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My certificate of good standing with the Supreme Court of my state shows a different admit date than my admit date with the state bar, and, in fact provides that I "was admitted on [date] as a member of the bar of the Supreme Court of [State], the highest court of this State." (emphasis added). So, the language used by my state's "highest court" parallels the language used by the PTO. You can't have two courts that are both the "highest" court of the state, so the supreme court's statement supports my interpretation and the interpretation of many attorneys I know. Sure we could be wrong, and sure we could request a clarification from the PTO. But what other, "lower" courts could the PTO have been thinking would not be good enough to count as an "attorney" if it chose to make the regulation refer to the "highest" court?
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There is another explanation for many of these, I think. In my state, the "bar of the highest court" is separate from the "state bar." We we pass the Bar Exam, we are sworn in by a trail court judge, and that's when we can join the state bar organization and hold ourselves out as licensed attorneys. But both the intermediate court of appeals and the final appellate court (the Supreme Court) have a separate "bar", membership, membership fee, oath, and swearing in. Getting sworn to these appellate courts isn't a big deal, but it is an extra step. If you practice primarily in federal court, even as a patent agent who happens to be an attorney, there's no need to go through those hoops. I noticed this a while back when I was preparing for the registration exam. Several of my friends were still listed as "agent" by OED, even though they were attorneys. After reading your post, I double-checked the status of a friend I thought was still an agent — who also happens to be a former Finnegan associate — and sure enough, she is not a member of "highest court" bar in our state. So, the explanation is that being an "attorney" and member of "the" Bar in a state is not coextensive with being a member of the "bar of the highest court" in a state. So you can be an attorney who is a registered agent but not eligible by the Rule to be listed as a "patent attorney". Does this limit the ability to hold oneself out as a "patent attorney" to the public?
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Nov 12, 2012