The first thing we do, let's hire all the lawyers
Anyone who has worked on patent prosecutions knows how the work generally gets done and billed. First, you hire a trusted U.S. firm to handle the overall prosecution effort. Then, that firm lines up the various other firms it works with to handle international work. The local firm coordinates and supervises the international work and also monitors the costs. Fees and costs incurred by the foreign firms are charged back to the primary prosecution firm, which passes the charges along to the client. Generally, these charges are fairly limited - perhaps a few hundred dollars or maybe just a couple of thousand dollars.
This structure serves a number of purposes. First, it makes sure the lead patent prosecution firm is comfortable with how the international work is being handled. Second, it eliminates the need for the client to deal with multiple firms - most of which are performing minor technical tasks that the client does not understand. Third, it allows the lead firm to work with the client to coordinate strategy and translate the foreign activity into terms the client can understand. Overall, the system works pretty well.
Not so fast, according to Judge Tchaikovsky of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California. In In re Lipid Sciences, Inc., 2010 WL 234840 (Bankr. N.D. Cal.), Judge Tchaikovsky denied a fee application filed by patent counsel to a Chapter 7 trustee. Pointing out that the fee application included as costs the fees of foreign patent counsel, the Judge stated "this portion of the costs is entirely inappropriate. Fees may be paid only to court appointed professionals." In her view, each of the foreign counsel would have to be separately retained by the Chapter 7 trustee and file their own fee applications.
This may be correct as a matter of law, but all I can say is good luck getting a firm in London or maybe China to jump through those hoops for what might only be a couple of hundred bucks.
Labels: leslie tchaikovsky, patent counsel