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Agent Conduct Inquiry and Complaints Processes

Who is CPATA?

CPATA is the modern, risk-focused, public interest regulator of Canadian Patent Agents and Trademark Agents. Our authority is found in the College of Patent Agent and Trademark Agents Act.

Our main role is to ensure people entering the profession, and agents (licensees) carrying on practice, meet our standards for professional competence and ethics. To do this we:

  • Set competency standards, require training and set the examination for those who want to be licensed as an agent, and
  • Set ethical and practice standards for agents and enforce them through a variety of techniques, including advisory and support services, and a complaints and discipline system if necessary.

We have two processes available to you to have your questions and concerns about the conduct of a Patent Agent or Trademark Agent addressed. Both processes have the same goals, or objectives:

Objects of the Agent Conduct Inquiry and Complaints Processes

The objects of CPATA’s Agent Conduct Inquiry and Complaints processes are to protect and promote the public interest and preserve the integrity of the patent and trademark profession, in a manner consistent with the College’s Regulatory Objectives, Standards and Principles. This includes:
  1. Promoting and ensuring competent and ethical delivery of patent and trademark services by licensees;
  2. Addressing concerns of professional misconduct and professional incompetence, including striving for resolution of complaints when doing so is consistent with the public interest; and
  3. Enforcing compliance with professional and ethical standards.

How will CPATA handle inquiries and complaints about agent conduct?

The CPATA Act, By-laws, Code of Professional Conduct and Registrar’s Policies, together with our Regulatory Objectives, Standards and Principles establish the foundation for how inquiries and complaints about the conduct of agents will be addressed. Some of these principles include being: 

  • Transparent and risk-focused – in how we do our work, how we make decisions, how you as a member of the public can expect to be protected, and how agents can expect to be supported
  • Fair – obtaining and considering information in an objective, unbiased way, and making decisions that are clear, concise and consistent
  • Principled and proportionate – applying the regulatory ‘right-touch’ when balancing interests
  • Restorative – handling complaints and concerns so we seek to repair rather than increase harm, educate, and focus on finding solutions.
  1. Early Resolution of Inquiries

Often, the best and most efficient way to address questions about an agent’s professional conduct is to find out whether your concerns can be answered or resolved through CPATA’s informal inquiry process, rather than by filing a complaint. Completing an Agent Conduct Inquiry Form (ACIF), allows the Registrar to assess your questions and concerns, identify options for responding to or resolving these quickly, and help you understand whether CPATA has the jurisdiction or authority to assist you [link to policy on early resolution of inquiries]. This informal resolution process requires consent of both you and the agent before engaging in resolution efforts. If successful, this process can avoid the need to file a complaint in order to achieve the outcome you hope for.

  1. Early Resolution of Inquiries

You also have the option of filing a complaint, either as a first step or if you are not satisfied with the outcome of our attempts at early resolution. [link to complaint form]. Complaints are referred to the Investigations Committee for direction, investigation or decision. The complaints process is confidential, and by filing a complaint, you are not waiving agent-client or lawyer-client privilege.

The Investigations Committee is made up of a majority of non-agent representatives, as well as representatives from among patent agents and trademark agents. If the Committee decides there is evidence of professional misconduct or incompetence, it must refer the matter to the Discipline Committee. Otherwise, the Committee may dispose of the complaint in accordance with the Act, By-laws, and Registrar’s Policies – this may include giving the agent advice, a warning, requiring more education, or dismissing your complaint with no further action.

The Investigations Committee may appoint an Investigator to assist with an investigation.  An investigation will involve obtaining one or more written responses from the agent, and may involve one or more of the following, as well as other steps:

  • Obtaining additional information from you
  • Obtaining additional information including file materials and records from the agent by consent
  • Obtaining a Warrant or Order for release of file materials and other information
  • Conducting interviews with the agent, you and/or third parties

Throughout an investigation, the College will provide regular updates on the status of the matter to you and the agent. Once an investigation is complete, the Investigator will provide a report to the Investigations Committee. When the Committee makes a decision, it must prepare a detailed written decision with reasons to help you and the agent understand the basis for their decision.

The Discipline Committee hears complaints (applications) of professional misconduct and/or incompetence referred to it by the Investigations Committee, and may conduct its work through the Chair alone, or panels of three or five individuals. Hearings are open to the public, and all written decisions are published.

If you have questions about these new processes, please contact the Registrar, Registrar@cpata-cabamc.ca