NYSBA Ethics Opinion 24

By Committee on Professional Ethics

NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION
Professional Ethics Committee Opinion

Opinion #24 – 02/09/1966 (13-65)

Topic: Patent Specialization, Title in Signature
Digest: No impropriety in corporate patent attorney indicating his speciality as a title after his signature
Canon: Former Canon 27

QUESTION

The Associate Director of the Patent Department of a large international manufacturing corporation requests the opinion of the Committee on Professional Ethics as to (a) the use of the following Titles after the signatures of members of the Department in correspondence:Patent Attorney, Supervising Patent Attorney, Senior Patent. Attorney, Senior Trademark Attorneyand (b) whether opinions should be obtained from any other bar association or associations.

OPINION

The practice contemplated by this corporation falls within the purview of Canon 27 relative to Advertising, Direct or Indirect.In 1951, the American Bar Association amended Canon 27 as applied to proctors in admiralty and patent attorneys to read 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 so use the designation ‘patent attorney’ or ‘patent lawyer’ or ‘trademark attorney’ or ‘trademark lawyer’ or any combination of those terms.”The New York version of Canon 27 does not contain these exceptions for admiralty and patent lawyers. However, in our opinion, the proposed practice is not violative of this Canon.  This is especially true in the case of use of titles by lawyers who work exclusively for the corporate legal department of a corporation where such use does not constitute direct or indirect advertising.  In Opinion No. 285 (dated September 4, 1951) the Committee on Professional Ethics and Grievances of the American Bar Association stated “…Of course, in case of counsel employed only by the corporation or association, no question of advertising would be presented ….”We leave the suggestion of requesting an opinion from other bar associations to the discretion of the inquirer.See Opinion No. 21 – 12/20/65 (10-65) of this Committee.

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