Investigating Employee Misconduct: A Little Clarity for A Lot of Confusion
Employers conduct fact-finding investigations for many reasons—allegations of harassment, theft, falsification of records, and other misdeeds. Employers typically require employees to keep the investigation confidential. The reason is simple: to avoid jeopardizing the integrity of the investigation, protect employees from retaliation, and help assure that any action taken as the result of the investigation is based on full and accurate facts.
A New Era of Professional Conduct Rules
The professional conduct and ethics rules that apply to attorneys operating before the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) will change on May 3. The new rules will replace the current rules which are based on the increasingly obsolete ABA Model Code with a version of the more current ABA Model Rules. Versions of the Model Rules are in force in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Accordingly, this change will bring the USPTO rules into closer conformity with the applicable rules in most states, which should relieve practitioners of much of the burden of having to practice under two sets of rules. This change will also provide practitioners the benefit of current interpretive sources of the Model Rules, and state bar opinions and disciplinary actions applying the Model Rules.
Administration Releases Strategy to Prevent Theft of U.S. Trade Secrets
Americans are great innovators. Innovation fuels the American economy, our standard of living and our quality of life. The results of that innovation are largely captured as intellectual property, including trade secrets. Not surprisingly, non-public trade secrets are a hot commodity around the globe. Economic espionage and theft of American trade secrets is accelerating according to the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, and foreign intelligence agencies are not the only culprits. Foreign businesses, some with ties to their homeland governments, have increased efforts to steal trade secret information from U.S. businesses through the recruitment of current and former employees. Information from U.S. companies, law firms, academia and financial institutions’ electronic information databases are constant targets of cyber intrusions. And nowadays, foreign spies can sit in the security of their own country and steal U.S. economic secrets through the internet and cyber-attacks. Indeed, cyberspace is a treasure trove in the world of economic espionage because it allows someone to collect vast amounts of information with relative anonymity, while masking their geographic location. In light of the increased threat, White House recently released its Plan to fight the loss of U.S. trade secrets.
You May Be Small But Are You Micro?
Micro entity status is now available from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as of March 19, 2013. Previously, the Patent Office offered applicant a choice between two entity statuses: large and small. Small entity status allowed an applicant to a reduction in most Patent Office fees by 50 percent. Now, an applicant has a choice between three entity statuses: large, small and micro. Micro entity status provides a reduction in most Patent Office fees by 75 percent.