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ram
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Conflict of Interest
« on: Aug 13th, 2006, 12:58am »
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I very often see the word 'Conflict of Interest' used in initial client meetings, and initial client communications. However i can see its almost forgotten, or not at all discussed in the later communications.
 
1.What exactly is 'Conflict of Interest'?
2. How do i determine if the application i am going to write/writing falls under the 'Conflict of Interest' category?
 
Thanks.
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Bill Richards
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Re: Conflict of Interest
« Reply #1 on: Aug 13th, 2006, 6:44am »
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Without going into all the details, the concept of a conflict of interest is designed to protect the client.  If one is drafting a patent application and is aware of similar technology from another client, that knowledge may contaminate the application.  Not only that, no one wants an attorney advocating for another client when that advocating hurts his position.  (One cannot serve two masters.)
So, if you are asked to draft a patent application to a new widget and have an existing client in the widget business (or are currently drafting an application for widgets for the existing client) you cannot do a proper job for the potential client.
The reason you only see it in initial communications is that it must be sorted out right away, before confidential material is disclosed.  After it's found there is no conflict, it's no longer a problem (at least until the next potential client comes up or if an existing client wants to get into a new area).
That's the nutshell, but the whole conflicts area is very fact-specific.  Conflicts checking, especially in large law firms, where not everyone knows what everyone else is doing, is a big deal and done with great care.
« Last Edit: Aug 13th, 2006, 6:45am by Bill Richards » IP Logged

William B. Richards, P.E.
The Richards Law Firm
Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights
614/939-1488
JimIvey
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  jamesdivey  
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Re: Conflict of Interest
« Reply #2 on: Aug 13th, 2006, 2:14pm »
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I think Bill's answer is correct.  Let me see if I can illustrate with an example.
 
Suppose you come see me and I write and file a patent application for you.  Then, shortly after (or even during) writing the application for you, you get sued on a patent I recently got allowed for another client.  Wouldn't you feel cheated? violated?  Maybe the only reason you got sued was because of confidential information you gave me.  Maybe I betrayed you somehow.  We just don't know.  Well, at least you don't know.
 
So, part of my job is to determine whether you're likely to fun afoul of some of my other work.  The reason it comes up early is that I have to make the determination before you tell me too much about what you're doing.  It's just best for everybody if I don't learn too much about what you're doing if it's in conflict with another client of mine.
 
The reason it doesn't come up much after that is that, once you become a client, I (and most attorneys) will use the same gating for subsequent prospective clients -- we typically don't bump an existing client for a new conflicting one, for practical reasons as much or more than for loyalty.
 
In short, the "conflict of interest" is not technology specific but rather specific to the particular collection of clientelle of a practitioner.
 
Regards.
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James D. Ivey
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ram
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Re: Conflict of Interest
« Reply #3 on: Aug 14th, 2006, 3:12am »
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Thanks Jim and Bill. That is very informative.
 
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