Here's how to make a formal complaint about a registered patent or trade marks attorney.
Lodging a complaint
Before making a complaint to the Board, you should try to resolve the issue directly with the attorney. The Board may not investigate your complaint if you haven't attempted to resolve the issue, especially if your complaint relates to fees or charges.
If you have tried to resolve the issue directly with the attorney, or there are circumstances that prevent you from being able to discuss the issue with the attorney, you can lodge a complaint.
If you are ready to proceed, you will need to contact the Board’s secretary, following the process below.
What to provide
When making a complaint, you should provide as much information as possible, including:
- Your name and contact details
- The name and details of the registered attorney
- Reasons for the complaint
- Any attempts you have already made to resolve the complaint
- A retainer or similar document detailing what the attorney agreed to do
- Supporting evidence, such as relevant documents or emails.
You can request to make a complaint anonymously and efforts will be made to keep your identity anonymous. However, procedural fairness and natural justice requires that the registered attorney be provided with the details of the complaint against them, including evidence supporting the complaint. In some situations it may be difficult to investigate a complaint effectively while keeping the informant’s identity anonymous.
The documents produced during an investigation are also subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 and production under any relevant court subpoena. If a matter proceeds to the tribunal, the identities of an informant and people who have given evidence are likely to be revealed.
If you want to remain anonymous you should consult the Board about whether it will be possible in your situation.
The investigation process
Once your complaint has been lodged, the Board will decide whether it provides a basis to investigate the attorney’s conduct. If you haven’t provided enough information, you may be asked for additional information or evidence. The initial review of the complaint will usually be completed within one month.
When the Board has sufficient information to investigate, it will contact the attorney and provide them with the complaint details. The attorney will be invited to respond to your complaint.
Once the attorney has responded, the Board may ask you for further information or evidence. The investigation will continue until there is enough information to either dismiss the complaint or refer it to the Trans-Tasman IP Attorneys Disciplinary Tribunal.
The complaint will only be referred to the tribunal if the Board is satisfied it is likely that the attorney will be found guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct and/or professional misconduct. If not, the Board will dismiss the complaint.
The Board will notify you of the outcome of their investigation.