Is the ethical bar for practitioners higher than it is for PTAB judges?
Had APJ Clements not been a member of the PTAB and one of the patent owners – let’s say Smartflash for example – had come to him and asked him to represent them in a PTAB proceeding against Apple, the conflict of interest question would have been a much easier question. Having represented Apple previously as defense counsel it would seem that the duty to a former client under 37 CFR 11.109 would prevent Clements from representing the patent owner adverse to Apple and now charging Apple with patent infringement, which is a prerequisite to the filing of a CBM petition. Had Clements represented Smartflash in any of the CBM proceedings brought by Apple on which he sat as a judge there would seem to be a direct and irreconcilable violation of the ethics rules applicable to patent attorneys and patent agents. How truly ironic, and pathetically sad, it would be if the ethical bar set for practitioners is so much higher than the ethical bar the USPTO sets for its own Administrative Patent Judges. How could that possible? In what universe would it make any sense to have a lower ethical bar for judges deciding cases than for patent practitioners?