduct, following the client’s complaint, was described as demonstrating “systemic failings” and “a lack of any real insight”.
It was an “internal investigation without accepting that it had done anything wrong”. He “ought to have known of the deception” but showed an “apparent lack of oversight” which the CRC found “troubling”.
You can download the IPReg findings in PDF format by clicking below: