Manual of Patent Practice

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Section 276: Persons entitled to describe themselves as patent agents

Section (276.01 - 276.07) last updated: April 2011

276.01

The main effect of this section is to reserve the use of the title “patent attorney” and patent agent to individuals who are registered patent attorneys, and partnerships and bodies corporate in which registered patent attorneys are involved. Use of the title by any person not authorised to do so is a criminal offence.

 
Section 276(1)
An individual who is not a registered patent attorney shall not ­
(a) carry on a business (otherwise than in partnership) under any name or other description which contains the words “patent agent” or “patent attorney”; or
(b) in the course of a business otherwise describe himself, or permit himself to be described, as a “patent agent” or “patent attorney”.

276.02

Subsection (1) relates to individuals who are not registered patent attorneys. Paragraph (a) provides that such a person may not carry on a business under a name or other description including the words “patent agent” or “patent attorney”. This paragraph does not extend to partnerships, as these are dealt with in subsection (2). Paragraph (b) extends the prohibition to otherwise describing himself, or permitting himself to be described, as a “patent agent” or “patent attorney”.

 
Section 276(2)
A partnership or other unincorporated body shall not ­
(a) carry on a business under any name or other description which contains the words “patent agent” or “patent attorney”; or
(b) in the course of a business otherwise describe itself, or permit itself to be described as, a firm of “patent agents” or “patent attorneys”, unless the partnership or other body is registered in the register kept under section 275.

276.03

Subsection (2) relates to partnerships and other unincorporated bodies. It stipulates that for a partnership or other such body to be able to use the title “patent agent” or “patent attorney”, it must be registered in the register kept under section 275 of the CDP Act. Paragraphs (a) and (b) are analagous to paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (1). Under s.276(3) similar provision is made in respect of a body corporate and its directors.

276.03.1

Previously, if all the partners were not registered patent attorneys, certain prescribed conditions had to be met for a partnership to use the title “patent agent” or “patent attorney”. The conditions were prescribed in rules made under section 279 of the CDP Act, namely the Patent Agents (Mixed Partnerships and Bodies Corporate) Rules 1994 (SI 1994 No. 362) which came into force on 24 March 1994. These Rules set out the conditions to be satisfied. However, on 1 January 2010 section 185(4) of the Legal Services Act 2007 amended this section of the CDP Act to change the prescribed condition to that detailed in subsection (3) – see paragraph 276.03 above. The Patents Agents (Mixed Partnerships and Bodies Corporate) Rules 1994 no longer apply as section 279 of the CDP Act was repealed under s.185(5) of and Sch.23 to the Legal Services Act 2007.

 
Section 276(3)
A body corporate shall not ­
(a) carry on a business (otherwise than in partnership) under any name or other description which contains the words “patent agent” or “patent attorney”; or
(b) in the course of a business otherwise describe itself, or permit itself to be described as, a “patent agent” or “patent attorney”, unless the body corporate is registered in the register kept under section 275.

276.04

Subsection (3) relates to bodies corporate entitled to use the title “patent agent” or “patent attorney” and makes similar provisions to those of subsection (2) in respect of partnerships, with the requirement for the body corporate to be registered in the register kept under section 275 of the CDP Act.

 
Section 276(4)
Subsection (3) does not apply to a company which began to carry on business as a patent agent before 17th November 1917 if the name of a director or the manager of the company who is a registered patent attorney is mentioned as being so registered in all professional advertisements, circulars or letters issued by or with the company’s consent on which its name appears.

276.05

There is a special saving for certain companies which began carrying on the business of a patent attorney before 17th November 1917. This re-enacts section 114(2)(a) of the Patents Act 1977 (which in turn re-enacted earlier provisions).

 
Section 276(5)
Where this section would be contravened by the use of the words “patent agent” or “patent attorney” in reference to an individual, partnership or body corporate, it is equally contravened by the use of other expressions in reference to that person, or his business or place of business, which are likely to be understood as indicating that he is entitled to be described as a “patent agent” or “patent attorney”.

276.06

The prohibition on use of the descriptions “patent agent” and “patent attorney” extends to other expressions which are likely to be understood as indicating entitlement to such a description, for example “patent agency”.

 
Section 276(6)
A person who contravenes this section commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale; and proceedings for such an offence may be begun at any time within a year from the date of the offence.

276.07

Contravention of the section is an offence punishable on summary conviction by a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale. Proceedings may be begun within one year of the date of an offence. These provisions echo the repealed section 114(3) and (4) of the Patents Act 1977.

 
Section 276(7)
This section has effect subject to ­
(a) section 277 (persons entitled to describe themselves as European patent attorneys, &c), and
(b) section 278(1) (use of term “patent attorney” in reference to solicitors).