NYSBA Ethics Opinion 21

By Committee on Professional Ethics

NYSBA Ethics Opinion 21

Professional Ethics Committee Opinion

Opinion #21 – 12/20/1965 (10-65)

Topic: Advertising, Patent Specialization
Digest: Proper to indicate one’s specialization on letterhead where practice is in one of the recognized specialties
Canon: Former Canon 27


1.         May the professional letterhead of an attorney include the following designations thereon, assuming that he is otherwise duly qualified;”Registered U.S. Patent Attorney””Patent, Trademark & Copyright Causes Domestic & Foreign”.
2.         Is it ethical for an attorney to date his professional letterhead in the following manner:”October 6, 1965, In the Year of Our Independence, the 190th”.


Canon 27 of the Canons of Professional Ethics of the New York State Bar Association provides in part, that a lawyer may publish in reputable law lists only, certain data including “branches of the profession practiced”.  There is an implication that to publish such data elsewhere is improper.Canon 27 of the Canons of Professional Ethics of the American Bat Association provides in part. as follows:”It is not improper for a lawyer who is admitted to practice as a proctor in admiralty to use that designation on his letterhead or shingle, or for a lawyer who has complied with the statutory requirements of admission to practice before the Patent Office to use the designation ‘Patent Attorney’ or ‘Trademark Attorney” or ‘Trademark Lawyer’ or any combination of these terms.”While Canon 27, as adopted in New York State, omits the above quoted paragraph, it is nevertheless our opinion that it is not improper for a lawyer who practices in one of the recognized specialties of admiralty, patents, or trademarks, to so indicate on his letterhead.Question #1 is, therefore, answered in the affirmative as to the designation “Registered U.S. Patent Attorney”.  However, the use of the words “Patent, Trademark and Copyright Causes Domestic & Foreign”, is not a proper designation of recognized specialties and is, therefore, in violation of Canon 27 of the New York State Bar Association.With respect to Question #2, we find no ethical impropriety in dating letters as suggested, but we feel that it is not in good taste.

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